Synopses & Reviews
“Personal and accessible . . . The Rise and Fall of the Bible
is Beals attempt to shatter this popular understanding of the Bible as a combination of divine instruction manual and self-help book.”—Adam Kirsch, Tablet
In this revelatory exploration, a noted religion scholar and former evangelical Christian 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 Bibles sacred capital. Among his surprising insights:
*Christianity thrived for centuries without any Bible. Early congregations used collections of scrolls; there was no official canon of scriptures and no book existed that was big enough to hold them.
*The idea of the Bible as the literal Word of God is only about a century old.
*There is no “original” Bible behind the thousands of Bibles on the market today. The further back we go in the Bibles history, the more versions we find.
In The Rise and Fall of the Bible Beal offers a chance to rediscover a Bible, and a faith, that is truer to its own history—not a book of answers but a library of questions.
“Part autobiography, part social scientific research, part shrewd discernment, and part 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.” —Walter Brueggemann
“Beal . . . makes a compelling case against the idea of a fully consistent and unerring book, positing instead a very human volume with all the twists and foibles of the human experience, truly reflecting that human experience. He presents a convincing case for a radical rereading of the text, an honest appreciation of this sacred book. An engrossing and excellent work, highly recommended.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Spong shares his extraordinary gift of conveying the Bibles spiritual and ethical authority…” Jack D. Spiro, Harry Lyons Distinguished Chair of Judaic Culture, Virginia Commonwealth University
“Spong lifts the myths surrounding scripture, stripping away the superfluous so the kernal of truth becomes reality.” Reverend R. Robert Kimes, Director Religious Activities, Bay View, MI
“Remarkably insightful and honest, John Shelby Spong explores some of the most compelling issues of our time.” Reverend Jarmo Tarkki, Ph.D.
“With prophetic vigor, Spong lays bare the evil done…in the name of God...[and] calls the Christian community to accountability....” Spirituality and Health magazine
“Spong demonstrates the prophetic vocation that prefers truth to lies, honesty to hypocrisy, common sense to sick religious ideologies.” Matthew Fox, president, University of Creation Spirituality, author of Original Blessing, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet, and One River, Many Wells
“Another brilliant chapter in Spongs quest to rescue the Bible from fundamentalism.” Robert W. Funk, Jesus Seminar, author of Honest to Jesus
“This book is long overdue...” New York Times
“A valuable modernist manifesto for progressive readers seeking a response to the conservative theology dominating the news these days.” Boston Globe
“This absorbing book has much to offer readers of all persuasions.” Publishers Weekly
“The Sins of Scripture challenges Christians to look beyond the myths of their faith into the heart of the matter.” Bill O'Reilly, Anchor, Fox News Channel
"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 "Well-written and engaging...A laudable look at the Good Book."
—Kirkus "Smart and conversational, Beal provides the kind of context about the Bibles ancient origins in the Holy Land, and its recent marketing by American entrepreneurs, that anyone who reads it should know." - New Jersey Star Ledger "The Rise and Fall of the Bible" is a succinct, clear and fascinating look at two phenomena: what Beal calls "biblical consumerism" -- in which buying Bibles and Bible-related publications and products substitutes for more meaningful encounters with the foundational text of Western Civilization -- and the history of how the book came to be assembled. - Salon.com
In the history of the Western World, the Bible has been a perpetual source of inspiration and guidance for countless Christians. However, this Bible has also left a trail of pain. It is undeniable that the Bible is not always used for good. Sometimes the Bible can seem overtly evil. Sometimes its texts are terrible.
Bishop John Shelby Spong boldly approaches those texts that have been used through history to justify the denigration or persecution of others while carrying with them the implied and imposed authority of the claim that they were the Word of God. As he exposes and challenges what he calls the terrible texts of the Bible, laying bare the evil done by these texts in the name of God, he also seeks to redeem these texts, hoping to recover their ultimate depth and purpose. Spong looks specifically at texts used to justify homophobia, anti-Semitism, treating women as second-class humans, corporal punishment, and environmental degradation, but he also delivers a new picture of how Christians can use the Bible today. As Spong battles against the way the Bible has been used throughout history, he provides a new framework, introducing people to a proper way to engage this holy book of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
The Bible contains many passages that believers and nonbelievers alike would recognize as appalling theology. Whether these texts are used to discriminate, oppress, or condemn, they distort the truth of Christianity and cast doubt upon the love of God. Now, legendary Episcopal bishop and advocate for liberal Christianity John Shelby Spong addresses these passages, shattering our misconceptions and delivering a new vision of how Christians today can use the Bible.
A religious scholar and former evangelical Christian explores the history of the Bible, from the ancient Hebrew scrolls that Jesus read to the big business of Bible publishing today, debunking the myth of the Bible's infallibility and revealing a richer and more authentic way to read it.
About the Author
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark for twenty-four years prior to his retirement in 2000. Since then he has taught at Harvard University, the University of the Pacific and Drew University and he has been a visiting lecturer at universities and churches throughout North America and the English-speaking world. His books have sold over a million copies and he is regarded as one of Christianitys frontier twenty-first-century thinkers. His bestselling titles include Eternal Life: A New Vision, Jesus for the Non-Religious, The Sins of Scripture, A New Christianity for a New World, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Resurrection: Myth or Reality?, Why Christianity Must Change or Die and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He lives with his wife, Christine, in Morris Plains, New Jersey.
Table of Contents
Contents 1. The End of the Word as We Know It:
A Personal Introduction 1 Magic 8 Ball Bible 2 The Rise of a Cultural Icon 5 The Way of Salvation 12 So Long, Judas 18 The Course of This Book 21 My Utmost, Revisited 24 2. The Greatest Story Ever Sold 29 Sodom and Gomorrah Equals Love 30 Biblical Consumerism 32 Expectations of Biblical Proportions 36 By Whose Authority? 38 3. Biblical Values 41 Felt Needs 44 Values Added 48 Finding Your Niche 50 Necessary Supplements 54 If Thats What It Means, Why Doesnt It Say So? 58 Manga Bibles 64 A Different Cookie 68 4. Twilight of the Idol 70 The Evangelical Dilemma 70 Selling Out 72 Types Setting 78 Distress Crop 80 Behold Your God 83 5. What Would Jesus Read? 85 Jesus Sings 86 Christianity Before the Bible 96 No Original 102 No Canon 106 Early Christian Network Society 108 6. The Story of the Good Book 111 Remembering Whats Lost 111 Scrolling Down to the Book 113 Scattered Throughout the Whole World 117 After Gutenberg 120 Multiplying the Leaves 129 Lost in Translations 140 Not a Rock but a River 143 7. Library of Questions 146 Mark Twains Drugstore 155 Letting Suffering Speak 160 Trials of God 163 Weak Rope Theory 168 Is the Bible a Failure? 171 Faith in Ambiguity 173 Nothing but a Burning Light 176 The Bible by the Side of the Road 178 8. And I Feel Fine 180 Cracking the Binding 184 Loose Canon 187 Back to the Future 189 Living Conversations 191 Seeds to Go Around 193 Word Without End 196 Acknowledgments 197 Notes 200 Index 226