Are sacred texts ever due for a make-over?

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(RNS) Author Cheryl Petersen felt a sense of awe as she approached the task of revising Christian Science’s founding work, Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” The Bible is the sacred text for the Church of Christ, Scientist, but Eddy’s 700-page book is nearly as influential. Petersen, a Christian Scientist […]

  • Thank you for this article. Here are a little
    more of my thoughts regarding what I do
    consider as being a very sacred text on this planet,
    “Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures”
    by Mary Baker Eddy. See
    or the longer url,
    I have been accused of worshipping Mrs.
    Eddy. While I admit her unique place as the Discoverer,
    Founder and Leader of Christian Science, I do not worship
    her. My problem with the Petersen book is that there are
    sentences by Ms. Petersen and sentences by Mrs. Eddy given
    side by side and no credit as to whose sentence is whose.
    There are chapter title changes and a chapter omitted in
    this attempted revision. The original 1910 edition stands
    most perfectly and timelessly just as is!

  • Rich Loomis

    I count myself among those who, overall, regard Ms. Petersen as a pretentious, uninspired fraud. It is true that Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures stands unaided, on its own scientific logic and spiritual merits, but what gave vital impetus to the Christian Science church and movement was the example and unequivocal record of HEALING, including numerous instances of literally raising the dead, on the part of the founder, Mary Baker Eddy.

    Even Jesus Christ might well have been forgotten except for this critical factor which energized his disciples and followers even as it resonated with Mrs. Eddy’s era. Let Ms. Petersen go into the world and begin healing in like manner — only THEN will she be regarded as having even a modicum of legitimacy. But even if she were not a pretender, and could publicly “demonstrate” what she would presume to teach, she would still have to contend with the distrust and ridicule irrevocably engendered by her dishonesty and semi-plagiaristic approach to her so-called revision of “the little book” of Revelation.

  • Evangeline

    Mrs. Eddy’s grammar, usage and vocabulary are not the least bit archaic. Is this generation so dumbed downed that it can’t understand 2 syllable words or is too lazy to look up a words in a dictionary?

    Whether Science and Health is a “sacred text” or not, it was written by someone at least as knowledgeable in her own field as was Einstien in his. The so-called translation is akin to someone with a knowledge of grade two arithmetic rewriting Einstein’s equations, and will have about the same impact, I’m sure.

  • Mark J. Rockman

    It seems to me that if the pages of the Revised Science and Health were published page by page, side by side, with the 1910 Science and Health, interested readers would have the benefit of both Mary Baker Eddy’s original intent and Cheryl Petersen’s (alleged) improvement.

    This would be consistent with the foreign-language translations of Science and Health with which I am familiar — the original English is there, page by page, side by side, with the foreign-language translation.

    Of course, in the 19th-Century vs 21st-Century English publication, with the native tongue being English in each case, it would become a very clear opportunity for readers to decide for themselves [what a thought!]. And skipped chapters or other changes of significance (as alluded to by commenter Paula Caracristi above) would have a better chance of standing out.

    And commenter Rich Loomis is right as well — someone undertaking to revise Science and Health ought to have the credential of an unambiguous healing record to undergird such a spiritually ambitious project.

  • Holly Shulman

    Good article RNS! Is Eddy’s book a “sacred text”? A representative of the Christian Science organization says “less a sacred text than a textbook…” My experience with this textbook written over 100 years ago was “What is she talking about???!!!!” I am well educated and have read many books written in this time period. The style of the time was to craft very long complex sentences that could go on for a whole paragraph. There are many writers who mastered this style, but I don’t think Eddy was a brilliant writer. And I have read her book fairly thoroughly. On top of that, the concepts in Eddy’s book are extremely difficult to understand, since they go against conventional western thought. Having said this, Eddy’s book is extremely valuable and offers a glimpse of the Truth of Being. Petersen has done an excellent job making this glimpse available to 21st Century seekers of Truth. It isn’t needed by people who grew up with Eddy’s version. I think it is unkind for those people who can read and understand the old version to criticize Petersen for her effort to share the important Truth in Eddy’s work. She revised a textbook and did a good job. Thank you Ms. Petersen. Don’t pay any attention to the squawking sect of a church who didn’t need your work. It certainly doesn’t hurt them, and many more people really need it.

  • annie avery

    i had the honor of having cheryl offer me a copy of her book to read. i was vaguely familiar with the original text and found it extremely daunting and avoided sitting down with it to study and read. i have many friends who practice science, so had an idea of what it was all about. as a lay person who follows quaker thought and buddhist practice, i was fascinated with this updated version and swallowed it hook, line and sinker. much to my surprise, i found that many of my everyday living encompasses much of the teachings i was so happily reading in this new writing. thank-you cheryl, for turning me on to this holy and important way of thinking; it remains with me still! it reassures me to know i am still on the right path. namaste