Hendrix professor's new book shows relevance of other biblical texts

A new book by a Hendrix College professor makes the case that many Christians are missing out on some of the most interesting parts of the Bible.

In The Forgotten Books of the Bible: Recovering the Five Scrolls for Today, Dr. Robert Williamson Jr., the Margaret Berry Hutton Odyssey Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College, offers a non-technical interpretation of the Five Scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther), contending that these books have urgent relevance for contemporary life. The book’s intended audience is not only pastors, but also — and especially — people without theological training, whether church members or nonreligious people with an interest in the Bible.

“These five books have had a rich influence in the Jewish tradition, where they are known as the Chamesh Megillot (the Five Scrolls), each being read on a major Jewish holiday,” Williamson said. “Christians, however, have in my experience mostly forgotten about them. We hardly ever hear them read or preached on in church. We rarely engage them in Bible study.”

As he wrote the book, Williamson reflected on an issue from the contemporary world to relate to the conversation within each biblical text. What can Song of Songs teach readers about human sexuality and God’s desire for relationship with humanity? What does the Book of Ruth have to say about current immigration policy in the United States? How can the Book of Lamentations give guidance to those protesting police violence from a position rooted in their faith? Can Ecclesiastes can help readers understand what it means to live a meaningful life in the face of anxiety over inevitable death? In the face of renewed awareness of white nationalism and ethnic hatred, what encouragement can readers of Esther find in her story?

“This book is my attempt to show Christians the value of these texts and the ways they speak to the issues of the modern world,” he said. “I believe that if we made space for these books as part of the language of faith, we would be richer for it and better equipped to face the challenges of today.”

The Forgotten Books of the Bible is published by Fortress Press, and is available in paperback or on Amazon Kindle.

In addition to his work as Margaret Berry Hutton Odyssey Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College, Williamson serves as pastor of Mercy Community Church of Little Rock, a multidenominational worshiping community that welcomes all people, especially those living on the streets. He is also the author of Imagination, Ideology, and Inspiration: Echoes of Brueggemann in a New Generation (Sheffield Phoenix, 2015) and numerous scholarly articles. His blog is featured in The Christian Century’s CCblogs network.

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit www.hendrix.edu