Birds are often mentioned in the Bible— for instance, the winged fowl of the Garden of Eden, the dove that went out from the Ark, the quails that sustained the Hebrew tribes, and the ravens that brought food to Elijah. Vultures, peacocks, eagles and owls, pigeons and sparrows, all contribute to the reality of scenes described in the Bible and to our understanding of the stories it contains.
In this beautiful book, illustrated with 64 pictures, Alice Parmelee retells many of the Bible stories in which birds play a part, identifies the species, discusses the natural history problems that are raised, and illuminates the Bible text from a completely new angle.
" Sound scholarship, deep feeling for the subject, and fine clarity of expression have united to produce a work of outstanding quality and interest," writes Guy Emerson, the well-known ornithologist, in his Foreword. " All the Birds of the Bible gives a new dimension, both to Bible interpretation and to the significance of birds. The Bible is here approached with an appreciation of its spiritual message. But the emphasis of the book is upon the natural phenomena of the Holy Land . . . Whether one's primary interest is the Bible or the birds, one will find here a thorough and imaginative treatment of both . . . Solely from the standpoint of vivid, enlightening reading I recommend the book. Beyond that, however, I think it qualifies as a useful reference book in a field never before so thoroughly covered."
This book is significant. First of all, it is a product of knowledge combined with enthusiasm. Alice Parmelee has long been a student of the Bible and has published a book and several studies which hold a high position in their field. She is also an enthusiastic bird watcher. Sound scholarship, deep feeling for the subject, and fine clarity of expression have united to produce a work of outstanding quality and interest.
All the Birds of the Bible gives a new dimension to Bible interpretation and also to the significance of birds. The Bible is approached with an appreciation of its spiritual message. But the emphasis of the book is on the natural phenomena of the Holy Land. When the author quotes biblical texts in which the birds appear, the familiar scriptural words act as little doors opening out upon the rugged and often desert country of Palestine.
In my own wanderings in most of the States of the Union I early came to love our desert country. There is a unique fascination in these great dry areas when their hills and mesas take on literally hundreds of colors from sunrise to sunset. Birds seem to adapt themselves to the eternal dryness and to wear the colors of these areas. In the entire country I know of no more interesting group of birds than desert species like the verdin, the phainopepla, the pyrrhuloxia, the road-runner, and various hummingbirds and woodpeckers which must be counterparts of many Palestinian birds.
I want to emphasize another aspect of All the Birds of the Bible— its thoroughness and its freedom from any touch of superficiality. The author says in her Preface: "This book is the record of a journey through the Bible watching for its birds. There are surprisingly many of these lively creatures flitting through the Scriptures and I have quoted or referred to all the verses about birds in the Bible and many in the Apocrypha."
It seems to me that whether one's primary interest is the Bible or the birds, one will find here a thorough and imaginative treatment. Pertinent biblical texts are set forth simply and without straining their significance and the material on bird identification is excellent.
A number of singularly apt quotations from travelers in the Holy Land further enhance the scope and variety of the book. These quotations seem to me to open another entirely new area of interest in the subject.
Of course, as a bird man I am much interested in the illustrations which are selected from a wide variety of sources. One of the photographs I was happy to suggest personally. In reading over the manuscript, I noticed the illustration of six geese portrayed in the Egyptian frieze from Meidum. The markings of these ancient birds came out clearly and I saw that two of them were identical with a goose which caused some excitement on Martha's Vineyard Island in October 1958. This was a red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis). It flew in with some Canada geese and was photographed by Ann and Freeman Wallin. As many of these lovely geese are kept in captivity on Long Island, in Connecticut, and in Massachusetts, our little goose on Martha's Vineyard was undoubtedly an escape. Its photograph is shown on another page.
This book held my attention to the end and taught me much. I think it has wide appeal, for who, after all, is not interested in the Bible or in birds living amid unusual natural surroundings? Solely from the standpoint of vivid, enlightening reading I recommend the book. Beyond that, however, I think it qualifies as a permanently useful reference book in a field never before so thoroughly covered.