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The Bible: A Biography (Books That Changed the World)

(Part of the Books That Changed the World Series)

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Book Overview

As the single work at the heart of Christianity, the world's largest organized religion, the Bible is the spiritual guide for one out of every three people in the world. The Bible is also the world's... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

one of the most important books ever written about THE most important book ever written

Karen Armstrong's biography of the bible is part historiography and part geopolitical history. Her relatively short work (the earlier "History of God" is much longer) recounts the often strange and traumatic history of how and when the bible was cobbled together. She examines the historical circumstances surrounding the interpretation and reinterpretation of different books, accounts of genesis, psalms, etc. Besides recounting the various wars, diasporas, pogroms, and splits which served as the backdrop to biblical stories, she also launches a more detailed and, in my opinion, more interesting investigation into exegesis, the critical explanation or interpretation of the bible. For example, she explains the motivations behind certain prophesies in the bible by relating them to their historical context, and then details how, centuries later, stories were reinterpreted by the rabbinate seeking new explanations to new circumstances. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have sought to, with their biting English wit, reinvigorate modern atheism. I recommend some of their books, especially Dawkins' "God Delusion," but I think Armstrong's work is an important counterbalance to the new forces of atheism. The main thrust of the work, the part which is most relevant to contemporary theological debate, insists upon the ever changing conceptions of god that can be found in the bible and among those who wrote about it. Many readers will find it surprising, no doubt, that some theologians centuries ago asserted that the world was obviously not created in 7 days. Her book is most revealing, and at its most interesting, when seeking to debunk the supposed conservative assertions of anglo-protestants who believe that Darwinian science is the enemy of religion. Her analysis of the worth of God ("The Case for God" is coming out within weeks) lies in God's ability to unleash the creative forces of interpretation in the religious. As she recounts the history of the bible, one cannot help but find amazement in the ability of humans to appropriate an idea, whether from the Jews, the Greeks, or Arabs of North Africa, and turn it, blatantly, to their favor. It is a curious aspect of modern day America that we must insist upon all truths being eternal and immutable. "The Bible: A Biography" goes a long way towards shaking the assumptions of both modern day atheists as well as anti-evolutionist evangelicals.

Armstrong delivers what can not be found anywhere else

What other reviewers miss in their assessments of this book is the single most important fact about this book. Karen Armstrong presents the reader in a straight forward chronological timeline the historical evolution of the Bible. As she has written many books in this area some may feel it is a rehash but I disagree. She never walked the reader from early Hebrew history all the way to today and then overlays the Christian additions and movements to the most read book in the West. She does all of this in her succinct but deeply passionate style which conveys how important the evolution of this book has been and remains to be in our current culture and society. With other books one can get pieces of this perspective but only in highly related and academically correlated subject areas. This means that for instance one can find books from a leading scholar on the Dead Sea Scrolls from the esteemed Dr. Lawrence Schiffman but one can't find a book where Dr. Schiffman addresses the entirety of what is known relative to the Bible and related ancient writings. This is what is unique about Karen Armstrong. I wrote Dr. Schiffman and asked him where to find a book like this and he referred me to the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. In those reference books scholars have annotated what is commonly agreed to in terms of biblical scholarship. The problem with that approach is that it is not a complete linear overview. It comes in pieces and does not address the end to end to approach that Armstrong delivers with this book. What Armstrong is doing in her works, and this book in particular, will be understood later in history as having been on the same footing as what Guttenberg did with the printing press for the bible or what Martin Luther did when he translated the good book into his native language for all of his countryman to read. The importance of making this historical information available to all of us, the common everyday people can not possibly be under rated. Armstrong writes so powerfully and with such care and precision that one also wonders whether or not she is creating new insight for the many which might someday either be incorporated or by itself seen as having the majesty of the Vedas, Psalms, Koran and several other seminal spiritual texts. Given the current state of spirituality in the world this may seem far fetched but from the perspective of where new spirituality is headed it is conceivable, more so than one might initially suspect. The scope of this book is so large that Armstrong can not go into the level of detail equally for each subject area. However what she does for us this time is to leave markers with individual names and dates so that one could delve further into an area which further interests them. I personally am such a fan that I could read 10,000 page offering from Armstrong on this subject and still be left wanting for more. I am hopeful that she may construct future writings in such a way where we will be able to bolt th

Biblical truth...

Karen Armstrong does it again. She adds a distinctive point of view, to solid scholarship. This book, like all her books, is well worth reading.

True Enlightenment

This little book delivers what it promises. It is a biography of the Bible in two senses: 1. How the Bible was composed at various times, by various authors. 2. How the Bible has been understood down the ages. Armstrong's survey of the composition of the Bible is a readable summary of established scholarship. It's her study of the second aspect that caught my attention. It showed me that our post-enlightenment attitude of mind may have given us a degree of clarity, but it has also impoverished our appreciation of the truth of the transcendent. We tend to prize the rational above all else, and Armstrong does a fine job is showing that down the ages the Bible has been understood to offer much more than that. The Bible has been appreciated in ways of understanding that, contrary to our modern view, are not mutually exclusive: the rational/literal, the figurative/allegorical, and the spiritual/mystical. Our task is to uncover the modern equivalents of these various dimensions.

The Bible: A Biography

This author is without peer. She is thoroughly informed and most profound without being pedantic. Her writing and knowledge is compelling, convincing and profoundly accomplished, superbly insightful and intelligently presented and so compellingly lucid and convincing. I have never read any of her writing without being stunned by the fund of knowledge underpinning her works and making 'air-tight' and 'water-proof', the subjects which command her genius. James E. Girzone
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