Tracing the Bible's beginnings in myth and folklore to its many interpretations throughout the centuries, a University of Oxford theologian and Anglican priest argues that the Bible is not a prescription to a complete, fixed religious system, but rather a product of a long and intriguing process, which has inspired Judaism and Christianity—but still does not describe the whole of either religion.
Barton brings the Good Book splendidly back to life. Stripping away centuries of theological interpretation, he recovers the biblical text as a 'repository of writings'—narratives, aphorisms, poems and letters—that both Christianity and Judaism have used, twisted and embellished for their own purposes. It is an exhilarating achievement, freeing a vast, heterogeneous body of work from the dead hand of religious authorities who had turned it into 'a paper dictator' ... Fundamentalists will not be queuing up to up to buy A History of the Bible: the Book and its Faiths. But for believers of a more open disposition, and non-believing lovers of great literature, reading it will be a revelation and a delight.
With consummate skill, [Barton] sets about distilling what feels like a lifetime of study and scholarly conversations on the subject into a single, open-minded, lucid guide to the Bible. As eminently readable as the best of travelogues, it floods with light a subject too often regarded by many as a closed book ... With emotional and psychological insight, Barton unlocks this sleeping giant of our culture for the untrained but curious general reader. In the process, he has produced a masterpiece.
Barton set himself a formidable task, but the result is remarkable. It is a multi-layered work in which he considers the Bible both as a cultural artefact and as a text of religious significance for both Judaism and Christianity. His analysis of the cultural significance of the Bible is certainly engaging. However it is his analysis of the relationship between the text(s) of the Bible and the religious worlds of Christians and Jews through the centuries that provides the greatest illumination ... Barton’s articulation and communication of this point is important and needs to be widely disseminated, especially in contexts where biblical fundamentalists hold significant political power and use the Bible to advance unethical social and political agendas ... The depth of Barton’s scholarship, the erudition of his analysis and the historical range of his inquiry makes this a work of exceptional merit. He captures the scholarly consensus on the complex issues of the composition, transmission, dissemination and interpretation of this extraordinary range of texts, and makes it accessible to a wider audience ... a joy to read. Generations of students have been formed by his earlier influential works, and with this compelling new work Barton deserves to garner many new readers.