“Satlow proposes new, interesting, and controversial answers to how and when the Bible received its authority as a “holy” book. Impressive in its scope, daring in its claims, masterful in its scholarship, Satlow’s analysis reaches surprising historical conclusions that will challenge readers about how they understand the Bible -- its origin, its character, and above all its status as a sacred collection of books, the “authoritative” canon of Scripture.”— Bart D. Ehrman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
(Bart D. Ehrman)
"Michael Satlow gracefully challenges fundamental assumptions about the nature of Biblical authority in this powerful and important book. Prepare for a fascinating exploration of the changing ways in which Jews and Christians encountered the holy in divine oracles, sacred books, and the people who interpret them."—Karen L. King, Harvard University
(Karen L. King)
“How the Bible Became Holy is a lucid, learned and elegant guide to the history and ideas that gave us our holy books and changed the world.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, author of Why Faith Matters
“Satlow is extremely well-versed in the scholarship and he very innovatively interprets known sources and arranges his interpretations coherently. This is a book that will shake the field.”—Evyatar Marienberg, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"This remarkable book will change the way you think about the Bible."— A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
"Thorough and impressive."—Rathe Miller, Philadelphia Inquirer
(Rathe Miller Philadelphia Inquirer
"The author’s knowledge and his resources, both literary and archaeological, are vast. . . . Regardless of the reader’s familiarity with the material, the author’s expertise cannot be doubted."—Kirkus Reviews
"Raises vital questions about one of the most important books in history. . . . [Satlow's] command of the broad outline of ancient history in this region impresses. . . . To articulate the intricacies of the Bible’s history would overwhelm most historians. It is a complex story, but one that Satlow narrates with bold ingenuity and conviction."—Timothy Michael Law, Los Angeles Review of Books
(Timothy Michael Law Los Angeles Review of Books
“How the Bible Became Holy traces how Jewish texts in circulation across many centuries in the ancient world came to assume religious authority. Many of [Satlow's] findings were revelatory to me."—Howard Freedman, JWeekly Off the Shelf
(Howard Freedman JWeekly Off the Shelf
From the Author
Why did you decide to write this book?
Scholarship on the Bible and on the history of Jews and Christians in antiquity have changed our understanding of the past significantly. Yet I have found that my students, both in university and adult education classes, are largely unaware of these new developments. I wanted to open up a vibrant and complex world to this larger audience.
Did you encounter any surprises in your research?
Yes! I have been studying this material for most of my adult life, but nevertheless I constantly find myself revising my own understanding. After I added up these revisions, they led me to a larger picture that I did not expect. For example, understanding biblical law as largely academic exercises, or Paul as a largely typical upper-class intellectual Jew from Jerusalem, very much changed the way that I now approach the history of the period.
Did studying the Bible in a rigorous, historical way change your relationship with it?
To my mind, placing scripture within its larger historical context adds to, rather than detracts from, its value. The Bible is a remarkable book and remains important for me and my family.
What were the greatest challenges in your research?
Writing a history like this is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that is missing 90 percent of its pieces as well as the puzzle box lid showing the picture. In other words, I wanted to write a clean, accessible narrative, but I also had to approach the task with great humility. I hope that the result is a book that will start conversations.