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Publisher's Summary

As the work at the heart of Christianity, the Bible is the spiritual guide for one out of every three people in the world. It is also the world's most widely distributed book, having been translated into over 2,000 languages, as well as the world's best-selling book, year after year. But the Bible is a complex work with a complicated and obscure history. Made up of 66 "books" written by various authors and divided into two testaments, its contents have changed over the centuries. The Bible has been transformed by translation and, through interpretation, has developed manifold meanings to various religions, denominations, and sects. In this seminal account, acclaimed historian Karen Armstrong discusses the conception, gestation, and life of history's most powerful book. Armstrong analyzes the social and political situation in which oral history turned into written scripture, how this all-pervasive scripture was collected into one work, and how it became accepted as Christianity's sacred text. She explores how scripture came to be read for information and how, in the 19th century, historical criticism of the Bible caused greater fear than Darwinism.
The Bible: A Biography is a brilliant, captivating book, crucial in an age of declining faith and rising fundamentalism.
©2007 Karen Armstrong (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Who better [than Armstrong] to recount the history of the Bible?...Intriguing." ( Publishers Weekly)"Groundbreaking....Armstrong shows a depth of insight and transparent understanding of complex theological issues....[She is] simply one of the best writers ever on religion." ( Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Gary on 06-30-09

Great Listen

This book was very thought provoking, but you should already know something about Bible history to get the most out of this listen, it is not an entry level book.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

By Leo on 02-20-09

A very important contribution to history

I realize some who have never read anything about the historicity of the Bible may hear some words they have never encountered before. That said if you have read Armstrong before or historical discussions on the Bible this book was not difficult to follow.

The most important aspect of this book is in reality the comprehensive linear layout which is without doubt a very important historical contribution from Armstrong. I have not found a single source text that lays out the evolution of the various contents of the spiritual documents for the Hebrews and the Christians from antiquity to today. Most history type books such as the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary present slices of the Bible but even that set of book doesn't take a reader all the way through the Bible to illuminate how it came together presented side by side by with the major historical factors.

Further the book is so very compact and therefore can be reviewed quickly and so enables the reader to see the trajectory for the evolving spiritual thinking. This vista which Armstrong reveals to us the laymen reader is virtually unparalleled in the history of those that have written these histories in the past. Personally I wish it had been longer so that even more details could have been exposed.

Finally I must confess that I am an Armstrong Fan to the core and therefore I admit I have some bias in what I read/listen to from this very insightful writer and researcher.

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16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Amazon Customer on 03-04-10

Interesting book, spoiled by robotic narration

I found the content of this book interesting, particularly discovering that over-literal interpretations of the Bible (inc' the creation stories) are a relatively recent development.

However, my enjoyment of the book was significantly spoilt by the appallingly robotic narration and strange, sometimes misleading, voice inflections. This made listening hard work. Consequently I've dropped at least one star from the rating I would otherwise have given.

Was the narration computer-synthesised from samples of Josephine Bailey's voice rather than the book being read normally? If so, I hope this isn't a general trend for Audible. (That said, I guess if it means we get access to certain books that would otherwise be unfeasible produce in audio form there's some benefit, but it's put me off a somewhat.)

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

By Maolsheachlann on 12-11-08

Are the Ten Commandments Written in Stone?

A better title for this book might have been \"Reading the Bible: A History\". Karen Armstrong spends comparatively little time discussing the Holy Book itself. And, to be fair, nobody will have any difficulty finding other books that do that. The real subject of Armstrong's is hermeneutics, the methods by which people have interpreted the Bible through the millennia. This book is a call for tolerance and open-mindedness in interpreting the Bible. Fundamentalism and Bible literalism, it explains, are very recent phenomena, ironically tied to the rise of science and rationalism. Previous generations have had no problem reading Scripture allegorically where they found the surface meaning to be incoherent or morally objectionable. I was surprised to learn that Augustine, so often portrayed as austere and fanatical, proclaimed that no Bible interpretation could be true if it violated the principle of charity or caused division between Christians.

A possible objection to Armstrong's approach is that it makes the Bible nothing but a cipher. If we are to interpret it according to some prior ethical system, why should we bother with Scripture at all? Is it simply a mirror for the philosophy of each era, a prism for our own personalities? But this need not be the case. Throughout the book, Armstrong shows how both Jews and Christians have often viewed the Bible (to use a modern term) as an \"interactive\" text. They have used it, not as a blueprint for living, but a living thing itself. Medieval monks were told to study the text until they felt an inward revelation, a mystical response. The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah (a commentary on the Old Testament or Torah) believed that the Bible's capacity to generate new meanings was infinite. Perhaps a less dogmatic to the Bible shows, not that we do not take it seriously, but that we take it very seriously indeed; that we have faith in its ever-fresh wisdom. This is a book well worth reading.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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