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The Bible


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Once again, Armstrong (The Great Transformation) has written a groundbreaking history. This one, a well-reasoned and inspired biography about the most influential book of all time (at least in the West), comes complete with the interesting circumstances, people, and places that made the Bible what it is: so important, controversial, and misunderstood a text. Whether writing on Jewish oral history, providing an unobstructed summary of kabbalistic teachings, or conveying the impact of the Christian Right on American politics, Armstrong shows a depth of insight and transparent understanding of complex theological issues. In her closing, she insists that "this short biography makes it clear that many modern assumptions about the Bible are incorrect"; she is not being presumptuous. She argues persuasively for a more compassionate hermeneutics and a more charitable exegesis-a theme common to many of her books in their exhortations toward a kinder and more tolerant world of faith. This book is a miqra, or a "call to action" for all Jews, Christians, and Muslims. And Armstrong is Armstrong-simply one of the best writers ever on religion. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/07.]-Gary P. Gillum, Brigham Young Univ., Provo, UT Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Of all the "Books That Changed the World"-the recently launched series to which this book belongs-surely the Bible is among the most important. And of all contemporary popularizers of religious history, surely Armstrong is among the bestselling. Who better, then, to recount the history of the Bible in eight short chapters than this former nun and literature professor who relishes huge topics (The History of God) and panoramic descriptions (The Great Transformation)? Armstrong not only describes how, when and by whom the Bible was written, she also examines some 2,000 years of biblical interpretation by bishops and rabbis, scholars and mystics, pietists and critics, thus opening up a myriad of exegetical approaches and dispelling any fundamentalist notion that only one view can be correct. Readers unfamiliar with ecclesiastical history may feel overwhelmed by dense chapters that read more like annotated lists than narrative-a hazard of trying to cover so much in so little space. (A glossary helps to anchor the bewildered.) At her best when she pauses long enough to expand on a topic, Armstrong offers intriguing insights on, for example, the allegorical method developed by Origen in the third century and the mystical midrash of the Kabbalists in medieval Spain and Provence. (Nov.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"A fascinating investigation." --Christian Advance

"For the Books That Changed the World series . . . Armstrong accepted the arguably most daunting assignment. What other book has as long a history of influence as the Bible, or has affected more people and societies? [Armstrong] is, of course, up to the task and provides an excellent precis of the writing and compiling of the Bible and the ensuing centuries of biblical interpretation. . . . This is one terrific little book." --Booklist "Dispels any notion of religion as a rigidly fixed reading of sacred texts. Spanning millennia, from the scripture's origins in oral stories to the conflicting beliefs, ancient and modern, over its message, her book will discomfort fundamentalists who believe that the Bible means what it says and says what it means." --Rich Barlow, The Boston Globe "One of the merits of Armstrong's book is that it points to the modern origin of literalist interpretations of Scripture, and then revisits the preceding centuries of Biblical scholarship to bring its considerable diversity to the notice of modern readers." --Edward Norman, Literary Review "Vintage Armstrong: sweeping, bold, incisive, and insightful. In eight chapters it covers the history of the writing, canonizing, and reading of the Bible... Her choice of topics is impeccable ... and her brief, 23-page discussion on the rise of the Talmud is masterful." --P.L. Redditt, Choice "A handy, erudite primer on the Holy Books." --The Jerusalem Report "A whirlwind tour through biblical studies. . . Armstrong's analysis of the freedom previous generations (however far removed) felt with adapting, editing, redacting and re-writing the texts to suit contemporary purposes will undoubtedly remind savvy readers of all the current uses to which these same texts are being put." --Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review "[Armstrong] shows how the highly disparate writings that now compose the Jewish and Christian scriptures came together and examines the very different methods of interpretation used over the centuries. Her book's great strength is the way she unfolds the Jewish and Christian histories of formation and interpretation in parallel with one another." --Richard Harries, The Guardian"A learned but accessible history of the Bible's origins and genesis. Armstrong goes behind the authorized versions preached by the churches to recreate the order - and the political and social circumstances - in which the books of the Old and New testaments were first written down, amended, and then endlessly reinterpreted and recast.... Armstrong's great achievement, however, is that, as well as leaving you with a clearer, more historically accurate picture as to what precisely the Bible is (and isn't), she also makes you want to go back and read it again with fresh eyes." --Peter Stanford, The Independent (UK) "[Armstrong] has never written on such a broad scale, or with as much passion . . . [her] concern that religion should no longer be used to promote violence animates her measured, lucid prose and vivifies her summar of the development of the Bible and its interpretation."
--Bruce Chilton, New York Sun "Karen Armstrong preaches the gospel truth in The Bible, explaining how the spiritual guide for one out of three people on the planet came into being and evolved over the centuries"
--Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair "[A] richly interwoven and often surprising history." --Michael Alec Rose, Bookpage "While there are countless guides to reading the Bible, noted academic Karen Armstrong looks at the history of the book with a keen historian's eye. ... Armstrong condenses into a manageable volume the many ideas and traditions that influenced the creation of the Good Book." --Kirkus Reviews "This is one terrific little book." --Booklist "[A] spending series." --Bill Ward, Minneapolis Star-Tribune "[Armstrong] does an exceptional job of balancing and interweaving Jewish and Christian approaches to scripture." --Kirkus Reviews "Of all the 'Books that Changed the World' surely the Bible is among the most important. And of all contemporary popularizes of religious history, surely Armstrong is among the bestselling. Who better, then, to recount the history of the Bible in eight short chapters than this former nun and literature professor who relishes huge topics and panoramic descriptions? Armstrong not only describes how, when and by whom the Bible was written, she also examines some 2,000 years of biblical interpretation." --Publishers Weekly "Armstrong judiciously summarizes centuries of history and writes with remarkable insight."
--Christian Science Sentinel "Armstrong is at her best when explaining how today's focus on the Bible as a literal, static text runs counter to a longstanding interpretative tradition that viewed study of the good book as 'an activity for attaining transcendence.'" --Andrea McQuillin, Shambhala Sun

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