The Bible: A Biography

The Bible: A Biography

by Karen Armstrong


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802143846
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 11/01/2008
Series: Books That Changed the World
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 234,708
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 5.12(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous books on religious affairs, including Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions and The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism.

British actress and narrator Josephine Bailey has won ten AudioFile Earphones Awards and a prestigious Audie Award, and Publishers Weekly named her Best Female Narrator in 2002.

Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Torah     9
Scripture     32
Gospel     55
Midrash     79
Charity     102
Lectio Divina     126
Sola Scriptura     155
Modernity     183
Epilogue     222
Glossary of Key Terms     231
Notes     243
Index     279

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From the Publisher

"[Narrator Josephine] Bailey skillfully keeps the text moving, easily handling historical terms and names." —-AudioFile

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Bible 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book after hearing her on KUOW- my public radio station. For anyone raised in a christian faith and yearning to understand how the bible truly evolved this is for you. She- Karen Armstrong takes an amazingly complicated topic and makes it understandable and fascinating. Since reading this book I've read 4 more of hers. She is an amazing! Her perspective on religion is fantastic!
BookNut-CO More than 1 year ago
I discovered Karen Armstrong soon after 9/11/01 when I purchased "A History of God", in an effort to understand Islam and gain insights into religions fanaticism in general. With that booked, I became a Karen Armstrong fan and have enjoyed the many books of hers that I have read since ... including this biography of the bible. She does her research; she does her homework; and as a former nun with a now scholarly approach to the study of religion, she presents a very well-balanced, learned and objective history of the bible. I have enjoyed this book immensely and do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of religion and faith.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not quite what I expected, but that's not always a bad thing. I anticipated this book to be more strictly about how the various writings that compose the Bible were drafted, edited, and eventually collected into their modern-day form. While this certainly was covered, Armstrong discusses in even more detail the relationship the various Judaic and Christian movements have had with scripture throughout history. This was extremely interesting, particularly when looking at such trends as the movement of certain contemporary Christians toward a more literal interpretation of the Bible. For example, Armstrong details how it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that Christians began to interpret the creation story literally. Before then, it was almost universally accepted by scholars as an allegory. (Interestingly, the majority of creation science adherents today are related in some way to a Calvanist viewpoint; yet John Calvin never would have viewed the story in Genesis as an accurate portrayal of how the Earth was made.) A bit slow in places, but overall a good book that provides some important historical context and background to how the Bible was written and how it has been interpreted over time.
rodrichards on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Karen Armstrong is a great purveyor/interpreter/teacher of religious history and this book (an awe-inspiring task, to write a "biography" of the Bible in a couple hundred pages) is no exception. She concentrates on the liberality in methods of interpretation that were encouraged throughout history and (some might say) over-emphasizes that in an attempt to counter fundamentalist notions as the "real" interpretation. I will most likely be checking out other entries in this series of "Books That Changed the World." (And yes, I read the Large Print edition...ah, sweet bird of youth, you flew away so fast...)
Niecierpek on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The book seems to be making a very convincing case against literal interpretation of the Bible. It takes us through ages of its development, adding and deleting texts, their interpretation and re-interpretation; from its origins in the Torah, through the Old Testament, the New Testament, to the Christian Bible. One of its main points seems to be that the Bible was never meant to be read literally, as it contains both logos and mythos. Mythos is '...not intended to be factual.. it was concerned with meaning rather than historically accurate information, and described a religious experience.' Logos, or the reason, on the other hand, enables to translate those experiences into 'allegories of divine'. The whole Scripture depends on the balance between the mythos and the logos. Since nowadays we have come to depend more on the logos- scientific and rational reading, the fundamentalist reading of the Bible is trying to turn the mythos into the logos, and read the allegory literally.The book was somewhat interesting, but in the end it did not meet my expectations. Since it was labeled `a biography¿, I was expecting much more about the origins of the texts and of what¿s in them. Being non-religious, I have a rather hazy picture of the details and less known stories, constituting parts and where they came from. What the book gave me instead was a string of historical dates and monks or philosophers who have added and re-interpreted the texts. Not to mention that I was lost to the very end as to what really constituted the Bible. Overall, I have enjoyed other books by Armstrong more. I found them more informative and better written than this one.
ValSmith on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is one of Armstrong's weaker books although I liked it in most respects. She mamanges to, in my opinion, skip over completely, how the books of the Bible became "canon." Other works of hers are much more detailed and specific, but this work would be good for a general reader curious about the subject.
bgknighton on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The first part of the book is best, where she goes into the history of the Bible. Also goes into the ways of studying the Bible in the second half of her book. Kind of loses her way in places, but a good first history for the Bible.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In roughly 230 pages, Karen Armstrong provides a cogent overview of how the Jewish and Christian Scriptures were assembled, and how they have been viewed by leading Jewish and Christian thinkers since. Armstrong's explanation for how Christianity and Judaism were influenced by the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE tracks closely the explanation offered by Donald Akenson in his much longer, rambling 1998 book, Surpassing Wonder. Armstrong's book provides a memorable framework and will be a terrific jumping off point for further reading about specific figures.Beyond providing an overview of the history of biblical interpretation, Armstrong urges students of the Scriptures to practice charity - which she also terms loving kindness - towards other believers and nonbelievers. She argues convincingly that charity lies at the heart of the greatest interpreters in both the Jewish (Hillel) and the western Christian (Augustine) traditions. On the other hand, she largely ignores the competing trope of God as cosmic authority and order; I think the elevation of that idea over the notion of God as compassionate love accounts for the most damaging features of fundamentalism.I found the last chapter, Modernity, good but less compelling than the rest of the book. Part of this is a reflection of the broadening of Western civilization over the last 300 years; Armstrong is stuck hopping from one thinker to another, and several of the recent thinkers she cites seem more like samples than exemplars. But her account shifts in another key respect, also: she appears to see the horrors of the 20th century -- genocide, nuclear weapons, massive environmental destruction -- as existential threats to humanity, making charity in spiritual matters essential to human survival. That's a different take on worldly evils than she offers in discussing earlier events that seemed like the end of the world at the time: the destruction of the Second Temple; the Fall of Rome; the expulsion of Jews from Spain following the Reconquista. Those events triggered some responses of charity, but others of fear and narrowing of identity. The non-charitable reactions created further misery, but didn't wipe out the entire tradition. I strongly support Armstrong's call for charity, but whether one buys the final step of her argument, that charity is now necessary, seems to me to turn on whether one thinks the world's current potential catastrophes are qualitatively worse that those of the past; or larger and more terrible, but not existential.
kaelirenee on LibraryThing 5 months ago
That the Holy Bible is one of the most influential books of all time is hardly up for debate. It has inspired actions, thoughts, ideas, research, invention¿But the content of the Bible is not what interests Armstrong. Her focus is how people have read the Bible over the last several thousand years. Different groups have read it as allusion, allegory, fiction, or the inerrant word of God, and each has believes their way was the most correct and most holy. Armstrong does an excellent job of not passing judgment on any of the thinkers she considers, just of presenting the facts of how they decided (or were inspired or trained) to read scripture, laws, and gospels. It¿s amazing to consider how important certain books were in earlier churches, and how little thought they are given now. You¿re probably never going to read the Song of Songs in Sunday school, and yet many scholars and theologians believed that if you understood this book, you understood God. It could be read literally, spiritually, and allegorically¿each reading helped the reader see more of God¿s will. She examines the history of how the Bible was read, from when it was simply a set of scrolls and not yet the Pentateuch, to modern dispensationalists eagerly awaiting the Second Coming and Rapture.It¿s not a bad idea to have a dictionary handy when reading. Armstrong uses many not-so-common terms, especially theological terms. Because she doesn¿t waste a single phrase or sentence, there is a lack of context clues for figuring out the precise meaning.
annbury on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Fascinating history of how the old and new testaments came to be written, how they became part of the "canon", and how they have been read and interpreted over the ages. Ms. Armstrong is of course a noted historian of religion; she is also a very gifted writer, who can make complex and at times highly technical material fascinating to the general reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first 2/3 of the book was a well thought and concise description of the evolution of the Bible (primarily Old Testament) from a mismash of tribal myth to the more coherent scripture with which we are familiar. The author seemed to get lost in her own premise during the last 1/3 and digressed to something that was more of a social commentary. Overall, though, worth the read. Also, the use of a collection of Hebrew, Greek and Latin terms, often with more that one word having essentially the same meaning and used interchangeably, became confusing at times.
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