Kathryn's Reviews > The Bible: A Biography

The Bible by Karen Armstrong
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's review
Dec 11, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2010
Read from December 11 to 22, 2010

This is a short little book, and apparently part of a series of books entitled “Books That Changed The World”. But it is packed full of information about the Bible, and I very much enjoyed reading it, as I have enjoyed everything else I have ever read by Karen Armstrong. I also enjoyed one of her conclusions, which is that there is no such thing as a single interpretation of the Bible; William Blake summed it up succinctly: “Both read the Bible day and night, / But thou read’st black where I read white.” Her other conclusion, backed up through a few thousand years of interpretation, is that one should strive to study the Bible, not to buttress one’s preconceptions, but to learn charity and love towards God and one’s fellow man.
In the beginning, of course, there was Torah, the Five Books of Moses; then the Prophets and the Writings completed in time what became known as the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. Before the books of the Tanakh were settled upon as to what belonged in it, the Christians had arrived with their New Testament, and with their own disputations as to what belonged in their Sacred Writings.

This book takes us through history, in describing not so much how any given Biblical book ended up in the Bible, but how people through the ages (Jewish and Christian) regarded the interpretation of what was in the Bible. The printing press and the modern age brought the Bible within the reach of every literate person, and the Protestant Reformation brought in the concept of Sola Scripture, that one did not need anything else other than one’s own interpretation to understand the Bible. The current age of the world has brought forth both Christian literal interpretations of the Bible (if God created Adam and Eve, as stated in Genesis, then we have no need to teach the subject of evolution) and Jewish literal interpretations of the Bible (if God gave the Land of Israel to the Chosen People, then there can be no peace with other peoples that involves giving even an inch of the Land to those other peoples).

In the end, the author notes that many interpreters throughout the ages emphasized Charity and the Golden Rule, and that any interpretation of the Bible or of any given verse or section of the Bible which did not emphasize loving kindness towards God or one’s fellow man was an invalid interpretation. And that view is needed more than ever in our current world; there are far too many people, and websites, and books, that use the Bible as a bludgeon and a weapon, instead of as an instrument of peace.

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