The Rise and Fall of the Bible
The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
By Timothy Beal
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151013586, 256pp.)
Publication Date: February 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
In this revelatory exploration of one of our most revered icons, a critically acclaimed author and professor takes us back to early Christianity to ask how a box of handwritten scrolls became the Bible, and forward to see how the multibillion-dollar business that has brought us Biblezines and Manga Bibles is selling down the Bible’s sacred capital. Showing us how a single official text was created from the proliferation of different scripts, Beal traces its path as it became embraced as the word of God and Book of books. Among his surprising insights:
• Christianity thrived for centuries without any Bible—there was no official canon of scriptures, much less a book big enough to hold them all. Congregations used various collections of scrolls and codices.
• There is no “original” Bible, no single source text behind the thousands of different Bibles on the market today. The farther we go back in the Bible’s history, the more versions we find.
• The idea of the Bible as the literal Word of God is relatively new—only about a century old.
TIMOTHY BEAL is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University. He has published eleven books, including Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know and Roadside Religion: In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and one of Publishers Weekly’s ten best religion books of 2005. He has published essays in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
"This amazing book will make you see the Scriptures in a new light. Beal shows us that the origins of the Bible are messy and shaped by chance, but also that the Bible still can move us and needs to be taken seriously . Thou shalt read Beal."
-A.J. Jacobs author of The Year of Living Biblically
"Beal's exciting book offers both fascinating history and a new and insightful way to approach the 'sacred text'."
-John Shelby Spong, author of Eternal Life: A New Vision
"The Bible, an infallible book of answers to all life's questions? Timothy Beal demolishes that claim using the texts themselves, and offers the vision of a productive future in which the biblical process of argumentation will thrive in the digital environment."
-Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus
"Partly autobiography, partly social scientific research, partly shrewd discernment, and partly theological interpretation, Tim Beal has written a zinger of a book about the cultural history of the Bible. This welcome and important book will cause a pause before we make glib claims for "the Word of the Lord."
"A lot of us know just enough about the Bible to make us dangerous. Tim Beal wants to take us deeper in our understanding - not just about what the Bible says, but about what it is, and how it came to us in its many current forms. Under Beal's instruction, we will lose some of our naivete, but we'll gain maturity of insight that will more than compensate. A needed book from a talented writer."
- Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity
"Remarkably accessible...Beal is more than just a debunker; in fact, once evangelical, he still considers himself a Christian. He exhorts readers to see the Bible not as a book of finite answers but as a crucible of questions that provoke, inspire, and even anger those who pick it up. The same might be said about his own book."
- STARRED review, Booklist