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What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything
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What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  4,804 ratings  ·  645 reviews
Rob Bell, the beloved author of Love Wins and What We Talk About When We Talk About God, goes deep into the Bible to show how it is more revelatory, revolutionary, and relevant than we ever imagined—and offers a cogent argument for why we need to look at it in a fresh, new way.

In Love Wins, Rob Bell confronted the troubling questions that many people of faith were afraid
ebook, 336 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by HarperOne (first published 2017)
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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 ·  4,804 ratings  ·  645 reviews

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Start your review of What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is dangerous. You should read it
(3.75) One of Bell’s stronger books. Still not as fresh and vibrant as Velvet Elvis, but I think it will have a big impact on teens and twenty-somethings who are starting to question the narrow interpretations of the Bible they’ve grown up with in conservative churches. Bell stresses the importance of reading the Bible literately rather than literally: always looking deeper than surface facts to see what’s really going on here; seeking to understand the background of Jewish practice and Roman ...more
If you love Brian McLaren and Peter Enns on how to read the Bible, you'll probably appreciate this book. And if you have no idea who either of these guys are but still want to find out why people still read this strange and wild library called the Bible, you might love this book.

To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I'm reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book not because I identify as being Christian, but because I am so curious about why so many people flock to the bible and read it so religiously. I was raised Christian, and have a basic understanding of the bible and the major stories contained within it, and now identify as agnostic. But I still do not understand the commitment so many people have to the Bible. So, I picked this book up to try and gain some clarity around that.

Holy shit. This book has totally revolutionized the
Collin Huber
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
In his latest, Rob Bell aims to cast the Bible as less a "religious" book and more of a human book in order to make it accessible to all. He describes the Bible as "a book about what it means to be human," which ends up being his guiding thesis throughout the rest of his work.

I appreciated Bell's urge to read the Bible "literately" rather than "literally," a literate reader being one who appreciates context and form in the process of attempting to understand the text. Literate reading is in fact
Adam Lorenz
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
As much as I hate to say it, there isn’t much middle ground when it comes to Rob Bell. And really none of that comes from Rob himself or at least the ideas he puts forth have always striven to continue what he has called God’s always expanding ‘inclusivity in the exclusivity’ (I might also add is a very Barthian way of thinking for you fellow theology nerds). Though early on in my exposure to Rob I was resistant to this thought, as the years have passed I discovered a deep and ever growing need ...more
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I'm glad I read this challenging book. I benefited from this book, but probably not in the way he intended. Rob Bell makes many points I agree with. However, he's also logically inconsistent, at times condescending, and most strangely, he leaves the reader with virtually no direction on how to take next steps related the points he's trying to make.

He wants readers to look deeper in the Bible for meaning that isn't apparent on first reading, but gives virtually no useful guidance on how to do
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cbr9
This just did not do it for me. Bell brings up some interesting ideas in the beginning and then skates over them to exclaim how cool and interesting something else is. His writing style is conversational, which is fine, but the liberal italics and bolded phrases become exhausting.

And here's what I as a Christian am really concerned about: Bell continually emphasizes the Bible's being written by humans. Again and again, with very little discussion on the Divine that causes us to read and form
I was torn between giving it 4 or 5 stars. In my head it's probably 4.5.

I listened to Rob Bell read this audiobook which is a much more enjoyable experience for me than trying to read his books.

I do not like his
actual writing style.

Where there are breaks
all over the place.

Dramatic pauses.

And such.

But it works when he's the one reading it to me. Because it is a conversational style.

As for the content of the book, I probably don't agree with Bell's take on everything, but I'm probably pretty
Dave Minor
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you have everything figured out don't read this. If you are capable of admitting the possibility and validity of different perspectives you may gain some new insights. Love the sources at the end.
Nick Charalambous
Sep 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is an intriguing, irresistible, dangerous book that turns the Bible inside out and upside down.

Rob Bell is a great writer. This book is probably the high-point of his efforts over the years to teach the Bible in an intriguing, refreshing and irresistible way. And it's hard to argue he doesn't achieve what he sets out to do. The only problem is that the Bible he teaches does not point to the glory of God but the glory of man's "evolving view of God." That's like taking a love letter you
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
This was an amazing and eye opening book, particularly in regards to the Old Testament and lots of the 'problems' it presents (at least from my personal perspective).

It saddens me that from what I can tell, the target audience of this book, and those who would reap the most benefit from reading it are likely either uninterested, or vehemently opposed to reading such a book. One such audience is atheists or non-believers, (of which I belonged to for quite some time) who think they know all they
Aaron Carlberg
Jul 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't even know where to begin because Rob Bell holds such promise, but his theology sends him spiraling the wrong way. I gave it 2 stars because there are some brilliant things in this book in terms of analogies (sorry, I just changed it to 1 star), but he always stops short of the truth of redemption as found in the Good News of Jesus.

If I had to title this book, I would call it the Gospel of Human Enlightenment. I say this because he does mention God when talking about the bible, but it is
Marty Solomon
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's going to be hard to review this book, but I'll give it my best try. I'll review it around a few themes that rose to the top for me throughout the read.

POWERFUL MYSTERY: Rob did a great job of communicating the empowered mystery of this ancient library of texts. The power of the Text is that it is the record of real people in real places at real times. Hearing those stories and what they are communicating is full of incredible mystery.

HUMILITY: There is so much depth and complexity to these
Jan 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Bummer of a book. Bell boils the Bible down to a human written library of books, containing biases and errors, with old ideas presented next to new ideas, that tells the story of humanity. Its ultimate purpose is human enlightenment and elevated consciousness. Meh. That view does not inspire me to live a faith that I would die for.

This book is full of weak arguments. Bell brings up lots of good points and questions and just when he starts to get somewhere the chapter ends with a hasty
Lynne Stringer
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In spite of the fact that I have been sitting in pews since I was old enough to do so, Rob Bell still managed to bring to life many of the bible stories I've read time and time again, bringing out things that I'd never even considered.
He even cleared up some mysteries. I'd always wondered what the heck Abraham was doing cutting those animals in half and then God sending a flaming torch between them. Um ... weird! Not if you were born at that time, apparently.
Also, I'd never expected to be able
Brice Karickhoff
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
It was the best of books and it was the worst of books. The general topic of this book is so important, and I couldn’t be with Bell more that we need to understand the world the Bible was actually written in to get it out of our unnecessary boxes that rob it of it’s beautiful and prevailing message. SO base line 5 stars

Minus 1 star because i think he missed the most important and beautiful aspect of genesis 15 which might be my fav story in the OT, so that really bummed me out

Minus 1 star
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really fantastic. One of those books where I had to work hard not to full-on highlight every page. I will definitely be digging into the recommended reading at the end. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the Abrahamic traditions, really, but especially anyone interested in Christianity at any point in their life. I am lucky that I got some of this in seminary (even a super-conservative seminary), but the overall spirit is very different than what I received there. I'm excited to read ...more
Cristine Braddy
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thought provoking. Although at times Rob Bell and I would come up with different conclusions, I have to say if there is one author I’ve read this year that I would love to have coffee with, this would be the guy. I’m intrigued by the way he sees and communicates about the world.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone Who Want to Learn More About the Bible
Recommended to Julianna by: Foothills Book Club
Reviewed for THC Reviews
I’ve been eager to try a Rob Bell book for quite a while, so when his newest one, What Is the Bible? was chosen as our latest church book club read, I dove right in. I can easily say that I was not disappointed. I may have mentioned in some of my previous reviews of Christian books that I’ve been on a spiritual journey for the last sixteen years, and throughout that time, my thinking has evolved beyond the general beliefs of the traditional evangelical church in which I
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is a ton of great stuff in this book--the chapters on Jonah and how Jesus (may have) read the Old Testament jump out--and Rob Bell does a wonderful job considering context that's relevant to the passage he's writing about, yet not pulling from all over the place and playing a wild game of connect the dots. Some parts sort of give off a whiff of self-importance, but on the whole, it doesn't diminish the truth of what Bell writes about. It provides great perspective, and the extent to which ...more
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quick read worth reading. Style can be difficult at times, but thought provoking and refreshing.
Ben Figueiredo
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The thoughts and ideas Bell talks about in this book were not entirely new to me, though it helped ground me and guide me further on a journey I have been on for the past 2 years (really my whole life).

While obviously this is not a end all answer to questions you may have about the bible and what it is supposed to be, it's a great look into understanding that it is a book written by humans dealing with certain things at certain times in history. It's a story about the human experience, and how
Jenny Wells
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to this on Audible and wanted to restart it as soon as I finished. Rob Bell narrates it. I wish everyone would read this book who has ever been exposed to the Bible, for better or worse. Haters and embracers will be left with a tilted head thinking, "Huh...". As a pastor in some form for almost 30 years, Bell does a good job of not promoting a certain agenda or using inflammatory language while challenging, again no matter our background, the way we experience and interact with the ...more
Chris Csergei
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
There is some good information in this book and I think it starts an important discussion on what the bible really is and what inspiration means. Through much of the book he is able to take passages and address the proper contextualization. This is a worth while exercise, though doing this is not nearly as rare or world shattering as he seems to think. I agree with Bell that we need to address the bible first as a human book and to understand it's context and meaning for the people who both ...more
Stephen Pate
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
In many ways, this book felt like vintage Rob Bell. It reminded me of some of his earlier work that I fell in love with (think Velvet Elvis, Jesus Wants to Save Christians). In his typical succinct prose, Bell unleashes a thought-provoking, humorous, insightful, and easy-to-read book.

What is the Bible? is perfect for new believers, doubters, questioners, Christians, atheists, and anyone else along the spectrum. It will absolutely give you a fresh vision for Scripture and prompt you to
Iain Bailey
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was ok

I think Rob Bell has a lot of talent. I really do! However I also think Rob has an incredible talent at speaking for 45mins and saying nothing.

This book was reasonably refreshing because I finally had a chance to sit down with him and allow him to explain how he views the Bible and see where he gets his ideas from. That was helpful.

However, I would have appreciated the sources he quotes from when speaking about specific cultures and the ways they viewed topics such as sacrifice.

As the
Daniel Rose
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Challenging and Thought Provoking

As a Reformed, Presbyterian pastor I should not lIke this book. Many in my tribe would say that I should not have even read this book. Yet, more and more I find myself to Bell. His writings are almost a call home.

This book in particular made me think about the Scriptures in ridiculously new ways. I had many “hmmm...” moments. Many moments that made me realize how I have missed the point.

As I walk from this text I am left wanting and needing to read the
Ed Marriott
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Pop culture and universalist tendencies shine through in this book. Rob Bell states he wants to revive the art of the sermon. This book is basically a sermon. The dialogue reads as if Rob is talking to you. That makes this book have a strange feel to it.

In terms of theology I wouldn't recommend this book. I think he borders on deleting God from the equation. I also think this book dumbs down the Bible and sets it equal to other books rather than setting it apart as God's Holy Word.

There are
Meaghan Lee
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I tried so hard to like this book. I knew before I started that I detest Rob Bell's writing style and so chose to listen to the audiobook version. While it was eons better than seeing his words in print, the poor writing still came through. If I could give negative stars for style and content and theme and language I would because I.


I gave this two stars however because I left the book feeling inspired to read the Bible through a different lens, and I credit Bell's
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Rob Bell is a bestselling author, international teacher, and highly sought after public speaker. His books include The New York Times bestsellers What Is the Bible?, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Love Wins, as well as The Zimzum of Love, Velvet Elvis, Sex God, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and Drops Like Stars.

At age 28, Bell founded Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, and under
“That’s why the Bible is not a book about going to heaven. The action is here. The life is here. The point is here. It’s a library of books about the healing and restoring and reconciling and renewing of this world. Our home.” 6 likes
“Some things that are labeled Christian aren’t true, and some things that aren’t labeled Christian are true. Some atheists say lots of things that are true, and some Christians are full of shit.” 6 likes
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