The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and ArchitecturePeter and Linda Murray (NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996) xi + 596 pp., $49.95
When the Murrays heard people ask “What’s the pigeon for?” about Piero della Francesca’s Baptism of Christ, they decided to assemble this guide to understanding some of the greatest art ever created. This encyclopedic dictionary provides the biblical context behind centuries of religious art and is well cross-referenced with locations, titles, subjects and artists’ names; someone looking under Christ’s baptism, for example, will discover that the “pigeon” in Piero della Francesca’s painting is actually a dove and symbolizes the Holy Spirit. A glossary of architectural terms is also included.
The Bad News Bible: The New TestamentDavid Voas (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995) 209 pp., $25.95
Blaming the inaccessibility of the Bible’s text for its status as “the least-read best-seller,” Voas only occasionally quotes from the King James Version in this breezy chapter-by-chapter retelling of the New Testament. Voas uses James, Jesus’ brother, as a fictional narrator to explain events and passages in a gossipy manner, which might explain why the book is labeled “controversial.” Voas’s stated purposes are to make the Bible less boring and to “strip the old theological varnish” off it, since he believes that most people are clueless about its real contents (consider his title).
Women and Religion in the First Christian Centuries