Testing Scripture

A Scientist Explores the Bible

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Scientist and theologian John Polkinghorne is one of the world's leading authorities on issues of science and faith. In this compelling work, he provides a fresh, honest look at key themes of the Bible from an analytical and rational perspective, offering a series of insights that have helped him in his own engagement with the Bible. Polkinghorne tackles the questions a modern Western thinker might bring to the Bible, including issues of Scripture and authority, contradiction and ambiguity, and the creation and fall. He also addresses theological challenges of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the writings of Paul. "I have written this little book in the hope that it will be helpful to those who are seeking a careful and thoughtful engagement with the Bible in their quest for a truthful understanding of the ways of God and the nature of spiritual reality," writes Polkinghorne. His nuanced approach will be appreciated by any reader with an open and inquiring mind who is interested in the intersection between science and Scripture.
1. Scripture
2. Development
3. Creation and Fall
4. Ambiguity
5. Israel's Bible
6. The Gospels
7. Cross and Resurrection
8. The Pauline writings
9. Other New Testament writings
10. Profundity
Further Reading


"John Polkinghorne is one of the most important Christian thinkers alive, respected for his contributions to science, theology, and their interface. In Testing Scripture he shows how a thoughtful believer can respect the insights and authority of Scripture without getting mired in the quicksand of biblical literalism. I highly recommend this accessible and informed survey."

Karl Giberson, author or coauthor of seven books, including Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion

"In the clear and candid prose his readers appreciate, John Polkinghorne takes bottom-up thinking from his scientific background and applies it as a priest to the Bible. The result is a level-headed and winsome argument for the high value of Scripture. Along the way, Polkinghorne addresses pressing issues facing Christian interpreters of the Bible today."

Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology and philosophy, Northwest Nazarene University; editor of The Polkinghorne Reader

The Author

  1. John Polkinghorne

    John Polkinghorne

    John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, is internationally known as both a physicist and a priest. He served as president of Queens' College, University of Cambridge, prior to his retirement. He is founding president of the International Society for Science and Religion,...

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"In this book Dr. Polkinghorne sets out to assess the claims and forms of scripture with the same intellectual rigor he brought to the study of particle physics. Yet the book is not a detailed academic monograph. Rather it is a short book written for the average believer or inquiring seeker who finds himself or herself wondering how scripture can be taken seriously in the twenty-first century. . . . Rigorous literalism has no place in his approach--yet faith, devout, orthodox Christian faith is central to Dr. Polkinghorne's life and to his reading of scripture."

Jesus Creed blog

"[Polkinghorne's] fully accessible writing may well influence pastors and teachers to commend the book to students and parishioners who are seeking to make sense of the Bible in the world as they know it on the basis of their own education and experience. One can easily envision its use in an adult book group. . . . The book explores issues with such sufficient honesty and insight that it will open conversations about the Bible rather than close them down."--Frederick J. Gaiser, Interpretation

Frederick J. Gaiser,


"This short volume . . . contains Polkinghorne's considered reflections upon the Bible as the basis of Christian faith. . . . Polkinghorne sketches the assumptions and theological principles by which the scientifically literate reader can make sense of scripture as the foundation of the Christian faith. It is a quick survey and helpful in its accessibility. . . . A worthwhile read."

Rolf Bouma,

Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"In this lucid and engaging book John Polkinghorne displays his skill as a priest and pastor, but one whose training in physics shapes his approach to life. As he deals with the big challenges facing the interpretation of Scripture, we find a mixture of clear-sighted common sense and a determination not to water down the radical gospel message. . . . We can be thankful for Polkinghorne's slim volume. It deserves to be read widely."

Celia Deane-Drummond,

Living Church

"Well known for his informed and skillful reflections on the relationship of science and religion, John Polkinghorne offers here what he terms a 'reconnaissance' of the Bible 'for those who are seeking a careful and thoughtful engagement with the Bible in their quest for a truthful understanding of the ways of God and the nature of spiritual reality . . .' This is an apt description of this superbly written work. It offers a wonderful exposition of the origin and nature of the Scriptures and the function of the Bible in a life of adult faith. . . . If you are looking for a book to guide someone struggling with questions of faith, here is a great start."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"Polkinghorne is one of my favorite Christian voices. Who else could you read who is a world-renowned physicist and a prolific theologian and has been knighted by the Queen? In classic Polkinghorne fashion, this thin volume explores why the Scripture (even with all the problems and questions Scripture raises) is the ultimate source of beauty and truth."

Winn Collier,

Religious Herald