A scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature, C.S. Lewis gained worldwide renown writing books for general readers, including the ever-popular “Chronicles of Narnia” series. His immense popularity extends even after his death. Missouri State University religious studies professor Dr. Leslie Baynes spent a portion of her 2014-15 sabbatical as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Kilns, his home near Oxford, England.
Baynes lived for a month in the village of Risinghurst, England, where Lewis wrote his famous “Narnia” books and other classics. She spent the majority of her time at the world-famous Bodleian Library of Oxford University, working in their special collections.
“They have a great deal of material, handwritten manuscripts, by and about Lewis—some even unpublished,” said Baynes. “And the unpublished works are what I was most interested in.”
She gained access to literature that never made it into a Lewis book concerning his views on the Bible placing biblical readers into two distinct categories: Fundamentalists and biblical scholars—with Lewis’ views falling somewhere in the middle.
Fundamentalists: Reading for the literal thinker
According to Lewis’ definition, fundamentalists are readers who take the Bible literally. However, Lewis doesn’t take the Bible literally, the majority of the time.
“Sometimes Lewis does believe in taking the Bible literally, like for instance, regarding the resurrection of Jesus,” said Baynes. “Often when reading the Hebrew (Old Testament) scriptures he does not think that some of the stories should be taken literally, like the book of Jonah.”
Biblical Scholars: The academic applications
The other group Lewis defined was biblical scholars. This group applies academically rigorous methods to the study of the Bible.
“All biblical scholars read the Bible very differently,” said Baynes.
Baynes is writing a book on Lewis and the Bible, with a projected publication date of 2018.
“This will be the first book by a biblical scholar on the topic,” she noted.
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