|BibleTexts.com Book Review|
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
reviewed by Robert Nguyen Cramer
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy (Boston: The Writings of Mary Baker Eddy, 2000). Since its initial publication in 1875, this book has been breaking new ground for Bible students looking for more than just religious ceremony and blind belief to grow and sustain their faith. Based upon the Bible and constantly quoting from, alluding to, and otherwise referring to the Bible, it explains the application of biblical teachings to the practice of everyday Christian living, salvation, and healing.
The author's commitment to the principles of honest biblical scholarship is indicated in the following passages from this book:
Acquaintance with the original texts, and willingness to give up human beliefs (established by hierarchies, and instigated sometimes by the worst passions of men), open the way for Christian Science to be understood, and make the Bible the chart of life, where the buoys and healing currents of Truth are pointed out. (S&H 24:4)
The decisions by vote of Church Councils as to what should and should not be considered Holy Writ; the manifest mistakes in the ancient versions; the thirty thousand different readings in the Old Testament, and the three hundred thousand in the New, --these facts show how a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, with its own hue darkening to some extent the inspired pages. But mistakes could neither wholly obscure the divine Science* of the Scriptures seen from Genesis to Revelation, mar the demonstration of Jesus, nor annul the healing by the prophets, who foresaw that "the stone which the builders rejected" would become "the head of the corner. (S&H, page 139:15-27)
* Mrs. Eddy considered the term divine Science or Science (note the upper-case S in Science) as being synonymous with the biblically equivalent terms the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost, in the KJV) and the Comforter (or the Advocate, the Counselor, the Paraclete, the Defense Attorney), which John 14:17 described as "the Spirit of truth." The term "Christian Science" was often used synonymously with divine Science, but "Christian Science" generally referred more directly to the Christian application of divine Science.
Elsewhere Mrs. Eddy wrote:
Fatiguing Bible translations and voluminous commentaries are employed to explain and prop old creeds, and they have the civil and religious arms in their defense; then why should not these be equally extended to support the Christianity that heals the sick? (No and Yes, page 15:7-12)
Mrs. Eddy overwhelmingly quoted most frequently from the King James Version throughout her writings and publications, because that was the Bible to English-speaking Protestant Christianity of that period. Protestant use of any other version was considered to be heresy. Even so, Mrs. Eddy bravely quoted from, appreciatively referred to, and/or used wording from several other English-language translations. Some of those translations are the following (in chronological order): Wycliffe's Bible (1378-1388), the Revised Version [RV] (1881-1885), the American Standard Version [ASV] (1901), Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (completed 1902), and The Twentieth Century New Testament (completed 1902). Throughout Science and Health Mrs. Eddy's used other Bible versions (usually without any mention of the Bible version) to clarify or correct KJV wording in ways that rendered Bible passages more meaningful and/or more accurate for modern readers. Mrs. Eddy also encouraged others' use of various Bible translations to clarify -- or rightly understand -- particular Bible passages.
To read an example of this, you can browse Hermann S. Hering's article at http://www.bibletexts.com/articles/s008p291.htm regarding the proper reading of 1 John 3:1-3. Mrs. Eddy herself directed the editors to publish Professor Hering's article in the Christian Science Sentinel. In this article Professor Hering uses four modern Bible versions to help emphasize the actual meaning of 1 John 3:1-3.
Mary Baker Eddy incurred the wrath of many ecclesiastics of her day, not only for being a woman who was a leading religious figure but also for her use of modern translations and her use of some of the findings of modern biblical criticism. For example, at a time when the Revised Version/American Standard Version (RV/ASV) of the Bible was being savagely attacked by most of the clergy of her day, she quoted from the RV/ASV -- rather than from the KJV -- on the "Cross and Crown" seal of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The RV/ASV-based seal is still carried on the cover of all authorized editions of her writings. (To read a detailed history of her use of other Bible versions, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/bl-ver.htm.)
Even her disregard of then current condemnation of her for being a woman religious leader has been largely vindicated, at least by many of today's leading New Testament scholars. Contrary to the traditional view that Paul mandated women to remain silent in church, as required by 1Co 14:34-35 and 1Ti 2:11-12, these scholars and major biblical publications, representing the best in both Protestant and Roman Catholic scholarship, have conclusively documented that these were not Paul's words and that Paul was in fact an advocate of women in the ministry and in church leadership roles. For more details on what Paul did not write and on the active role of women in the early Christian church, browse:
In addition to an inviting but challenging Preface, the eighteen thought-provoking chapters that comprise the 700-pages of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures are the following:
The publisher has made the full text of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures available online at http://www.spirituality.com/dt/toc_SH.jhtml.
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer