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Whose Bible Is It?

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  379 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Jaroslav Pelikan, widely regarded as one of the most distinguished historians of our day, now provides a clear and engaging account of the Bible's journey from oral narrative to Hebrew and Greek text to today's countless editions. Pelikan explores the evolution of the Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic versions and the development of the printing press and its effect on the ...more
Published December 1st 2006 by Penguin Group(CA) (first published 2005)
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Pelikan can be so richly informative that I am given to read sentences multiple times over. This is the sort of author whose knowledge is so thorough that he is writing for an audience of peers where, in spots, his publisher may have tried to encourage Pelikan to "dumb it down" a bit for the rest of us gentiles. It is precisely for this reason that I find this material of extraordinary value and importance. This is not your typical argument for/against the influence of Constantine or the Catholi ...more
1. The Trouble With Kindle
2. Author's Funny Name
3. Opinion about Book

1. As of this writing (April 2011), the edition of this book available as a Kindle download is missing the text of Chapter 8 (“Back to the Sources”). I asked Kindle for a corrected copy. They told me to download the book again. I did so. The text of Chapter 8 was still missing. I told them so. They offered me a refund. I accepted their offer. The next time I connected my mobile device to the 'net, Amazon deleted my copy. L
While the book as a whole was quite impressive (mainly because of its brevity in covering a very broad and historically deep topic and its simplicity in presenting this overview), I was greatly disappointed with his section covering the Reformation, entitled "The Bible Only." His classification of Sola Scriptura as such, shows some carelessness as to the precision of representing fairly this historical period, in its non-Anabaptist (Radical Reformation) representation (i.e. the Lutherans and Ref ...more
Okay, it took forever for me to finish this book! I wish I had read it through quickly b/c each chapter builds on information from the previous chapter; it's chronological. If you have interest in how the bible came to be in the form it is today (Protestant, Catholic, and Hebrew), this book is a great symopsis. Pelikan, is from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, so he comes at the bible from a slightly different perspective than a Protestant or Catholic would, but he is certainly a Christian. He ap ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Sherry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of the Bible
I enjoyed Whose Bible Is It?: A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages, learning a lot and having things I have read in other books confirmed. I suspect that Pelikan writes as he speaks, with many lengthy parenthetical phrases. Sometimes I found them distracting from the point being made. The book is decidedly from a Christian perspective, showing that the Tanakh was co-opted by early Christians as part of their Bible. I disagree with the Christian perspective, but it is good to try to under ...more
David Withun
Not quite what I was expecting, but I wasn't disappointed. I thought it would be a history of the writing and assembly of the canon of Scripture, but it's actually a history of how Scripture has been treated, viewed, and used throughout history. And, in this, it does an excellent job.
Lee Harmon
It’s been maybe a year since I read this book, but I recently dug it out again for a bit of research. I was looking into the Comma Johanneum, that controversial little verse in the first epistle of John that got a facelift in the Middle Ages: .

In this book, Pelikan discusses how the Bible came to be, how it was interpreted through the ages, and how Christianity built its own message atop the Tanakh (the Torah, the prophets, and the Writings). But the Bibl
Broader treatment of the subject than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. Established the connection between the books of the Bible and 3 major religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). One point that has really stuck with me is that the Bible is the story of a single human... Abraham. The Bible has prefacing material with the creation (etc), but the text quickly leads to Abraham, and from that point forward deals with his covenant and the fulfillment/rejection of that covenant as it's ...more
Shawn O'hara
Aug 16, 2013 Shawn O'hara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in the Bible
I know that a lot of folks who know me will assume that if I read a book about the Bible it must be saying something negative. Not true here. The author was (he's passed away) a Christian all his life. I got that feeling early, although he never really did much editorializing until the final chapter, and even then I still thought he had some interesting and valuable things to say, and a few things I disagreed with completely. But I dig that, what fun would it be to read a book that just tells me ...more
Jaroslav Pelikan's Whose Bible Is It? proves to be an engaging read. Thoughtful yet accessible, Whose Bible offers a concise history of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Though a Christian himself, Pelikan nevertheless provides space for Jewish perspectives with thoughtful generosity. Like any popular scholarship, the author piques everyone's fancy while humorously critiquing all parties. Some may say this practice leaves everyone dissatisfied, but none can deny that Pelikan deftly recounts t ...more
Sarah Bringhurst
I loved this book. Pelikan's approach is brilliant. He sets the Jewish and Christian views of the Bible side by side through all their long history (and with an appropriate nod to Islam and how it interacts with the other major monotheistic faiths). Pelikan's knowledge of the subjects in question is obviously encyclopedic, but this is a very accessible book. He gives the reader an opportunity to look at the Bible from various historical and religious points of view, and see how different views a ...more
Pelikan raises interesting questions and has interesting insights into the history, use, and understanding of this thing we call "The Bible" through Christian, Jewish, and to a lesser extent Muslim lenses. This multi-faith approach brings different issues to the surface than typically happens when considering from only a Christian viewpoint. These different perspectives and the insights they bring provide a refreshing expansion of perspective. Pelikan's language leans to a somewhat convoluted "a ...more
A well-written popular history on the Scriptures. While obviously biased in favour of Christianity, he manages to write in a fairly unbiased way in regards to different Christian groups. I'd definitely recommend this book.
Very well done. Rare to see an author so extremely well learned with such a deep respect for all religions that have a stake in Scriptures. Very informative short history from oral tradition to Hebrew to Greek to Renaissance to Reformation to modern times to infinity and bey... (sorry, going through the Toy Story Trilogy as I received #3 for Christmas!). This guy is a Christian who received an honorary degree from The Jewish Theological Seminary of American and wrote the 'Bible' entry in The Enc ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Larry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all student of Christian theology
Recommended to Larry by: an impilse purchase
The author is an academic with a true gift of prose. His topic, the history of Christian scripture, has been his life's work and his analysis is incisive and illuminating. The history of the Christian scriptures is very human as the works are the products of authors with very human fears, movitives and missions. It places a very real and very human face on the works that are now revered as divine by millions. It is a work of knowledge not taught in church but very relevant to understanding the m ...more
William Martin
A brief, general overview of the history of the Bible. Ecumenical in spirit.
Includes some interesting comments on:
the importance of the oral tradition from the very beginning of the Torah, the need to interpret scripture in community, the importance of recovering the original languages, especially during the renaissance, the immense impact of the printing press, and the importance of Christian-Jewish dialogue
Surprisingly readable, given the seriousness of the subject. I went into the book not expecting such a long view of the development of the scriptures. The Bible went through significant periods of change and revision, and Pelikan gives a good amount of detail of the history of the Bible without getting bogged down in any particular area.
Adam Shields
Short review: I honestly thought I had read this. So I started to re-read to see if I should recommend it to someone and realized I had not read it. Decent book, but too academic to be popular. I think it is a decent book but I wish it was a bit more focused.

My full review is on my blog at
First part is a discussion of oral tradition and written word. There are synopses of the various books and their being written and spoken in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic. Brief history of the refo rmation, etc. gives hint that alot of problems are in the translation, and therein is also a cause of religious and ethnic strife.
This is theologian Jaroslav Pelikan's history of the writing, preserving, and interpreting of the scriptures over the years. The book discusses Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures. Well-written and a very accessible read. More comprehensive than other books on this subject that have come out in recent years.
Very readable; Pelikan was a world-renowned scholar but makes this info very accessible for those of us who are NOT Biblical scholars. I'm reading this with a friend who has issues with "organized religion" so he can refute arguments about Biblical inerrancy.

An engaging read for the most part. Some of the later chapters seemed to diverge from the general topic of the book but overall a great introduction to the history of the sacred texts.

The edition I read had only 244 pages yet had the same ISBN.
Neil Wagoner
A very quick overview of the history of the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the New Testament with several interesting anecdotes. Not a great deal of depth, but very good for anyone interested in a quick general history of Jewish and Christian scriptures.
Erick Lehman
I could only give it three stars because I think it was way over my head. I may have missed the general thesis of the book, but in my mind it was pretty simply that there were a lot of different interpretations that went into the bible. I already knew that.
A decent summary of the history of Jewish and Christian Canons through the eyes of a theologically liberal Eastern Orthodox convert. Worth the read, even if his conclusion is a bit vague when it comes to actually determining whose Bible it is...
Marcus Lynn
Pelikan does a good job touching on the important issues that effect the history of the Scriptures as they relate to Judaism and Christianity however it read more like a seminary textbook and left me quite sleepy.

Jul 20, 2008 Kit marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this sooooo slowly (a paragraph here and there, after which I think about the paragraph for a week or two) that I'm moving this to the 'to read' column until I have some uninterrupted time to focus on it!
Very dry and hard to stay with, but one of the most thourough comparative books about the scriptures. It offers a great secular perspective of the Bible if you have a genuine thirst fot the information.
This is a great history of the Bible for lay people. Pelikan is a theologian but does a great job of explaining how the Bible came to be without using theospeak. Very readable, very enlightening.
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Jaroslav Jan Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, to a Slovak father and mother, Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Sr. and Anna Buzekova Pelikan. His father was pastor of Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois, and his paternal grandfather a bishop of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches then known as the Slovak Lutheran Church in America.

According to family members, Pelikan's mother taught him
More about Jaroslav Pelikan...
The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600 Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700 The Christian Tradition 3: The Growth of Medieval Theology 600-1300 Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture

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