The Lost Art of Scripture: The sacred texts need to be rescued

Book review: Karen Armstrong argues that scriptures are not meant to be read as history


In Ireland’s tumultuous history of religion, the events of 1641 figure prominently. While the events and their causes are contested, there is little doubt that the 1641 rebellion was an occasion of death and destruction. The 1641 Depositions record eye-witness testimonies, mainly of Protestants, of the rebellion. Preserved in manuscripts in Trinity College Dublin, and available online through the 1641 Depositions Project, the depositions chronicle not only experiences of the loss of family and the destruction of property and livelihood, they also capture the religious resentments that suffused the rebellion.

The testimony of Thomas Ricroft recalls, “Those rebells . . . before the faces of several protestants burnt all the bibles they cold meete . . . saying in disgrace & contempt of religion, what will yow doe now your bibles are burnt”, while another, having witnessed his bible being stamped upon in a puddle of water recounts the rebel saying “a plague ont this booke it hath bred all the quarrel . . . & they hoped that within 3 weeks . . . none should be left in the Kindgome”.

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