Don't Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned

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Overview

Nine out of ten Americans own a Bible, but how much do they know about the one book that has influenced human history more than any other? Don't Know Much About® the Bible by New York Times bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis is designed to illuminate everything we need to know about the Good Book but never learned. With wit, authority, and intelligence, Davis brings the world of the Old and New Testaments to vivid life, setting the panorama of the Scriptures against the historical events that shaped them; ...
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Overview

Nine out of ten Americans own a Bible, but how much do they know about the one book that has influenced human history more than any other? Don't Know Much About® the Bible by New York Times bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis is designed to illuminate everything we need to know about the Good Book but never learned. With wit, authority, and intelligence, Davis brings the world of the Old and New Testaments to vivid life, setting the panorama of the Scriptures against the historical events that shaped them; clearing up misconceptions and mistranslations; summarizing Bible stories, parables, and miracles; and adding fresh new insights to the world's most owned, least understood book.

Davis is uniquely qualified for the assignment. The creator of the bestselling Don't Know Much About® series, he now illuminates the bestselling book of all time, using his inimitable question-and-answer approach and providing a key to the people, places, and "household names" we need to unlock "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Writes Davis, "I believe people are starved for knowledge. They just want it in a more appealing style than the way it was presented back in school."

Relying on up-to-date research and improved translations, Davis sets out to uncover what the Bible says—and doesn't say. Don't Know Much About® the Bible is the result of his efforts and includes the following observations: There are two different Creation stories told in Genesis, but no apple in the Garden of Eden story. There was no "coat of many colors" in the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers, but rather a long-sleeved robe. Moses didn't write the Torah and he didn't partthe Red Sea in his escape from Pharaoh. The Sixth Commandment does not condemn all killing. King David probably didn't kill Goliath and didn't write the Psalms. Jesus wasn't born on Christmas.

Davis brings readers up-to-date on findings gleaned from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic Gospels that prompt serious scholars to ask such questions as: Who wrote the Bible? Did Jesus say everything we were taught he did? Did he say more? By examining the Bible historically, Davis also shows which biblical teachings may have suited an ancient, semi-nomadic world but no longer apply to life at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

People
When it comes to enlivening the Bible, Ken Davis is the realmiracle man. He again shows a knack for making esoteric ideas . . .
San Francisco Chronicle
A great starting point for Bible beginners.
San Francisco Chronicle
A great starting point for Bible beginners.
Christian Science Monitor
Do you still postpone reading the Bible cover to cover? Don't Know Much About® The Bible offers a rousing companion volume to get you going. Kenneth Davis will take you on a grand tour--with commentary.
Christian Science Monitor
Do you still postpone reading the Bible cover to cover? Don't Know Much About® The Bible offers a rousing companion volume to get you going.
Library Journal
Davis here gives us a very broad introduction to the scriptures, touching on the history, authority, and compilation of the Bible. Using the same question-and-answer format of other works in this series (e.g., Don't Know Much About the Civil War, Audio Reviews, LJ 10/1/96), Davis shows himself to be an articulate author. However, he has several asides that can be perceived as cynical and condescending, detracting from the program. Davis reads his own introduction well, and the anonymous narrators are a nice match for the text. The author's interpretation of scripture will not find a following among Evangelicals, but this interesting work should find a place in all public libraries.--Michael T. Fein, Catawba Valley Community Coll., Hickory, NC
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Kenneth C. Davis illuminates everything we need to know about the "Good Book" but never learned.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553456080
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Series: Don't Know Much About Series
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 4.93 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nation Rising; America's Hidden History; and Don't Know Much About® History, which spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, sold more than 1.6 million copies, and gave rise to his phenomenal Don't Know Much About® series for adults and children. A resident of New York City and Dorset, Vermont, Davis frequently appears on national television and radio and has been a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He blogs regularly at www.dontknowmuch.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Part One

Whose Bible Is It Anyway?



My Bible or yours? Whose version shall we read? The King James? The Jerusalem Bible? The Living Bible?

Take a look at this brief passage from one Bible story as told in a version called The Five Books of Moses:

The human knew Havva his wife,
she became pregnant and bore Kayin.
She said:
Kaniti/I-have-gotten a man, as has YHWH!
She continued bearing--his brother, Hevel.
Now Hevel became a shepherd of flocks, and Kayin
became a worker of the soil.


Havva? Kayin? Hevel?

"Who are these strangers?" you might ask.

Perhaps you know them better as Eve and her boys, Cain and Abel, whose births are recounted in Genesis. In Everett Fox's The Five Books of Moses you will also encounter Yaakov, Yosef, and Moshe. Again, you might recognize them more easily as Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. In this recently published translation of the Bible's first five books, Dr, Fox attempts to recapture the sound and rhythms of ancient Hebrew poetry, to re-create the feeling of this ancient saga as it was sung around desert campfires by nomadic herders some three thousand years ago. In doing so, Fox makes the comfortably familiar seem foreign. All of those art-museum paintings depicting a nubile, blond, blue-eyed European Eve holding an apple simply don't jibe with the image Fox conjures--of a primitive earth mother from a starkly different time and place. His unexpected presentation underscores a startling fact about the book we all claim to respect and honor: there is no one Bible. There are many Bibles. A stroll through any bookstoredemonstrates that reality. You'll see Jewish Bibles, Catholic Bibles, African-American Bibles, "nonsexist" Bibles, "Husband's Bibles," and "Recovery Bibles" designed for those in twelve-step programs. Then there's the Living Bible--as opposed to the Dead Bible?--and The Good News Bible, both written in contemporary language. So far there is no "Valley Girl" or "Bay watch" Bible. Give it time.

So how to choose? The King James Version is still the most popular translation of all. But God, Moses, and Jesus didn't really speak the King's English, and all of those "thees" and "thous" and verbs ending in "eth" are confusing and tough on anyone with a lisp. The New Revised Standard Version is clear and readable, but it lacks poetic sweep. Then there are dozens of other versions, each proclaiming its superiority, some claiming to be more faithful to the "original" version. It brings to mind the words of the world-weary philosopher in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes: "Of making many books there is no end."

What would old "Ecclesiastes" say if he walked into a bookstore? Do too many translations spoil the biblical stew? This question lies at the heart of so much popular confusion about the Bible. We can't agree on a version. So how can we can agree on what it says?

Where did this Flood of Bibles come from? How did such an important document come to be so many different things to so many different people? Or as the English poet William Blake put it nearly two hundred years ago:

Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read'st black where I read white.


All of these queries lead back to one very simple first question:

What is the Bible?

Most people think of the Bible as a book, like a long and complicated novel with too many oddly named characters and not enough plot. Pick up a Bible. Hold it in your hand. No question about it. It is a "book." But it is vastly more. The word "Bible" comes from the medieval Latin biblia, a singular word derived from the Greek biblia, meaning "books." To add to this little word history: the city of Byblos was an ancient Phoenician coastal city in what is now Lebanon. The Phoenicians invented the alphabet we still use and taught the Greeks how to write. From Byblos, the Phoenicians exported the papyrus "paper" on which early "books" were written. (Papyrus is actually a reedlike plant; strips of the plant were soaked and woven together. When dried, they formed a writing "paper.") While byblos originally meant "papyrus" in Greek, it eventually came to mean "book," and books are therefore named after this city.

So, in the most literal sense, the Bible is not a single book but an anthology, a collection of many small books. In an even broader sense, it is not just an anthology of shorter works but an entire library. You might think of a library as a physical place, but it can also mean a collection of books. And the Bible is an extraordinary gathering of many books of law, wisdom, poetry, philosophy, and history, some of them four thousand years old. How many books this portable library contains depends on which Bible you are clutching. The Bible of a Jew is different from the Bible of a Roman Catholic, which is different from the Bible of a Protestant.

Written over the course of a thousand years, primarily in ancient Hebrew, the Jewish Bible is the equivalent of Christianity's Old Testament. For Jews, there is no New Testament. They recognize only those Scriptures that Christians call the Old Testament. Both the Jewish Bible and Christian Old Testament contain the same books, although arranged and numbered in a slightly different order. Unless you hold the Jerusalem Bible, popular among Roman Catholics; it contains about a dozen books that Jews and Protestants don't consider "Holy Scripture." But that's another story, one that comes a little later in the Bible's history. In Jewish traditions, their Bible is also called the Tanakh, an acronym of the Hebrew words Torah (for "law" or "teaching"), Nevi'im ("the Prophets") and Kethuvim ("the Writings"). These are the three broad divisions into which the thirty-nine books of Hebrew scripture are organized.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2006

    Don't know much about a lot of things.... apparently.

    I was really excited about this book because I really have a passion for books about biblical history. I have to say within the first few chapters it took all my might to try not to throw the book in the garbage can. Not only was his research shoddy at best, I found the author taking jabs at the very audience a book like this would appeal to. The book is loaded with personal agenda. It's a shame that it's pretty much marketed as a quasi-history book. He blatantly ignored a vast body of archaeological evidence that has been widely accepted by most reputable scholars. His personal feelings on the Catholic church just seep through every passage he writes about it. Perhaps that is particularly poignant with me since I am Catholic, but I will make it clear that just because a book shows an anti-catholic 'tilt' does not mean I dismiss it outright. But in THIS book, that is only the tip of the iceberg. I could go on about the poor quality of this book for a while but I'll stop there and just hope you won't waste your money on it.

    10 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2004

    Brilliantly titled!

    Kenneth C. Davis is nothing if not honest; he doesn't know much about the Bible. If you are looking for a secular handbook to use as a conversational aid at dinner parties, this book is for you. If you want to learn who God is, and why the Bible continues to be the bestselling 'book' of all time (it is actually 66 books written by 40 different authors from 3 different continents using 3 different languages over a period of 1500 years, which miraculously contain the same message and 100% accuracy in all the prophesies describing the life, ministry, and death of Jesus), you will not find it here.

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2000

    1 TIM 3:15-17

    This is truely an irritating bit of nonsense. Higher critisim of the events after 5000 or 6000 years based on your PERSONAL feelings??? Any one who takes a serious unbiased view of the bible (by unbiased I mean not fanatical its all right just because or its all wrong just because its old) can see right through this book the auther definatly started with an 'agenda' so be warned and please don't subject yourself to this inaccurate foolishness.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

    Very Insightful

    If you are unable to think outside the Bible box and refuse to asks any questions about contradictions, questionable stories in the Bible, or mistranslations,this book is not for you. However, if you can think outside the box and welcome historian's, archeologist's, or any other's theory as to how some scripture may have come to pass, then read on. I don't know how a previous reviewer surmised that Davis is insulting Catholism. This book is in no way related to disagreeing or agreeing with Catholism or any other religion. Davis' approach is to make the reader understand what it was like (geographically, socially,politically) before and during biblical times that may have influenced the authors of the many books of the bible. He sites many other scholars to give the reader different viewpoints from more than one source. It's not a book filled w/ opinions, however, one might come to that conclusion once they read one line that points out a contradiction. I've read the Bible from beginning to end, and you can't deny that there are some instances where head scratching comes into play. And I read this book AFTER reading the Bible. My first reaction was that he picked up on a lot of contradictions that I discovered. But just because I noticed contradictions doesn't mean that I disagree w/ the spiritual guidance that the Bible provides. I definitely recommend this book, but only to the open-minded. And you have to have a sense of humor. I laughed out loud many times from the humor.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    Refreshing and insightful

    A wonderful account of the Bible with a historical back drop. Geared for the reader who wants the biblical information without the feel of a church bible study. An easy way to refresh yourself on the biblical stories.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 1999

    Speak English Please

    The English language in this book was badly abused. My attention was caught by the errors rather than by the content.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 1999

    Awsome...

    I thought the book was great! It really cleared up a lot of things for me. I always felt it difficult to actually read the Bible, and now I know why. A great book for those how can 'think outside the box' of Sundy school religion and dare to question.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    Interesting and Insightful

    An enjoyable read toting a thick laymen¿s attitude complete with some dry humor and clever witticisms. Davis presents a wide variety of historical texts and other newly available evidences to better support many of the bibles more ambiguous stories (¿Red Sea¿ derived from ¿Sea of Reeds¿, Why are there are two creation stories contained in Genesis, etc.). While I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the bible as a historical text there is certainly no substitute for the real thing when it comes to the teachings (although thou shalt not 'murder' is a far cry different than the 'kill' selected by King James¿s scholars.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    Obvjectivity is no sin!

    Many of us fall victim to selecting quotations from the Bible to support our own agendas. With the background and history provided (and qualified) in 'Don't Know Much Abouth the Bible', we all can benefit from the knowledge of scriptural sources. This is an EXCELLENT book to begin a thorough study of Bible (and other religious) history and meaning.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2002

    another man interpreting unreason

    I've read the Bible cover to cover and eventually understood every solitairy word. People have tried over the ages to interpret the Bible better, to change 'errors' and even the message itself, as to preach to the little-school-children, or make laws. Books like this are made to do just that, to teach to children and adults that cannot think for themselves, to close our eyes from reason. Aside from that, a well put together book.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2000

    Real Insight

    This book was excellent. It said that it was not going to be a biased book and it was not. The author never puts any relegion down but discusses the bible as a book of history. He gives the reader the whole truth of the Bible not just what the priest would like to be read. The people who preach from the Bible should read this and maybe they will actually gain an open mind. This book is wonderful.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2014

    Picked the book up from my local city library and started readin

    Picked the book up from my local city library and started reading it - just about 75-80% done; jumping around, started reading the section on the New Testament.
    Thoroughly enjoying the read and I wonder about some of the Anonymous' One Star reviews below??  As one commenter' stated below
    the bible is composed of 66 books if you are Protestant or 73 if you are Catholic ( and as for the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible cannon the 24 books of the Old Testament).
    With how many authors? at least 40 or more; this is all covered by Davis in his brilliant observation of the greatest book ever written!  It is often said that: "the Bible is indeed the
     greatest book ever written, a must read by all, however, it is poorly edited." I do not see the fact that there exists several different accounts in the Bible of what may have occurred in
    Jesus's life or the earlier Prophets (as stated above there were 40+ writer's/contributors). This Davis points out without bias or negativism; as some of the other commenter's stipulate.  
    It is just a statement of fact - there does exist differing accounts of what transpired in the day-to-day activities of the individuals in the Bible.  
    I believe firmly that instead of shedding a negative connotation on the Bible, it does the opposite.  It shows that it stands as the most read, most contemplated, most inspiring book still!
    some, almost 2000 years after its assemblage.    

     And for  those who did not complete the entire read of Davis (I did read the ending first as I am want to do) you
    missed his summation! see page 473 (hard cover edition)  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2005

    A Great Place to START

    Others are correct in stating that this is a good place to start. The author however doesn't always use complete quotations when taking excerpts from the bible. Anyone can take a piece here and a piece there to make the scriptures say what they want it to say. If he would use the entire passages or use the parts he does use in the context that they were intended he would not have found some of the contradictions that he says are in the bible. Davis' interpretation of the bible however makes a person think. You may want to dust off you own copy of the bible and read it again for yourself after reading (or in my case listening) to Don't Know Much About the Bible. I listened to it 2-3 times, some parts as many as 5 times and found it quite interesting.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2011

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