A History of the Bible

A History of the Bible : The Book and Its Faiths

4.07 (669 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

WINNER OF THE 2019 DUFF COOPER PRIZE
A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'With emotional and psychological insight, Barton unlocks this sleeping giant of our culture. In the process, he has produced a masterpiece.' Sunday Times

The Bible is the central book of Western culture. For the two faiths which hold it sacred, it is the bedrock of their religion, a singular authority on what to believe and how to live. For non-believers too, it has a commanding status: it is one of the great works of world literature, woven to an unparalleled degree into our language and thought.

This book tells the story of the Bible, explaining how it came to be constructed and how it has been understood, from its remote beginnings down to the present. John Barton describes how the narratives, laws, proverbs, prophecies, poems and letters which comprise the Bible were written and when, what we know - and what we cannot know - about their authors and what they might have meant, as well as how these extraordinarily disparate writings relate to each other. His incisive readings shed new light on even the most familiar passages, exposing not only the sources and traditions behind them, but also the busy hands of the scribes and editors who assembled and reshaped them. Untangling the process by which some texts which were regarded as holy, became canonical and were included, and others didn't, Barton demonstrates that the Bible is not the fixed text it is often perceived to be, but the result of a long and intriguing evolution.

Tracing its dissemination, translation and interpretation in Judaism and Christianity from Antiquity to the rise of modern biblical scholarship, Barton elucidates how meaning has both been drawn from the Bible and imposed upon it. Part of the book's originality is to illuminate the gap between religion and scripture, the ways in which neither maps exactly onto the other, and how religious thinkers from Augustine to Luther and Spinoza have reckoned with this. Barton shows that if we are to regard the Bible as 'authoritative', it cannot be as believers have so often done in the past.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 640 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 27mm | 436g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0141978503
  • 9780141978505
  • 8,722

Review Text

As eminently readable as the best of travelogues, it floods with light a subject too often regarded by many as a closed book. ... An extraordinary tour de force Peter Stanford Sunday Times
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Review quote

Cerebral entertainment of the highest class. This is an absolutely fascinating book, a staggeringly learned exploration of the origins of all those Bible stories -- Dominic Sandbrook * The Sunday Times (Books of the Year) * A superb overview ... Barton wears his erudition lightly, but even for those deeply familiar with the Bible there is much here to be learnt -- Bart D Ehrman * Telegraph * As eminently readable as the best of travelogues, it floods with light a subject too often regarded by many as a closed book. ... An extraordinary tour de force -- Peter Stanford * Sunday Times * John Barton's magisterial history brings the Good Book splendidly back to life ... It is an exhilarating achievement -- Julian Coman * Observer * Rare is the common assumption about the Bible that Barton fails to render problematic -- Tom Holland * Financial Times * Vital, hugely informative -- David Sexton * Evening Standard * A work of exceptional merit ... a joy to read -- Linda Hogan * Irish Times * Compelling and endlessly intriguing, it courageously looks at the problems of variants, apocrypha, questions of translation and very much more. It should be in the armoury of anyone, whether a believer or not -- Stuart Kelly * Scotsman * Hugely important, very readable and judicious -- Anthony Phillips * Church Times * The learning Barton brings to bear for this large undertaking is prodigious as well as judiciously deployed, and everything is conveyed in lucid, precise prose. If A History of the Bible is academic popularization, it may well be the finest example I have ever encountered -- Robert Alter * Jewish Review of Books *
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About Dr John Barton

John Barton was the Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford from 1991 to 2014 and since 1973 has been a serving priest in the Church of England. He is the author of numerous books on the Bible, co-editor of The Oxford Bible Commentary and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007 and is a Corresponding Fellow of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
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Rating details

669 ratings
4.07 out of 5 stars
5 36% (244)
4 41% (274)
3 17% (113)
2 4% (29)
1 1% (9)
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