A charming, informative, preposterous catalog of biblical smells -- a bizarre olfactory epic. Up to a point, Armerding has everything going for him: he is immensely knowledgeable about scripture; he has a solid amateur's grasp of the botany, chemistry, and anatomy involved in the making and perceiving of odors; he writes with grace and so much enthusiasm that he can barely contain himself. The trouble is that, religiously speaking -- and this is basically a devotional, not a scholarly book -- Armerding is just too simple-minded. Over and over again, he starts with curious bits of scientific lore and ends with the most pedestrian kind of allegory. He writes, for instance, about stacte, which is mentioned in Exodus 30:34, an aromatic resin gathered from the storax tree. We learn how the stacte was gathered from incisions in the trees, how it was dried and processed, etc. In the end, it gave off a pleasing aroma, which in turn provokes a bathetic effusion from Armerding: ""How much like the little sacrifices that we might make; the little acts of kindness in our lives oozing out from the pressures within; the desire to impart to others in fragrance . . .,"" etc., etc. But what can you expect from someone who can talk about the ""Divine Perfumer"" with a perfectly straight face? Still, this ingenuous medieval sermon might please the pious eccentrics on your Christmas list.