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The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book

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In this revelatory exploration of one of our most revered icons, a critically acclaimed author and professor takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and Manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Showing us how a single In this revelatory exploration of one of our most revered icons, a critically acclaimed author and professor takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and Manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Showing us how a single official text was created from the proliferation of different scripts, Beal traces its path as it became embraced as the word of God and Book of books. Among his surprising insights: • Christianity thrived for centuries without any Bible—there was no official canon of scriptures, much less a book big enough to hold them all. Congregations used various collections of scrolls and codices.  • There is no “original” Bible, no single source text behind the thousands of different Bibles on the market today. The farther we go back in the Bible’s history, the more versions we find.  • The idea of the Bible as the literal Word of God is relatively new—only about a century old.  Beal’s is an inspiring new take on the Bible. In calling for a fresh understanding of the ways scriptures were used in the past, he offers the chance to rediscover a Bible, and a faith, that is truer to its own history—not a book of answers but a library of questions.


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In this revelatory exploration of one of our most revered icons, a critically acclaimed author and professor takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and Manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Showing us how a single In this revelatory exploration of one of our most revered icons, a critically acclaimed author and professor takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and Manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Showing us how a single official text was created from the proliferation of different scripts, Beal traces its path as it became embraced as the word of God and Book of books. Among his surprising insights: • Christianity thrived for centuries without any Bible—there was no official canon of scriptures, much less a book big enough to hold them all. Congregations used various collections of scrolls and codices.  • There is no “original” Bible, no single source text behind the thousands of different Bibles on the market today. The farther we go back in the Bible’s history, the more versions we find.  • The idea of the Bible as the literal Word of God is relatively new—only about a century old.  Beal’s is an inspiring new take on the Bible. In calling for a fresh understanding of the ways scriptures were used in the past, he offers the chance to rediscover a Bible, and a faith, that is truer to its own history—not a book of answers but a library of questions.

30 review for The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book

  1. 4 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 1.0 out of 5 stars Bible bashing for fun and profit Format: Kindle Edition Timothy Beal believes that the Bible is an accident shaped by chance, not by God. In this book he attempts to persuade readers to embrace his beliefs while still calling himself a Christian. I wonder what God calls him. I call him the worst kind of fool, an educated fool. If the Bible is not the word of God it is nothing but a cultural and historical curiosity. An empty book with no absolute Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 1.0 out of 5 stars Bible bashing for fun and profit Format: Kindle Edition Timothy Beal believes that the Bible is an accident shaped by chance, not by God. In this book he attempts to persuade readers to embrace his beliefs while still calling himself a Christian. I wonder what God calls him. I call him the worst kind of fool, an educated fool. If the Bible is not the word of God it is nothing but a cultural and historical curiosity. An empty book with no absolute truths, it is the ravings of madmen and the delusional joined with the work of con artists. Why waste time with it if it is not the word of God? Beal provides no reasonable answer.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    After a couple of fascinating chapters on the Bible in today's American culture, the last half of the book is a well-written summary of the way the Bible came to be, a history of manuscripts, translations, and interpretations. It was the first part that was new to me--Beal quotes some statistics, among them the fact that the average Christian household in America has nine Bibles and buys a new one every year. Most Americans think the Bible is the authoritative word of God, but they can't name th After a couple of fascinating chapters on the Bible in today's American culture, the last half of the book is a well-written summary of the way the Bible came to be, a history of manuscripts, translations, and interpretations. It was the first part that was new to me--Beal quotes some statistics, among them the fact that the average Christian household in America has nine Bibles and buys a new one every year. Most Americans think the Bible is the authoritative word of God, but they can't name the first book, the last book, or the four gospels. Beal accounts for these odd statistics by calling attention to what he calls "the iconic Bible"--that is the impression people have of what the Bible is. He asks what you would expect from a book titled, say, "The Fisherman's Bible," and how your expectations would be different if it were "A Guide to Fishing." He suggests that the first title elicits our response to the iconic Bible--that it is authoritative, univocal, practical, accessible, comprehensive, and exclusive. The real Bible is none of these things, and when people try to read it with these wrong expectations, they quickly give up or buy a new Bible with what they hope will be a "better" translation or more helpful helps. Beal even has a sense of humor--he says that when he was a teenager he used the Bible (as many Christians did and possibly still do) as a sort of Magic Eight Ball--he would ask a question, close his eyes, shuffle through random pages, and point at a verse for guidance. Example: "Does Joanne like me?" Shuffle shuffle stop point. Deuteronomy 23.1--"No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose member has been cut off shall be welcome in the assembly of the Lord."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    This is a delightful book that you should buy for both searchers and skeptical anti-religious types. Tim Beal’s topic is the invention, circulation and modification of the Bible into a Protestant icon, a commodity, a “magic 8 ball”, the “most revered book never read.” Today’s editions include loose translations that “get to the point”, satisfy your politics, give tips for grilling, or teenage living. Beal shows how this practice emerged from the earliest circulation of scrolls, compilations and This is a delightful book that you should buy for both searchers and skeptical anti-religious types. Tim Beal’s topic is the invention, circulation and modification of the Bible into a Protestant icon, a commodity, a “magic 8 ball”, the “most revered book never read.” Today’s editions include loose translations that “get to the point”, satisfy your politics, give tips for grilling, or teenage living. Beal shows how this practice emerged from the earliest circulation of scrolls, compilations and loose canons. His chapter, “What would Jesus read?” recaps the Bible’s development and should leave no Christian undisturbed. Addressing its contradictions Beal explains that the Bible “canonizes contradiction”, “interprets itself, argues with itself, and perpetually frustrates any desire to reduce [it] to univocality.” By seeing the Bible as a text that invites social creativity (“this is poetry, not pool rules”) and “interpretation all the way down”, he nods to longstanding Jewish techniques.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rod Horncastle

    Imagine C.S. Lewis and the Screwtape Letter's demons. But an angel classroom setting. Professor McThrone: "Class, settle down now. We have a fair bit of human linguistic crap, I mean LITERATE BABBLE to get through. Please retract your wings and focus." Angel Noobious: "Sir, are we still dealing with liberal unbelief and misunderstood contradictions?" Prof M: "Yes, we'll pick up where we left off - ummmh, humans and the Bible." Angel Swiftly: "So we all know that God didn't just give people a magic b Imagine C.S. Lewis and the Screwtape Letter's demons. But an angel classroom setting. Professor McThrone: "Class, settle down now. We have a fair bit of human linguistic crap, I mean LITERATE BABBLE to get through. Please retract your wings and focus." Angel Noobious: "Sir, are we still dealing with liberal unbelief and misunderstood contradictions?" Prof M: "Yes, we'll pick up where we left off - ummmh, humans and the Bible." Angel Swiftly: "So we all know that God didn't just give people a magic book that fell from the sky: Like the Muslims like to insist. Or a buried treasure: like the Mormon's try to put forth. But can humans be blamed for not accepting that OUR MIGHTY FATHER IN HEAVEN was putting a book together all intricately through history - with their humanly assistance of course?" Prof M: "Good observations Swifty. I mean - Swiftly. Well spotted. Indeed many humans discard God's word simply because it was woven together over time. They actually presume to know exactly how the God of the Universe should function... Angel class: "Bahahahahahahahaha!" Prof M: "Okay everyone, settle down. Today's class will be responding to a silly liberal human book called "The Rise And Fall Of The Bible". This comical heretical author claims to be some form of Christian and yet has zero foundation for any of his beliefs. But as we learned last week: Liberalism really means UNBELIEF - so it's no surprise. He does have some fun research though." Angel Adoubt: "Sir, why should we even waste time on a book that doesn't give us answers or truth? Maybe we should just skip to the good stuff?" Prof M: "Slow down Indoubt, I mean Adoubt (who comes up with these names?) there's a fair bit we can learn from observing the emotional and spiritually blind rantings of some of these humans. Occasionally they raise fair objections. But mostly they just distract from the truth." Angel Noobious: "Sir, this author seems to raise the same questions as atheists and Bible hating muslims. He claimed to be a Christian yet didn't bother to seriously look at many of the reliable Christian sources of the last few centuries? Is he stupid? Lazy? Ill? Possibly retarded? Why didn't he deeply explore some of those Bible commentaries he mentioned... or simply read some John MacArthur books?" Prof M: "Indeed, this is really the heart of liberal spiritual unbelief. You'll notice how they will spend months exploring the cultures of the Bible to justify a few verses about homosexuality and debaucherous immorality - but they'll come to a 10 second anti-biblical conclusion about anything that might just show a contradiction. Notice how the author immediately jumps to the possibly contradiction of Judas' death scenario. And of course there's the amount of angels in the tomb of Christ. The timeline of the last supper is always a liberal discussion that makes them salivate at the mouth. Strangely he ignored the somewhat legitimate item of Solomon's collections. Oh well." Angel Swiftly: "Sir? But those aren't even difficult issues. Is this what happens to people who are spiritually blind and sadly NOT knowing of their possible election yet? Is it spiritual that they can't seem to see the simplicity of the 2 creation accounts in Genesis?" Prof M: "Very swift, ummmh Swiftly. Yes, the creation confusion is often very funny indeed. Here's a refresher from the word of God." Genesis 2 5When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. "many humans show a complete lack of adult human reading ability when looking at historical accounts like that. Sadly, they apply all current story telling narrative (and they do that pathetically as well) to an age old classic. They constantly confuse basic words like: When, for, and, then. These verses do not guarantee a specific timeline or constant. They follow logic and perfectly do whatever the GOD OF THE ASTRONOMICALLY HUGE UNIVERSE requires. Thankfully - He is truth itself. Well worth trusting. Strange that nobody ever reads that part about the small plants of the field springing up? They may be there - just not sprung up yet. It is the first week of creation after all." "This same issue comes up in the documents of Judas death. See here: Acts 1:18" Now this man Judas acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. It is true that the other account fascinatingly states: Matthew 27 5And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he (Judas) departed, and he went and hanged himself. Here is a suitable quote from Barnes notes on the Bible: "He would not, probably, be very careful about the fitness or the means he used. In his anguish, his haste, his desire to die, he seized upon a rope and suspended himself; and it is not at all remarkable, or indeed unusual, that the rope might prove too weak and break. Falling headlong - that is, on his face - he burst asunder, and in awful horrors died - a double death, with double pains and double horrors - the reward of his aggravated guilt. The explanation here suggested will be rendered more probable if it be supposed that he hung himself near some precipitous valley." "So it appears the makers of the Bible didn't just sit down and write one simple tale. Neither did editors over the next 2000 years ever bother to adjust these accounts and discard these challenges. It would take a God to control humans from seriously abusing this history over 1000's of years. So YES, all Judas recordings are as they should be. Does anyone know why The Almighty God might do something as amusing as apparent divided accounts?" Angel Adoubt: "Well sir, many humans do not understand the clear word of God. The Book of Amos even mentions this specifically: Amos 8 "…11"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. 12"People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it." AS that applies to the Israelites, it appears AND IS SHOWING that it will also apply to liberal church-goers and atheists. People like this author - who don't accept God's word will also not be able to find or EVEN comprehend it. Yet, joyfully, many Jesus following Christians will easily be able to make sense of what some find to be utter confusion. Sir, I can't imagine being spiritually blind. Is there even hope for these lost souls Sir?" Prof M: "I like your compassion Angel Adoubt. Sadly, very few liberals will find the truthful Word of God to ever present itself to them. They simply do not want to see it. Therefore, like the Pharaoh, God will eventually harden their hearts and minds to suit them. This is the same as when Jesus told parables to the disbelieving masses. Many liberals go on record claiming this is a great teaching tool that was used by the historic Christ. But we all know that the Bible states: Matthew 13" The Purpose of the Parables 10Then the disciples came and said to him (Jesus), “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Angel Swiftly: "Gosh Sir, isn't that kind of mean and hopeless? Are they so easily doomed?" Prof M: "My good chap, it's the opposite. Are some of them so easily saved? That is the real question. Nobody seems to mind that a third of our angel brothers were given a choice and rebelled with no chance of salvation or redemption. Yet humans insist that they have all eternity to eventually choose a savior when it meets their needs. Some are even gullible enough to believe a lie that there IS NO HELL or Heaven or Judgement..." Angel class: "GASP! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Prof M: "YES, please hand out the tissues and caramels. These are trying times everyone. Like Aaron and the Israelite's Golden Calf; people are still desperate to make a god to their own liking. When the God of the Bible doesn't behave as they assume He should - they simply change the attributes and loosen the foundation of the historical Biblical deity. They then proceed to mock those who don't agree with them - their favorite target is always Jesus' actual followers who fully embrace God's reliable and truthful word." Angel Adoubt: "Sir, isn't it plain weird that an author who claims to be a Christian is really behaving similar to the Serpent in the Garden of Eden? I mean, this book really offers no Godly wisdom or answers but it repeatably complains about the content of God's Word?" Angel Swiftly: "YES Prof, just like Satan trying to get the first humans to doubt God's Word, this author is doing exactly the same thing - he mixes in just a bit of truth and then tries to show that God Almighty is not to be fully trusted... WHY, That makes me so angry, I just wanna take this sword out of its sheath and hunt down any..." Prof M: "Swiftly, calm down and put that flaming sword away for now. None of this heresy is a problem for our God - He's well aware of human and angel rebelliousness and sin. Have no fear - the Saints are protected and Christ's kingdom will not fail. All part of the plan my boy. God IS GOOD!" Angel Class: "GOD IS GOOD! AAAaaamen." Angel Noobious: "Sir, this heretical book speaks of the successful distribution and popularity of the Bible while ignoring the greatest fact in history: That God has the number one best distributed book in the known universe." Prof M: "Why yes Noobious, glad you brought that up. Many don't realize that even books that attempt to be Bible LIKE and are slightly altered, are still very capable of getting God's Word out and speaking to the heart and mind through the Holy Spirit. We've all known of the human language and translation challenges we've come across over the centuries. These discrepancies often simply cause God's children to search deeper for other translations. Nobody goes to hell because they read a strange translation - the issue is much deeper than that. Language is simply a tool. Liberal scholars will of course use this issue to thrust forth their hatred of God's commands and historic recordings. Indeed, it will be very entertaining to observe these folks as they stand before the throne on judgement day. I'm personally very curious if God or any judges will even bother to hear their lame desperate excuses." Angel Swiftly: "Sir, a huge problem with this authors theology is; he seems to have no idea what to do with the Holy Spirit..." Angel Class: "GASPPPPPPP!" Prof M: "Yes, yes. Sadly, this is something we simply must tolerate for now. We've all seen how Charismatic church-goers wave the holy spirit in the air and attempt silly dog tricks and magic spells with it... well liberal gnostics are the same yet the opposite: they greatly attempt to hide the truth of the Holy Spirit under the rug or simply ignore any mention of it in the name of modern academic scholarship. Sure, they still want an idea of a Social Justice Warrior Jesus who stands up for the little guy against big corporations --- but they have no love or tolerance for the Jesus of scripture. Most simply discard all of the Old Testament verses about him and they mock the prophecies and miraculous accounts. YET! Like the gnostics of old: they claim Jesus has given them special insight and prideful domination over the humble followers of Christ." Angel Swiftly: "Prof, why don't silly academics like Timothy Beal simply spend their time doing the same type of book about the Quran or the Book Of Mormon? Maybe take on the Buddhist and hindu writings?" Prof M: "Good point Swiftly." Yes, seldom do these authors waste time hating anything but the very word of the Christian God. Most are simply cowards and afraid to upset the liberal consensus that embraces other religions and cults. They reduce the Bible to classic myths, while pushing forth some of the myths of pagan beliefs as authentic. Satan is very proud of his children." Angel Adoubt: Sir, I've noticed that this liberal author actually said absolutely nothing factual about the Jesus he claimed to embrace. I was hoping for at least one trustworthy factual source for him to rationally have any use for a Jesus at all. How can this guy even have a teaching job?" Prof M: "Again, people like this are not interested in any kind of miraculous humanity saving Messiah Savior who will one day have an eternal physical Kingdom of Love to rule and be worshiped..." Angel Class: "WWWWWwwwwhat?! Noooooooo. Blasphemy^&%(*7" Prof M: Yes, horrifically: we are looking at hell itself. People who desire nothing that Christ desires. We all know that our prospective Saints are not currently perfect. But the difference is they desire to be reborn and given NEW natures that will easily conform to the absolute standards of Christ's Kingdom. God's children will be given robes of righteousness and will not fail - and Satan's children have already failed." Angel Adoubt: "Sir, we haven't quoted much from this book. The author d(oes early on show all readers exactly where his spirituality is at: (quote pg. 25) "I'd never read MY UTMOST (by Oswald Chambers), but I had dismissed it as sentimental and moralitistic. When it came in the mail, I immediately associated it with the kind of fundamentalist Biblicism that I had rejected...although I've drifted quite a distance from the familiar biblical waters of the conservative evangelical tradition in which I was raised and which my parents so admirably represent..." "Sir, how sad for a child of a Saint to reject Fundamental Biblicism." Prof M: "Yes, this author has had numerous encounters with truth and scholarly saints his entire life. He has simply repeatedly rejected every bit of truth put in front of him. That is not our challenge Men: Satan's children are his responsibility - they easily do his bidding, we are here for the Saints. God promises that we will not fail." Angel Swiftly: "Sir, there is a very strange quote on pg. 39. How is this possible sir:" Quote (pg. 39) "Even veteran Bible readers sometimes feel this way about the bible. On one occasion I was talking with an older woman who is a longtime lay leader in her Bible church. She reads the Bible several times a day and hosts weekly Bible studies in her home. She admitted that she often finds herself perplexed by ambiguities and seeming contradictions in the Bible. She wouldn't bring them up in Bible-study group, because she worries.... at the same time, she expects other members, less comfortable with such ambiguities, would quickly dismiss them with standard resolutions, familiar from a century of Biblical fundamentalism, that she considers TOO EASY..." Angel Swiftly: "OOooohh, I get it now. The author answered the challenge right in front of us - and yet he was clueless to see the truth of it. Yes, the truth often is simple, but those who really don't like what the bible says simply demand a different answer. So they will ignore what is right before them and search far and wide for a different truth that says what their rebelliousness demands. Wow!" Prof M: "Yes, this book is full of that. The author is running around getting pats on the back from John Shelby Spong and Brian McLaren. He's come across the truth and didn't like how easy it was. Same as those pagans who simply could not embrace the 1st God given MEMO of the Ten Commandments. Our Father In Heaven had to give them a 1000 page bible because the TOO EASY AND CLEAR writings that were given to Moses just didn't meet their rebellious desires." Angel Noobious: "Prof sir, I hate to mention this - but i'm on duty rather soon to deal with the Talking Donkey and its stable demands. Can we wrap this up?" Prof M: "Why yes, don't keep that Classic Donkey waiting - we all know how ornery it gets. But we cheerish its place in the Holy Scriptures. Thankfully it keeps the other Bible donkeys in their place and is a voice for the manger scene. God Speed Noobious." "Well that's enough with this bit of toilet trash class (just some human humor there folks). There's lots we didn't touch on: like the useful information the author presented about the coming together of parts of the Bible throughout human history. Indeed, the Bible fell together successfully and perfectly as God knew it would. This poor pitiful man just did not see how the Holy Spirit was ever involved in guiding God's word. He assumed mankind did it all - or at least collected it all and arranged it to their liking. Mankind would still be back writing the first page of Genesis if God hadn't been involved - we all do notice how much foolery this slugs to fish to apes to human evolutionary babbling has muddled things up. There is no shortage of truth - but people will do everything they can to not accept what is easily before them. YES, God wrote the Bible for them too - just enough confusion to keep them rebelliously hating the clear words of the Saints. Prof M: "I must say I fully appreciate one point the author made: The Bible is indeed a library - not just a simple book. It is 66 books that have given humanity exactly what it needed. Yet so few will properly embrace it. God's Bestseller indeed."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    4.5 stars. While reading this book, I kept thinking of that line from the musical Wicked: "There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don't exist." There the wizard was talking about American history, but he could have also been talking about the modern approach to the Bible — what Beal describes as a belief that the Bible is the final and authoritative word of God, written with one, non-contradictory voice. This is a belief that people tend to hold unless an 4.5 stars. While reading this book, I kept thinking of that line from the musical Wicked: "There are precious few at ease with moral ambiguities, so we act as though they don't exist." There the wizard was talking about American history, but he could have also been talking about the modern approach to the Bible — what Beal describes as a belief that the Bible is the final and authoritative word of God, written with one, non-contradictory voice. This is a belief that people tend to hold unless and until they actually read the Bible, at which point they tend to have a crisis of faith because they've been taught that their faith is solid because the Bible has all the answers. Nothing in this book was new or earth-shattering for me, but I did find it a compelling and well-constructed read. Beal begins by talking about the current state of the Bible — in response to people's not finding in the Bible what they think it should contain (clear, straightforward answers for life), publishers have produced a multitude of translations, commentaries, and formats that sometimes overwhelm and drown out the words of the original book. Though, as Beal shows by taking us back in time, the idea of a single "original" Bible is also a myth. The closest we've ever had was the couple of centuries when the King James Bible was considered the single authoritative English translation, and that came about many hundreds of years after the various texts that make up the New Testament were written, but the decisions about which texts to include and which versions of those texts were the "best" were made (and remade) in the centuries following Jesus' life. My only real critique is that Beal's writing isn't always stellar. (He uses the phrase "the end of the Word as we know it," which would be a clever play on words on its own, three times in two pages in a chapter titled that same thing.) But it's well organized, there are plenty of funny parts, and I highlighted a ton of paragraphs that explained particular ideas clearly and succinctly. One of my favorite points was that those fundamentalists who insist that there are no contradictions in the Bible, and those atheists who believe that the Bible's contradictions mean Christianity is a fraud, are two sides of the same coin, accepting as true the faulty idea that faith in Christ is dependent on a univocal Bible. Although he doesn't ultimately tell you what you should "do" with the Bible, Beal provides a new framework for accepting the Bible as it is while still seeing it a rich resource of faith. I definitely recommend this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Morse

    I don't normally downrate books for not being what I expected, but I feel like this one deliberately misled me. The title's reference to "rise and fall" refers to the marketing and modern translation trends that began in the 1970s, as Christian publishing houses repackaged the Bible to appeal to younger, hipper audiences, and later every specific niche market they could identify. The subtitle, Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, appeared to me to promise an actual history of the Bible's cre I don't normally downrate books for not being what I expected, but I feel like this one deliberately misled me. The title's reference to "rise and fall" refers to the marketing and modern translation trends that began in the 1970s, as Christian publishing houses repackaged the Bible to appeal to younger, hipper audiences, and later every specific niche market they could identify. The subtitle, Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, appeared to me to promise an actual history of the Bible's creation. Preferably an unbiased one. I don't really even know what the author meant by it, or what part of this book addressed it. He wrote a lot about it originally being a collection of scrolls, but that's hardly "unexpected". I read the whole thing because the first chapter strongly suggested it was going to address what I was hoping for after reading the jacket copy: the author acknowledges a vast number of problems with the Bible, citing specific contradictions and blatant hypocricies, and promises to explain why they aren't really problems. Since it was the inability to trust the Bible due to its own inconsistencies that made me an atheist, I was very curious to see how a scholar and man of faith handled them. Ultimately, however, his answer was just as empty and banal as I'd feared. Yes, he admits, it's full of contradictions, glaring historical inaccuracies, translation errors, and the biases of everyone who has ever translated, printed, and/or sold it, making it impossible to ever know what it "originally" said (if there's any such thing as one original version) or what it meant at the time, but that's what faith is all about. Believing that it is somehow true, despite actually *knowing* that it can't all be, and possibly none of it is. Basically, he remained a Christian in the face of an overwhelming supply of nothing to support his beliefs, because, you know, he's a Christian and that's what faith is. Near the end, when talking about an interview he did for NPR, he as much as says, "Sure, I know it's mostly make-believe, but it's still God's word so what're you gonna do?" Maybe the title was designed to draw in those considering leaving the faith, to make them feel daring before the text convinces them that they don't have to. But for one already outside the fold, there wasn't one single point in favor of going back.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cornelia

    This was an intriguing and engrossing read. It offers a fascinating portrayal of the way the Bible evolved, and continues to do so, especially in the context of American history. It's artfully, sometimes beautifully, written in a way that is both sophisticated and accessible. Though I majored in religious studies in college, I'm by no means a religious scholar, and based on my experience with this book I'd say that all one really needs to get into it is a healthy curiosity and a little patience. This was an intriguing and engrossing read. It offers a fascinating portrayal of the way the Bible evolved, and continues to do so, especially in the context of American history. It's artfully, sometimes beautifully, written in a way that is both sophisticated and accessible. Though I majored in religious studies in college, I'm by no means a religious scholar, and based on my experience with this book I'd say that all one really needs to get into it is a healthy curiosity and a little patience. Beal doesn't pander, but he also doesn't overreach. I have but two qualms with this book. For me, one of the drawbacks was some unnecessary repetition and hammering of points that were made clearly enough the first one or two times, and didn't need repeating a fifth time. Beal is very clear and concise writer, so I didn't think it was necessary for him to belabor some of his points as he did. I also would've liked a bit more in-depth history about the early formation of the existing canon (how and why certain books did and did not make it into the canon, the political aspects and implications of those decisions, etc.). Beal touches upon the multitude of scriptures floating around and even the canon according to Athanasius, but instead of exploring that further, he catapults us forward a whole millennium into the age of the printing press. He glosses over any changes, updates, struggles, contention that affected biblical texts as we now know them. To be fair, the book is called The Rise and Fall of the Bible, so perhaps it's wrong of me to expect him to discuss much between those two points. But I really enjoyed and trusted Beal's level-headed and even-handed explanations and histories, so I would've liked to see him tackle the in-between history he doesn't address. Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in American culture and/or Christian culture, or just religious studies in general. You by no means need to be religious in order to read and enjoy this book, you just have to be open-minded and interested.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dwight Stone

    Definitely not a book I would recommend, and one that I would most likely burn instead of selling. Beal is too hung-up on his personal experiences to objectively critique the Scriptures as we know them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric Vanden Eykel

    This isn't your "typical" introduction to the Bible or biblical studies. Beal's aim in this text is to shine light on and subsequently deconstruct the idea of the Bible as a sort of answer book that arrived via facsimile from heaven. And he accomplishes this aim effectively. The chapters are peppered with references to the author's own complicated journey with the biblical texts, and these have the effect of grounding the theoretical in something more concrete. This was a thoroughly enjoyable re This isn't your "typical" introduction to the Bible or biblical studies. Beal's aim in this text is to shine light on and subsequently deconstruct the idea of the Bible as a sort of answer book that arrived via facsimile from heaven. And he accomplishes this aim effectively. The chapters are peppered with references to the author's own complicated journey with the biblical texts, and these have the effect of grounding the theoretical in something more concrete. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read that will be accessible and engaging to any interested reader. I imagine it would work particularly well in an undergraduate introduction to biblical literature course, and possibly even a seminary classroom.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul Hinman

    I went into this without knowing much about Mr. Beal or this book. For whatever reason, I assumed that Mr. Beal was/is much more liberal, seeking to destroy fundamentalists and reliance on the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. THIS IS NOT THAT BOOK. instead, Beal quickly examines the consumer culture and ideas about the Bible, and contrasts those ideas with the way we know the Bible was originally written, distributed, and compiled. He isn't interested in disavowing the Bible because it wasn't I went into this without knowing much about Mr. Beal or this book. For whatever reason, I assumed that Mr. Beal was/is much more liberal, seeking to destroy fundamentalists and reliance on the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. THIS IS NOT THAT BOOK. instead, Beal quickly examines the consumer culture and ideas about the Bible, and contrasts those ideas with the way we know the Bible was originally written, distributed, and compiled. He isn't interested in disavowing the Bible because it wasn't delivered in a single, finished form. Instead, he demonstrates just how the Bible in many ways mirrors the struggles of our own faith. It is not a book of answers, but a "library of questions." While admittedly, this probably has implications that would make many people uncomfortable - particularly when many Theological arguments ultimately rest on "for the Bible tells me/us so" - i think its a beautiful reflection of a Christian's relationship with God. We are justified by Faith. When we make the Bible into something its not - a singular authoritative book of answers - we are no longer embracing that faith. Faith is not simply that after presented with evidence, you make a choice between A and B. Faith goes much deeper than that.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chunyang Ding

    A thoughtful analysis of biblical orthodoxy and the way that people over many centuries have used different editions to create their own interpretations of it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Beal's work here is solid - it is well researched, provides relevant details, and is mostly, I think, accessible for most readers. As the title suggests, this book is about "The Bible." Beal, a Christian, begins his exploration with a discussion of the present and immediate past that is both enlightening in many regards, but also, I would think, disheartening for people who attach some meaning of their faith to the Bible. As Beal notes, there has been a boom in Bible publishing in the last 3 deca Beal's work here is solid - it is well researched, provides relevant details, and is mostly, I think, accessible for most readers. As the title suggests, this book is about "The Bible." Beal, a Christian, begins his exploration with a discussion of the present and immediate past that is both enlightening in many regards, but also, I would think, disheartening for people who attach some meaning of their faith to the Bible. As Beal notes, there has been a boom in Bible publishing in the last 3 decades, with a multitude of different translations available, and various Bibles that have a plethora of study guides and explanatory material involved (to the point where some of these Bibles devote more words to explanation than to the believed actual "word" of God). What Beal argues in his first section, quite persuasively, is that the Bible has reached a cult or iconic status that has actually suppressed spiritual exploration. Many (if not most) people who have a Bible have not read it, yet they view it as the "authoritative source" for moral and religious behavior. Others, having read it and maintaining the same belief, or led to disbelief due to the inconsistencies and conflicts throughout. In the second part of the book, Beal discusses how those inconsistencies and conflicts came about. For anyone who has read about the history and development of the Christian religion, and thus by extension, its holy book, Beal does not cover new ground. That said, because his background is one ultimately of faith, his discussion is perhaps more sensitive than other materials may be, and thus may be more accessible for many readers. In all, I found the argument in the first section to be well stated and even persuasive at times, and the second part to be, though redundant of other materials I have read, to be well-written and thoroughly researched. Ultimately, I enjoyed Beal's conclusion where he suggests that it would be healthier to view the Bible (and more historically accurate) as a library, as opposed to a book. A library is a place of many different sources and voices, to ask questions and research, to engage in exploration. Such a thought does make one wonder how different things would be if this was the view of the Bible throughout history to the present.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    "The iconic idea of the Bible as a book of black-and-white answers encourages us to remain in a state of spiritual immaturity. It discourages curiosity in the terra incognita of biblical literature, handing us a Magic 8 Ball Bible to play with instead. In turning readers away from the struggle, from wrestling with the rich complexity of biblical literature and its history, in which there are no easy answers, it perpetuates an adolescent faith." "We sometimes hear people accuse fundamentalist Chri "The iconic idea of the Bible as a book of black-and-white answers encourages us to remain in a state of spiritual immaturity. It discourages curiosity in the terra incognita of biblical literature, handing us a Magic 8 Ball Bible to play with instead. In turning readers away from the struggle, from wrestling with the rich complexity of biblical literature and its history, in which there are no easy answers, it perpetuates an adolescent faith." "We sometimes hear people accuse fundamentalist Christians of "bibliolatry", worshipping the Bible as an idol in the place of God....When I say we've made an idol of the Bible, I don't mean we've idolized the Bible itself, as a stand-in for God; I mean that our iconic idea of the Bible as God's Word incarnate is an idol that stands in for the Bible itself, which is no such concrete, black-and-white thing." "Many from both camps seem to believe that demonstrating that the Bible is full of inconsistencies and contradictions is enough to discredit any religious tradition that embraces it as Scripture. Bible debunkers and Bible defenders are kindred spirits. They agree that the Bible is on trial. They agree on the terms of the debate and what is at stake, namely its credibility as God's infallible book. The question for both sides is whether it fails to answer questions, from the most trivial to the ultimate, consistently and reliably. But you can't fail at something you're not trying to do. To ask whether the Bible fails to give consistent answers or be of one voice with itself presumes that it was built to do so. That's a false presumption, rooted in thinking of it as the book that God wrote."

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Melbie

    I read this book in one day, it was great. I especially like the section about the biz of Bible publishing, how the publishers are banking on the fact that lovers of "the book" will always be buying a new copy. Very insightful book by a professor who still maintains that he is a believer, even though he knows that the Bible is flawed. I read this book in one day, it was great. I especially like the section about the biz of Bible publishing, how the publishers are banking on the fact that lovers of "the book" will always be buying a new copy. Very insightful book by a professor who still maintains that he is a believer, even though he knows that the Bible is flawed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I was intrigued, enlightened and fascinated with Beal's open-ended and open-minded approach to Biblical study. He calls the Bible "a library of questions, not a book of answers." "The Bible opens itself to mystery. It is faithful not to the answer but to the question that takes you to the edge of knowing." I was intrigued, enlightened and fascinated with Beal's open-ended and open-minded approach to Biblical study. He calls the Bible "a library of questions, not a book of answers." "The Bible opens itself to mystery. It is faithful not to the answer but to the question that takes you to the edge of knowing."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Buchanan

    A fascinating history of the Bible. I found the book incredibly thought-provoking. I am even tempted to pick up and read a Bible again! I was especially intrigued by the premise that the Bible isn't a book of answers, but a book of questions. A fascinating history of the Bible. I found the book incredibly thought-provoking. I am even tempted to pick up and read a Bible again! I was especially intrigued by the premise that the Bible isn't a book of answers, but a book of questions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christian Orton

    Phenomenal book. So much good info. And Beal presents it fairly and without any expectation from the reader except to dwell on these things and draw your own conclusions. Love it so much. I'm probably going to re-read again in a few months. Phenomenal book. So much good info. And Beal presents it fairly and without any expectation from the reader except to dwell on these things and draw your own conclusions. Love it so much. I'm probably going to re-read again in a few months.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Currently LOVING this book. Check out the numerous reviews of it already. Thus far one of the best books I read all year.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Lightly researched and somewhat subjective musing about the history of the Bible ; an easy read with a few interesting perspectives and takeaways.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Garth Mailman

    If you’re a Southern Baptist or a Fundamentalist who believes God moved the hand that writ the Holy book in King james English then please, avoid this review and this book. The Bible is not a book but a collected anthology of texts most of which remain anonymous. There are hymns, poetry, wise sayings, myths, prophesies, history, letters.... Until the time of King David the Old Testament was an Oral Tradition passed from mentor to disciple. There are no single original copies of any part of the bi If you’re a Southern Baptist or a Fundamentalist who believes God moved the hand that writ the Holy book in King james English then please, avoid this review and this book. The Bible is not a book but a collected anthology of texts most of which remain anonymous. There are hymns, poetry, wise sayings, myths, prophesies, history, letters.... Until the time of King David the Old Testament was an Oral Tradition passed from mentor to disciple. There are no single original copies of any part of the bible and no absolute agreement among Christians and Jews as to what constitutes the canon. The Bible is not an instruction manual nor does it provide the answers to life’s questions indeed it raises more questions than answers and often gives conflicting advice. It is a product of the times in which its writers lived hence the world is flat, heaven is up there, hell down below where the fires of hell burn. Women are chattels with less value than your flocks, slavery is the norm as is polygamy. Homosexuality is a capital offence but then so is adultery and many other crimes. Mental illness and many diseases were caused by evil spirits. There was no understanding of bacterial infection hence lepers were segregated, pork was verboten, food storage was problematic in a warm climate. The oldest texts are in Aramaic written on parchment scrolls reading right to left. Ancient Koine Greek is the language of the New Testament. There are many biblical translations beginning with the Latin Vulgate among others. Luther committed the heresy of translating it into German and the printing press made it readily available to anyone who was literate and could afford to buy a book. Today a Gutenberg Bible is worth millions. King James of England commissioned the committee that hammered out the version that bears his name. If you’ve read the National Enquirer or Facebook you know how gossip spreads. Think then what happens to an oral tradition hence the many versions of the Old Testament. Translations have their own issues involving different shades of meaning attached to words. “Suffer the little children.” Even within a given language words change meaning. One can do a literal translation, a paraphrase, a precis, a summary, an interpretation. Literal translations have their own issues as all languages use idioms. Froid a la tete is literally cold in the head but means one is crazy. Add to this symbolism, metaphor, simile, parable, prophesy, apocalyptic, and you see the challenges. Then you have the political and religious biases of those who do the translating. For example the word that describes Mary in Greek denotes a young maiden not a virgin. The opposite of faith is not unbelief but knowing. The Bible is the record of man’s search for the unknowable. It asks the questions but does not provide answers but keeps asking them in new and creative ways. It confounds the wise. It is folly to the wise and wisdom to the foolish. I believe, help thou my unbelief.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Bonin

    This is such an eye opening book, I absolutely loved it. Timothy Beal makes an excellent argument for what exactly the Bible is and what it will become. I was reminded of Dune, when the "Catholic Orange Bible" or the "Sayings of Maud'dib" were quoted. Are we not writing scripture right now? Won't today's journals and writings become the scripture of tomorrow? It's difficult to remove yourself from the present and look at the world from a bird's eye view. But when you do, it looks a lot less comp This is such an eye opening book, I absolutely loved it. Timothy Beal makes an excellent argument for what exactly the Bible is and what it will become. I was reminded of Dune, when the "Catholic Orange Bible" or the "Sayings of Maud'dib" were quoted. Are we not writing scripture right now? Won't today's journals and writings become the scripture of tomorrow? It's difficult to remove yourself from the present and look at the world from a bird's eye view. But when you do, it looks a lot less complicated. Faith isn't about knowing exactly what it is you believe - it's about questioning and being okay with not receiving answers. I struggle with this modern idea of a "faith crises" - having faith IS a faith crisis. Without crisis there is no faith!! _ "The Bible has always been a legion, a multiplicity of forms and contents, with no original to be found." "The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance." "History is usually written by the powerful." "Where there is no God, there is no light: where there is no light, there is no truth: where there is no truth, there are various opinions: where there are various opinions, there is error." "The only constant in the history of the Bible is change. The history of the Bible is one of perpetual revolution. The Bible looks less like a rock than a river, continually flowing and changing, widening and narrowing, as it moves downstream." "Sometimes faith is not about leaping. Sometimes it's simply a matter of letting go and going with the flow, trusting that although there's no going back, there is a way forward." "What would it mean to think of the Bible not as a book but a library?" "Would we rather be told what to do and think? Do the questions make us nervous?" "The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions." "Cicero suggested that the meaning of religion goes back to a different Latin origin, relegere, from the verb legere, 'to read.' Relegere is therefore 'to re-read' or 'read again.' " "The Torah is incomplete without its interpreters who make something new of it. God rejoices to see what meanings come from the creative, generative labors of the people." "Scriptural culture after the book may have much in common with scriptural culture before the book."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Brill

    Fascinating! Highly-recommended. Wish I'd read it earlier! I've led Bible Study classes for a long time, but have so many questions, especially about how the book (the books!) came to become The Book. Beal has answers, but that's not the point. The point is to appreciate the questions that the library of books known as The Bible brings to our lives. This book touches on textual history, literary criticism, theology and spirituality, all with depth. Very readable, in a crisp funny style. I was im Fascinating! Highly-recommended. Wish I'd read it earlier! I've led Bible Study classes for a long time, but have so many questions, especially about how the book (the books!) came to become The Book. Beal has answers, but that's not the point. The point is to appreciate the questions that the library of books known as The Bible brings to our lives. This book touches on textual history, literary criticism, theology and spirituality, all with depth. Very readable, in a crisp funny style. I was impressed by Beal's description of being raised in a conservative, evangelical family - he is not uncritical, but kind, generous, and appreciative. I loved and chuckled at being reminded of the popularity of The Way version of the Bible! I nodded my head as he described how daunting it can be to try to make sense of the Bible - how many people try and end up being frustrated, buying more copies and versions... A few of my highlights: "The Bible appears to be the most revered book never read." "In early Christian house churches, as in synagogues, the public reading and interpretation of Scripture was a central religious activity for the community. Interpretation was not simply a matter of trying to ascertain passively the meaning of a text. It was active and creative." "Emerging in the Victorian era in the aftermath of the revivalism of the Second Great Awakening, material Christianity focused on physical objects to awaken powerful religious emotions, fostering devotion to certain Victorian ideals for the Christian home and family, in which the father was breadwinner and public authority figure while the mother was homemaker and domestic spiritual nurturer...the family Bible [became] both the physical and iconic centerpiece of domestic Christian piety in the mid-and late nineteenth century." "The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions. How rare such places have become in a society addicted to quick fixes, executive summaries, and idiot's guides. The canon of the Bible is that kind of place."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Miles Fowler

    1CSome scholars of religion may balk at my integration of personal history in this book, not to mention my explicit religious interest in its argument, 1D writes Timothy Beal in his long note to chapter one of this somewhat unusual book, which combines memoir relating to the Bible with speculation about the Bible 19s place in modern society 14including a contemporary look at the 1Cvalue-added 1D industry not only of Bible commentary but also 1CBiblezines 1D that are aimed at the young and bibli 1CSome scholars of religion may balk at my integration of personal history in this book, not to mention my explicit religious interest in its argument, 1D writes Timothy Beal in his long note to chapter one of this somewhat unusual book, which combines memoir relating to the Bible with speculation about the Bible 19s place in modern society 14including a contemporary look at the 1Cvalue-added 1D industry not only of Bible commentary but also 1CBiblezines 1D that are aimed at the young and biblically illiterate 14with a history of Bible publication both before and after the printing press. Beal, who reads both Greek and Hebrew and sometimes gives his own translations of the texts, also describes the historical development of the Bible, concluding that it is not so much a book as a library: Both ancient synagogues and early Christian churches did not have Bibles so much as they had collections of the separate 1Cbooks 1D that now make up the Bible. It was not until rather late that anyone tried to put all of the books of the Bible into one volume. Beal uses a great deal of humor in this book. For example, 1CThe End of the Word as We Know It 1D (a parody of both the saying and song title, 1CEnd of the World as We Know It 1D) is not only the title of part one of this book but a recurring gag throughout. In describing the popular use of the Bible for divination, Beal recalls the time in his own adolescence when he asked, 1CDoes Joanne like me? 1D Then he flipped through the Bible until he stopped and let his finger fall on Deuteronomy 23.1: 1CHe that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. 1D Chapter and section headings are often puns. A section of chapter eight is entitled 1CLoose Canon, 1D a pun that could have many meanings, and Beal just might mean all of them at once. But all is not pop culture and jests. Beal has some serious points to make. A recurring theme is a critique of the limiting belief that the Bible is a book of answers that is consequently intimidating to anyone who tries to pick it up and read it. Do I understand it, people wonder anxiously, and if not is there something wrong with me? 1CThe Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions, 1D Beal teaches. That is, each book of the Bible revisits the themes and subject matter of earlier books and does not always arrive at the same understanding. Usually doesn 19t, as a matter of fact. Beal finds this liberating rather than discomfiting. He rejects as self defeating the views of those (both believers and unbelievers) who insist that the Bible must stand or fall on its inerrancy. No, he demurs; rather, to expect the Bible to speak with one voice and to answer all questions with one sure answer is to expect the Bible to be what it was never meant to be. The Bible is polyvocal, not univocal. It is a collection of many voices, often in dispute with each other rather than harmony. Beal counts four or five different accounts of creation in the Bible. These are often contradictory, and two are both found in the first book, Genesis. Beal points out that the ancient editors of the Genesis were not stupid; they knew they were stitching together two contradictory accounts of creation, one after the other. Obviously that is what they intended to do. More contentiously, the Book of Job provides an argument against Deuteronomy 19s declaration that bad things only happen to bad people. Job is sometimes regarded as a contrary point of view that somehow snuck into the Bible when no one was looking, but Beal recognizes that its contrariness is not that unusual in the Bible, where books regularly take different positions on similar issues or explicitly re-reinterpret the meanings of earlier books. 1CIn its hosting of disagreement, the canon of the Bible remains open, inviting us to enter, and add our voices to the ongoing conversation, 1D he says. Beal carries this conceit to a radical extent. He seems to be saying that everyone in the Bible is reinterpreting each other, so we might as well join in the act. Beal looks at the present and future and sees the possibility that the Bible could be re-envisioned through the Internet where all texts can be connected hypertextually, collaboratively invested with new contexts and meanings. 1CTo some, this may look like doomsday, the end of the Word set in the context of the end of the world. And yet, ironically, it also looks very like the scriptural culture of early Christianity 1D where scattered communities shared various books with each other and copied and commented and edited. Beal takes the Bible as a post-modernist text, arguing that it has already deconstructed itself, but this attitude may go too far in overlooking the fact that the ancient authors and editors had their own meanings in mind 14meanings that are neither entirely unknowable nor of lesser value than all readers 19 interpretations; understanding as much as we can about the earlier intent of biblical authors and editors is crucial if we are to get something of real value out of the Bible rather than merely mirroring our own (or someone else 19s) opinions and prejudices. The meanings intended by the authors and editors should be acknowledged as the starting point for our understanding of the history and thought behind these texts. Beal is right that there are more questions in the Bible than there are answers, but within reasonable parameters there can be wrong answers, as Beal concedes, for example, in his discussion of how the Matthean proof text for the virgin birth was indeed based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew word 1Calmah 1D which means 1Cyoung woman 1D but was translated in the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures as 1Cvirgin. 1D When a revised translation of the Bible acknowledged this about a century ago, many conservative clergymen saw red and rejected the new-fangled translation. Throughout their history, Christians have probably been particularly egregious 14in comparison to all those who eccentrically reinterpret scriptures 14in interpreting the Bible in illegitimate ways in order to justify their doctrines after the fact, the prime case being Matthew 19s 14and many other Christians 19 14 reinterpretation of Isaiah and some other Jewish texts to make them speak about the Messiah when they clearly do not. This may not have been done with intentional deceit in most cases, but it was a wish fulfillment done with so little respect for the original intent of the earlier authors that it impoverishes Christianity to the extent that some Christians 19 faith is thus hanged from a single falsification of the original text. However, Luke does not rely on the same proof texts that Matthew does 14another example of polyvocality: if you don 19t like Matthew, read Luke, instead.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This is the second time I have read this book, having last finished it nine years ago. I cannot improve on the review I published then: This is a wonderful book. Well-written and very substantial, despite its relatively small size. Beal considers the Bible both as a scholar and as an individual Christian, and many of his personal thoughts are the same as mine. The most important message--the "Bible" is NOT the literal, inerrant Word of God. (As anyone who has read it should know.) There's no one This is the second time I have read this book, having last finished it nine years ago. I cannot improve on the review I published then: This is a wonderful book. Well-written and very substantial, despite its relatively small size. Beal considers the Bible both as a scholar and as an individual Christian, and many of his personal thoughts are the same as mine. The most important message--the "Bible" is NOT the literal, inerrant Word of God. (As anyone who has read it should know.) There's no one definitive version of the Bible, and it's not just one "univocal" book. To quote the author: "...the Bible" literally means "the Book," and your typical Bible sure looks like a book. But..., it's not. In fact, the name began as a mistranslation of its earlier Greek name, ta biblia, "the books." The Bible is a diverse collection of stories, songs, poetry, rituals, and commandments spanning centuries of history. They don't all come together into a single, book-length story. Moreover there are many different versions of Bibles. Jewish Bibles, Protestant Bibles, Catholic Bibles, and Orthodox Bibles have different contents. And behind each of those translations are hundreds of ancient manuscripts in many different languages. The Bible is not a book, let alone The Book. Saint Jerome, a Latin translator, had another name for it: bibliotheca, or "library." That just may be the best way to think of it."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Much of the information in this book was stuff I already knew. I wish he would have gone to greater length on the History of the Bible st. Jerome ect. If I can summarize his main complaint was about modern bible publishers and how they run their buisness. He wants much more emphasis on the text and less on the marketing. I can't really argue with that. He also complains about how many evanglicals speak as if the Bible can only be read one way, and that it speaks with one voice. Overall a very good Much of the information in this book was stuff I already knew. I wish he would have gone to greater length on the History of the Bible st. Jerome ect. If I can summarize his main complaint was about modern bible publishers and how they run their buisness. He wants much more emphasis on the text and less on the marketing. I can't really argue with that. He also complains about how many evanglicals speak as if the Bible can only be read one way, and that it speaks with one voice. Overall a very good read if you don't already have some knowledge on how the Bible came to be.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dee Halzack

    This was an interesting book, though not riveting. Sort of a former evangelical raised with the Bible at the center of his life coming to terms with its inconsistencies. Lots of interesting facts. Lots of interesting perspectives. E.g., King James version was commissioned by King James in order to stamp out a tendency at his time to include interpretations that encouraged dissent. Interesting metaphor: Bible as library of questions, rather than definitive how-to manual.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ed Barton

    Looking at the Bible from both a Christian and scholarly approach, The Rise and Fall of the Bible provides insights into the history of the Biblical canon, the challenges in translation and interpretation, and perhaps most importantly the beauty of the literature and the dangers of literal interpretation - including the biblezines that twist interpretation on its head. A good read and interesting perspective.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I was hoping for more ancient history and all the different Christian groups and all the different texts that eventually became a bible. This book did have some of that. I really liked the explanations of early texts as objects - scrolls and codices. And I now know why I had The Way bible as a kid.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    Quite an interesting book, presenting an approach to the Bible that might be welcomed by many people, such as myself, who’ve pretty much sworn off any real interest in organized Christianity or Judaism.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Very interesting book, it examines a history of the bible that is seldom discussed. I give it 4/5 because it would be better with more details and examples. It often quickly moves over points that deserve more examination.

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