Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Davis. Bhagavad Gita, a Biography. 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 05•15

Davis GITADavis, Richard H. The Bhagavad Gita: A Biography. Lives of Great Religious Books. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2015. Pages: 243. ISBN: 978-0-691-139968.

Davis sketches how the Bhagavad Gita is received down through the ages. It emerged as part of the great epic Mahabharata and then gained an independent authority. In the first chapter the author tries to explain the content of Bhagavad Gita in its own context within Mahabharata. The discussion here includes its origin, authorship critical studies, etc.

Then on in the five remaining chapters and the epilogue Davis helps us to understand its reception and interpretation down through the centuries to our own time. While Mahabharata presents an adult philosopher Krishna who claims to be divine, the image of Krishna in the medieval times shifted to that of his early life. Here the Krishna devotion is around ‘a charmingly rambunctious infant and seductive flute-playing youth.’ Moreover, this Hindu scripture inspired many other Gitas of other gods, with contesting world-views.

However, Gita was not limited by space in India, the place of its origin. Davis also traces its passage from India to Europe and elsewhere. He tells us how it became a fascination for the English and German speaking world. We also learn how the work of Swami Vivekanda in the latter part of the nineteenth century brought it to the attention of the world. However, we are also told how its history is intertwined with British East India company’s imperial dream. Gita became a philosophical docuement with contesting itnerpretations in India and abroad. It became a tool in the hands of those who fought againt colonial rule in India. It redefined Hindu life and continues to do saw through performances, art etc.

This is a fascinating work; so much is packed in its 243 pages. Being thoroughly researched and documented this serves as a primer on Gita. And also a template for those who would like to study the impact of religious texts on the life and history of human race.

Without this volume the series LIVES OF GREAT RELIGIOUS BOOKS by Princeton University Press would have been incomplete.

Delaney. ABRAHAM ON TRIAL (2000)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jun• 15•08

Delaney, Carol. Abraham on Trial(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 334 pages ISBN: 0691070504.

In her book- Abraham on trial, the author provides an originally refreshing perspective to the age old myth of Abraham and Isaac- the ultimate model of faith, one on which many have based their lives for generations.
In her book- Abraham on trial, the author provides an originally refreshing perspective to the age old myth of Abraham and Isaac- the ultimate model of faith, one on which many have based their lives for generations.
The book revolves around three main questions and seeks to answer the same. They are; why is the willingness to sacrifice one’s child the quintessential model of faith? Why not the protectiveness of the child? What would be the shape of the society had that been the supreme model of faith?

In a noble attempt to add a different dimension to the story the author challenges the very cornerstone of three major religion s of the world namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam by boldly presenting the negative impact of the story on the society of today when taken out of context of its own culture.

This book endeavors to sketch some of the connections between the patriarchal power as epitomized in the Abraham story and ways in which children are sacrificed today for example through physical and sexual abuse, poverty, war etc. Not to say that the story of the story of Abraham is responsible for these contemporary issues but rather the book tries to show its influence on our times, though subtle yet relevant, by illuminating some of the gross assumptions made within the story that make the story possible such as Patriarchy from which flows the concept of patrilineage and the moral justifiability of the practice of child sacrifice even in the days of Abraham.

The ultimate aim of the book in my opinion and from what seems obvious is not to down play the theological significance of the story nor put it on a pedestal where it does not belong but rather to put it in perspective in the context/wake of our times and so hint the need for a new moral vision, a new myth to live by and a new revolution in values.