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Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 2, 2010

24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Wide-ranging, objectively factual and written for the common reader. . . . Swenson’s book possesses a singularly breezy tone, a kind of “Jesus Christ Superstar” approach to the sacred. . . . A solid, readable work that doesn’t shy away from the tough issues.” (Michael Dirda, Washington Post )

“Kristin Swenson offers a confident, well-paced, well-informed, and accessible guide to Bible basics and biblical literacy. The reader may expect some surprises, some confirmation of hunches, and some challenges—exactly what ought to arise from serious, sustained treatment.” (Walter Brueggemann, author of An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible )

“Finally, a book on the Bible for the rest of us! . . . This broadside against our collective biblical illiteracy hits the sweetspot between blind belief and angry atheism. Who said a book on the Good Book can’t be brave, smart, and fun?” (Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn't )

“Bible Babel is a breath of fresh air. . . . Kristin Swenson’s writing is brisk and lively. She has an informed sense of everything relevant to the Bible. . . . She is an engaging corrector of misconceptions and a helpful guide to the common reader.” (Robert Alter, author of The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary )

“Swenson successfully shows why, in spite of all its difficulties, the Bible remains a thought-provoking and infinite source of inspiration and debate for all kinds of people.” (Publishers Weekly )

Hats off to Kristin Swenson. . . . Ms. Swenson combines meticulous scholarship with an original eye and a sense of fun. She has succeeded in presenting the Bible anew in a highly accessible way. . . . A most welcome achievement. (Washington Times )

From the Back Cover

Based on the most recent scholarship, Bible Babel is a lively and very readable introduction to the Bible—what it is, where it comes from, and what's in it.

Why does the film Magnolia end in a downpour of frogs?
Is the serpent in the Garden of Eden the devil or just a snake?
How do people use the Bible to argue different sides of today's most controversial issues?
Who is the "queen of heaven"?
While watching The Ten Commandments, why did Metallica's bass player think, "Whoa, it's like creeping death!" thus naming a hit song?
Where does the fish symbol of the Christian faith come from?
Is there a "best" translation?
Who is the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, who opens the seven seals of a cosmic scroll?

The Bible informs much of our culture, but most people know little about the book itself. In this intelligent yet humorous and highly accessible guide, religious studies professor Kristin Swenson answers the above questions and more as she provides readers with basic biblical literacy. Swenson incorporates contemporary pop references—from Wall-E to Battlestar Galactica to rock music and more—with the latest findings of biblical scholarship to offer contextual understanding of the Bible's often complex, ambiguous, and seemingly contradictory texts. Her engaging and illuminating book does not aim to convert readers nor undermine their beliefs, but to offer basic knowledge needed to comprehend arguments and answer vexing questions about the Bible, appreciate artistic and literary references, and interpret the most talked about book of all time for themselves.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061728292
  • ASIN: B0044KN0IQ
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Book Junkie on February 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Whether you are a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or a nonbeliever, you have to admit that the Bible is a pretty important book. American politicians use it all the time, sometimes accurately and sometimes not. And it remains THE touchstone for much of world literature. Unfortunately, most of us don't know a widow's mite about it (whatever that means). Happily, Swenson's BIBLE BABEL is here to enlighten us, and entertain us along the way. Swenson obviously knows her stuff, but she's not strutting it. Her book is written for ordinary readers in an engaging prose style. A fun, easy-to-read introduction to the uses (and abuses) of the #1 bestseller of all time.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mazer on March 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is such a good book that I'm surprised there aren't more people reviewing and talking about it, especially after the recent writeup in the Washington Post. If people aren't getting into it, I can suggest a couple reasons why.

Despite Swenson's very readable style, the book is still formidable reading; it comes in at well over 300 pages, including reference materials at the back that are actually worth reading. There is some humor, but Swenson stops well short of anything approaching disrespect to any faith view. It actually reads very much like a university lecture. Lots of facts, lots of perspective, and just enough humor and personality to keep you awake.

A more important reason for its slow start, I would guess, is that it doesn't really give anyone on either end of the belief spectrum (atheist to evangelical) much fodder for their point of view. This is not a book you can recommend to people who think just like you to use in ridiculing the other side. Nor will most people find their perspective wholly represented. She dismisses the use of the word "theory" in referring to evolution with the flippant (and common and incorrect) "gravity is a theory". She notes that Proverbs shares some themes with Egyptian works and assumes that the Egyptian works are primary without footnoting her statement or acknowledging that this topic is still the subject of some debate. She states that the flood story was lifted from the Mesopotamians, again without exploring alternative theories or justifying the position. Yet there is a limit to how much depth you can go into in such a book, and I suspect on the other side that some people will find her too respectful of religious belief.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Olson on August 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
People have argued for centuries about what the Bible is really saying. Swenson explains why in very clear language, but still leaves the Bible reader to decide his interpretation for himself (or herself.) Pick any areea of dispute -- Bible statements regarding women, homosexuality, the meaning of Christ -- all shades of the discussion are well-represented. The outstanding aspect if this book is the ease with which a reader can become comfortable with it. Yet, there are a plethora of references and booknotes to satisfy every "show me where it says that" freak. I highly recommend this book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. Davis on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Does the Bible condemn homosexuality and abortion? You won't get a definite answer in Bible Babel. Professor Swenson offers both sides of the debate and lets the reader judge for himself what the Bible really means. This book is an in depth overview of the Bible that should be read by believers and nonbelievers alike.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By O. Merce Brown HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It can be a hard thing to make Bible history readable and exciting, but this author has succeeded in doing just that in this delightful book that takes no religious position, but tells much about the best selling book of all time, one that 84% of the U.S. population considers "holy". It is written in an engaging and entertaining way, and tells everything you've ever wanted to know about the Bible itself. It covers Bible contradictions, controversial texts, women of the Bible, Bible versions, and so much more. There are lots of appendices packed with information and an extensive index. If you are interested in the Bible and want to read more about how it came to be, this is a great choice. Again, it is a secular book that takes no religious position whatsoever, so it can be readily enjoyed by all.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George E. Love on December 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am 65 years old and have never read the bible until now. I recently joined a bible study group and one of the members recommended that I take a look at this book. I borrowed his copy and it is so user friendly :) just what I needed, so I purchased my own copy. Each week before I go to bible study, I read the section in the book that applies to what we will be studying that night. The author really knows her stuff and presents the material in such good form. My only complaint is the cover. Have you every seen an uglier cover? Turns out that the author lives in my hometown,so maybe I will meet her someday and make the suggestion to change the cover. Looks like a kids book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Fred Askew on July 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A sort of beginner's guide to the various Bibles out there - with some background of how the different versions and translations came to be. Not enough detail for the advanced student, but a good choice for someone just getting started, someone who doesn't know much about the struggles and controversies over the past centuries as different sects and denominations fought to make sure that their version(s) of the Bible became THE Bible. Does not insult either believers or non-believers, although it might be quite a shock to some fundamentalists to discover that there is more than one Bible and more than one way to translate many familiar passages.
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