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The Bible: A Biography (Books That Changed the World) [Hardcover]

By Karen Armstrong (Author)
Our Price $ 18.66  
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Item Number 99417  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.08" Width: 5.52" Height: 1.03"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 10, 2007
Publisher   Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN  0871139693  
EAN  9780871139696  

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Item Description...
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, translated into over two thousand languages, and 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 sixty-six "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 nineteenth century, historical criticism of the Bible caused greater fear than Darwinism. This is a brilliant, captivating book, crucial in an age of declining faith and rising fundamentalism.

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More About Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong Karen Armstrong is one of the world's foremost scholars on religious affairs. She is the author of a number of bestselling books, including The Battle for God, Buddha, Jerusalem, A History of God, and Through the Narrow Gate, a memoir of her seven years as a nun. She lives in London.

Karen Armstrong currently resides in London. Karen Armstrong was born in 1944.

Karen Armstrong has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Ballantine Reader's Circle
  2. Books That Changed the World

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( A ) > Armstrong, Karen   [29  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > General   [1794  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > General   [1848  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
More Curates Eggs  May 4, 2008
I quite liked parts of this book, but parts were appalling, in factual and discursive content. Karen Armstrong is a well respected religious writer, whose sincerity and efforts to bring different beliefs together in harmony cannot be doubted. All the more disappointing that she gets so much wrong in her latest effort.
One good test of a non-fiction work is to examine the dating of the source material quoted by the author. For the first part of the book, which deals with the Hebrew version of biblical accounts, her references tend to be from 20-25 years ago and are not in tune with latest scholarship. For instance she gets the dating of Abraham, and the Exodus wrong, talks about Palestine in the time of the Greeks, and says the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1942! Current thinking puts the Exodus around 1200 BCE and the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. Armstrong clearly has a limited knowledge of the Qumran Community and so-called Essenes, indicated by her thinking that they did not have a coherent vision of beliefs, and continued to worship at the Temple. That is quite wrong. Their corpus of sectarian texts has a commonality of style and purpose and repeated cross referencing. They hated the Temple in Jerusalem and kept away from it.

As she moves into the Christian era, her scholarship becomes stronger, as one would expect from a former Catholic nun. One has to admire her breadth of knowledge of the New Testament texts and Christian history. If only she would refrain from being so dogmatic in some of her assertions, and admit of the lack of certainty on so many issues she seems to take as gospel. As the book progresses we drift more and more away from a Biography of the Bible into a highly knowledgeable, and often interesting dissertation, on commentary from outside sources. There are diversions into, what can only be described as backwaters of Bible evolution, like Kabbalah, which she, in my view, gives far too much prominence to. The Bible has certainly been an evolving creation, and she rightly comments that Talmudic studies continue this evolutionary process. I would contend that the Koran is an evolutionary development of the Bible and as such should have been a major consideration in assessing the Hebrew-Christian texts. From someone who has done so much valuable work in Muslim areas, in helping to bring ideas and people together this is an even more surprising omission.

Books by well-known authors tend to be viewed automatically as being as good as their predecessor. They should be viewed on their own merits, and this book is lacking in comparison to her previous works. It also reflects poorly on the editors of Atlantic Books as well as the back cover reviewers; Hugh MacDonald, of the Glasgow Herald; Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Sunday Times; Edward Norman, Literary Review. They are clearly not experts in this field, although one could equally blame their editors for asking them to review such a complex work. Would you ask a gereralist to review a book on gardening? Better to ask the gardening columnist, or if there isn't one, bring in an expert from outside.
Not for pleasure  May 3, 2008
This is a book that requires undivided attention as you read. The author is brilliant but sometimes it is hard for those less brilliant to grasp what she is saying. I have read it for a discussion group in which I was participating and it has helped me to grasp the content better because of a good leader and other group members.
Mind-altering book  Apr 11, 2008
The hopes and fears of all my years of Bible study have been met in this book!

Mostly it gave me a new appreciation for the strong influence of the Jewish faith and its practices of scriptural interpretation (exegesis and midrash) on the creation of the New Testament. It cleared up misconceptions I have long held (as a by-product of the commonly held Christian belief in the New Testament as fulfilment of the Old Testament, which indeed was the initial mindset of the New Testament authors) that the Jews have always been looking for a Messiah. According to Armstrong, this was only a minor theme in the Jewish scriptures until the period just before the advent of Jesus.

She also points out that the catalyst for writing of the New Testament was the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. That Zionism was originally a secular movement. And alerted me to the extremes American Christian fundamentalism is taking. Scary. But the book is well balanced by the hopes of many thoughtful religious scholars.
Problem with HOW Karen Armstrong Dismisses Bible   Apr 6, 2008
"The Bible" by Karen Armstrong was a mental workout but I did enjoy her sweep of history and her eloquent and efficient manner of writing, I respect the amount of research she did, and found it scholarly and very confident in tone, interesting and bold. I even agree with some of it. For example, I know the Bible was misused to justify the Crusades, slavery, mistreatment of women, and other bad things. But I at also found many of Karen Armstrong's points unsupported and presumptuous. My view is that the Bible contains many apparent paradoxes that require keen spiritual insight and study to decipher.

Without question, the Bible itself is a threatening document, and I am not at all surprised when the Bible is attacked, as it has been attacked for hundreds of years, since the Reformation and the almost simultaneous invention of the printing press made it widely available. I expect it will always be attacked in every way possible: through textual integrity, authorship, historicity, seemingly conflicting messages and modes of exegesis, a God that seems capricious and cruel, you name it. There are opposing books written by Christians and non-believers on each of those subjects and more. I had, in fact, more of a problem with HOW Karen Armstrong dismissed the Bible than with WHAT she actually said. She makes bold statements at times almost in passing and with little or no backup, not often crediting someone else or giving reasons for her conclusions. She does have some footnotes but they are usually not very explanatory or specific. I'll just give you a couple of brief examples. In the very first chapter of her book, she says that Hilkiah wrote Deuteronomy! This is the account, according to the text in Second Kings, where the Law is rediscovered by Hilkiah after centuries, and presented to King Josiah who implements sweeping reforms. Her claim is that the Deuteronomy section was out of sync with the rest of the Torah and logically must have been forged at that time as an effort to get Israel back on track spiritually. She just says that Hilkiah wrote it to promote reform, directly contradicting what the Biblical text says, and then she just moves on! Deuteronomy, according to my commentary, is very likely to be much older than Josiah's time because it addresses a united Israel before it divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, doesn't discuss the kings of the Promised Land, and warns of upcoming Caananite religions. Another example is when she claims that the prophet Daniel himself is a fictitious character, maybe because of the miracle in the Lion's den. But Jesus Himself refers to Daniel as a real prophet. Also, Daniel's survival in the lion's den was used as an example of facing death to defend your faith, and that would not have made sense if he was fictitious. The commentaries I read by the way do give opposing points of view and the reasoning for choosing one view over another.

It is a frequent and common illusion that Christians simply do not think; but, for me, faith is built on the historical evidence of the life, death, and Resurrection of Christ, the veracity of the Bible, and my own resulting faith experience (John 3:3 & Romans 8:16). I can't vouch for all Christians, and am sure that many Christians don't think about their beliefs, or distort and misuse what the Bible says, but I certainly hope that's not me.

For those who question God's existence, I would recommend something called Pasqual's Wager. You may have heard of him as a 17th century scientist and mathematician, and a kind of a godfather to calculus. His reasoning goes something like this: One should believe in God because if there is no God, then you've lost nothing but if there is a God and you don't believe then you've lost everything.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

Important, thoughtful and moving  Apr 6, 2008
... with a stunning and beautifully hopeful conclusion for Jews, Christians, Muslims, people of other faiths and atheists alike.

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