Q: Why this book? Why now?
A: Because I believe that we are in the middle of a media revolution in the history of the Bible that will be as transformative of Christianity as was the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. This revolution is the result of a convergence of two things: the decline of print culture and the explosion of what I call "evangelical capitalism," a kind of supply-side religion in which it’s getting hard to tell the difference between spreading the Word and moving product, saving souls and selling the sacred. Already underway, this revolution will profoundly alter the way we think about and read the Bible. It’s the end of the Word as we know it. While some will see this as disastrous, I suggest we embrace it as an opportunity—an ending that can open up the possibility of an exciting new beginning. The end of the Word as we know it is not the end of the story.
Q: Why is this an "unexpected history of an accidental book"?
A: Nowadays it’s hard to imagine the Bible as anything but a book. Indeed, many consider it "The Book of books." But it wasn’t always that way. There’s a lot to this story that I hope you’ll want to read for yourself. For now, suffice it to say that Christianity thrived for centuries without anything like the Bible. The rise of the Bible was an accident of the invention of the media technology of the book. And its fate as such is tied to that of book culture, which appears to be approaching its twilight years. The Bible’s bookishness is accidental, an effect of media history; it wasn’t always a book, let alone The Book, and it won’t always be. In fact, if there’s one constant in the history of the Bible, it’s change. That’s the story I try to tell. For most of us, that story is unexpected.
Q: You write that "there is no such thing as the Bible, and there never has been." That’s a little provocative. What do you mean?
A: I mean exactly that. There is no "the Bible," no book that is the one and only Bible. There are lots and lots and lots of Bibles. They come in many different material forms—books, scrolls, magazines, mangas, digital media, and so on. And they come with a great variety of different content—different canons, translations, notes, commentaries, pictures, and so on. Don’t believe me? Just type "Bible" in the search box at the top of this page and get ready to be overwhelmed. The Bible business sells more than 6,000 different products for over $800 million a year—all sold as "the Bible." It’s totally nuts.
"Whoa," some will say, "stop the madness! Save the Bible! We’ve got to get back to the original, pure, unadulterated Bible." In the book, I say, "Okay, let’s try that." What we discover when we do that is even more surprising: not only is there no such thing as the Bible now; there never has been. There is no unadulterated original, no Adam from which all Bibles have descended. The further we go back in history, the more variety we discover. "That old-time religion" is an illusion.
Q: How is this book different from all the other books out there on the Bible?
A: To be sure, there are other books about the history of the Bible, full of good information, but they don’t tend to ask what it all means. Their interests are mostly academic, thick on description but thin on interpretation. Not so The Rise and Fall of the Bible. Informed by two decades of scholarly research and teaching, I look back in order to look forward, to find a fresh way of understanding the Bible and its place in culture. How should its history change the way we think about and read it? What’s happening to the Bible today, and what is its future in the Internet age? These are the kinds of questions this book explores.
Q: Why do you care? Are you a "Bible believer"?
A: The "story of the Book" that I tell in it is also, in a profound way, my story of the Book, my life in Bibles, from my own complicated relationship with my conservative evangelical heritage to my career as a professor of religion at a secular university. Indeed, my proclamation of the end of the Word as we know it is as personal as it is scholarly. I ultimately see this crisis in the life of the Bible as an opportunity to rediscover it in a way that’s truer to its history and its contents—not as a rock but a river, not as a book of answers but a library of questions. Having grown up a "Bible-believing" evangelical, I share my own story of rediscovery as an illustration of the journey I hope to inspire in others. The end of the Word is ultimately a hopeful word.
In an insightful yet challenging way, Timothy Beal writes about how we got our Bible and how it is used today by most Christians. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Jeremy Myers
Reading this book was like a bright light going on. If you think you can handle the truth, here it is. Reading this book was the best thing I have done in a long time.Published 3 months ago by Reginald A. Murphy
Nicely written treatise on how the the Bible has never been ONE book with only one POV. How its recently been commercialized to the point of being a book no longer much useful... Read morePublished 6 months ago by thom evans
What is this, Beal's 11th attempt to debunk God? This is an unscholarly attempt to show that the massive rise in sales of the Christian Bible and Bible-related materials in the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Beagle
Fascinating read for anyone interested in understanding how the Bible came to be in its current form and understand the cultural, linguistic and human reasons why we must consider... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sonja Gerstenberger
This book seems to be hou a young man attempts to cope with superstition and reason. He dose not do it.Published 14 months ago by John Gay
Christians should not turn away from this book. Timothy Beal possesses a unique perspective of the Bible through his knowledge of history and the ancient language the scrolls were... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Thenne
If you do not believe the Bible is the unerring word of God, then how do you view this sacred book? This is the question at the heart of The Rise and Fall. Read morePublished 17 months ago by G. Halliday