How the Bible Was Built

How the Bible Was Built

by Charlse Merrill Smith, James W. Bennett

The Bible continues to be the world’s runaway best-seller. But very few people could say just how its seemingly disparate jumble of writings — stories, letters, poems, collections of laws, religious visions — got there. Filling this knowledge gap, How the Bible Was Built clearly tells the story of how the Bible came to be. Penned by Charles


The Bible continues to be the world’s runaway best-seller. But very few people could say just how its seemingly disparate jumble of writings — stories, letters, poems, collections of laws, religious visions — got there. Filling this knowledge gap, How the Bible Was Built clearly tells the story of how the Bible came to be. Penned by Charles Merrill Smith in response to his teenage granddaughter’s questions, the manuscript was discovered after Smith’s death and has been reworked by his friend James Bennett for a wider audience. Free of theological or sectarian slant, this little volume provides a concise, factual overview of the Bible’s construction throughout history, outlining how its various books were written and collected and later canonized and translated. Written in an easy conversational style and enhanced by two helpful appendixes (of biblical terms and dates), How the Bible Was Built will give a more informed understanding of the Bible to people of virtually any reading level and any religious persuasion.

Did you know?

  • The word “Bible” comes from biblion, a Greek word meaning “papyrus scroll.”
  • It took several thousand years to construct the Bible.
  • The book we call Deuteronomy was discovered hidden away in a dark corner during the reconstruction of the temple under King Josiah.
  • The Apocrypha contains some of the earliest “detective” stories on record.
  • Church councils had many disagreements about which books ought to be authoritative (a book called the Shepherd of Hermas almost made the cut; the book of Revelation almost didn’t).
  • A heretic helped form the canon.
  • Debate over the canon didn’t really end until the Protestant Reformation and the use of the printing press.

Product Details

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.29(d)

Read an Excerpt

How the Bible Was Built

By Charles Merrill Smith James W. Bennett

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2005 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8028-2943-0

Chapter One

How This Book Was Built

The Bible, always the world's bestseller, is setting new sales records every year. Its popularity has never been greater. It is available in many translations and paraphrases - all of them in wide use.

Yet most Bible readers would find it difficult to answer such questions as: How did the Bible get to be the Bible? What kind of literature is in it? Who wrote it? Why were the various books written? Why were they chosen to be included in the Bible? When were they written? Why do we have four books on the life of Jesus in the New Testament instead of just one? What is the Apocrypha?

This book answers just such questions. It tells the story of the writing of the Bible step by step. It is a book of facts. No particular perspective about the Bible is presented or urged on the reader. Those who hold conservative views of the scriptures can pick it up without fear that the book will undermine their faith.

Those of a more liberal persuasion can do the same.

Those who hold no strong religious convictions of any kind, but believe the Bible to be an essential part of our culture will find it just as useful.

Benefits of Reading This Book

What started out as a book for teenagers and young adults has become, with each successive draft (orrevision), a book targeted at a much wider readership. Not just teenagers, but parents, teachers, spiritual seekers, even ordinary churchgoers curious about the Bible will find much to learn in it.

I have said that Christians of various backgrounds and predispositions will benefit from this book, and enjoy it as well. After all, facts are facts. Bible scholars, for example, are conservative and liberal, Roman Catholic and Protestant and Jewish, and can differ widely on how they interpret the Bible. But they are in general agreement with regard to the fundamental facts about the Bible.

Is it important to know these facts? Yes indeed. Some readers might wonder, why can't I just enjoy reading the Bible without going into all these facts? The answer would be that of course they can, because that is precisely what many people do. It is the belief here, however, that reading the Bible will mean more to people if they know what they are reading.

People are reading the Bible in record numbers today. They are taking it seriously. But if they are to be "at home" with the Bible instead of treating it as a remote and mysterious document, then knowing these facts will be beneficial to them.

To enable people to know exactly what the Bible is; to make it possible for them to read it with real comprehension; to make it clear to them where the Bible came from, and why these special books came to be collected as holy scripture - these are the purposes of this book.

Most books written about the Bible mix facts with doctrinal or theological perspectives. This is necessary and legitimate for books meant for use as evangelical tools or as instruments for sectarian instruction. But if there is a book which sets forth briefly and clearly the story behind the Bible, sets it forth unadorned by theological or sectarian persuasion, I am not aware of it. That is what this book seeks to be.

The Inspiration According to Julia

Originally, the book was inspired by my fourteen-year-old granddaughter Julia. One day she began asking me questions about the Bible, asking them with almost machinegun rapidity. Where did the Bible come from? Who wrote it? Who said it was the Bible? And on and on.

When I reported the conversation to Julia's mother, she said she wished I would find a book which would tell the story of the Bible that all the grandchildren could read. They were growing up rather ignorant of the Bible, she declared, and she didn't like that. As a matter of fact, she said, she didn't know as much about the Bible as she would like to know. She'd welcome a simple, understandable, factual story of the Bible herself.

Since I couldn't find such a book, I decided to write one.

I am not a Bible scholar. I am a seminary-trained, ordained clergyman who has spent more than three decades in the parish ministry. The Bible, of course, has always been my basic working tool. If there is a fact about the Bible I don't know - and there are many - I know where to find it. I rely on the works of scholars whose credentials and integrity are well established.

Like every person of faith, I have an attitude toward the Bible. But I have not permitted it to intrude in this book. This is a book of information, not evangelism. If the Bible plays any part at all in our lives - as a guide for living, a handbook of devotion, or a source for understanding our culture - it is important that all of us, young and old, have this information.


Excerpted from How the Bible Was Built by Charles Merrill Smith James W. Bennett Copyright © 2005 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Charles Merrill Smith (1919–1985) was a United Methodist minister and the well-known author of such books as How to Become a Bishop without Being Religious, When the Saints Go Marching Out, and the Reverend Randollph mystery series

James W. Bennett, a longtime friend of Charles Merrill Smith, is the award-winning author of several young adult novels, including Old Hoss and The Squared Circle, as well as the spiritual memoir A Quiet Desperation.

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