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The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible Hardcover – April 7, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (April 7, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394573986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394573984
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to Oxford historian Fox ( Pagans and Christians ), "Scripture is not God's word in any strong sense, nor is it unerring, with the possible exception of a few trivial facts." He asserts that Genesis offers two Creation stories that don't correspond to historical suppositions and are made up from two contradictory sources; Luke's account of the Nativity is incongruous with his own date for the Annunciation and with Matthew's narrative of the Nativity; Jewish authors of the Bible wrote unreservedly under false names, choosing those of superiors in the distant past, such as Solomon and David. Moreover, the Gospels do not agree on the exact day of Jesus's Crucifixion; and anonymous authors of the Old Testament added "prophecies" after the event, such as prophecies attached to Isaiah (ca. 740-700 B.C.) that predicted the coming of Cyrus in the 530s B.C. Fox concludes that the Bible may not be historical but it has power as a mirror of humanity rather than divinity. He here reads biblical texts closely and brings many examples that may help neophytes to probe the historical veracity of the Bible. But Fox's arguments are also curiously diffuse, and the bulk of them will be known to Bible students. History Book Club main selection; BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The author of Pagans and Christians ( LJ 1/87) gives a detailed exposition of the historical origins (or lack thereof) of the Bible. Fox claims that he believes "in the Bible, but not in God," and thus explores the Bible as a historian. His version is "unauthorized," not because it has been suppressed, but because the Bible does not proclaim its authority. He reaches for what the authors of the Bible intended, realizing that the Bible is not the word of God and that much of it is not historically accurate or factual. Fox does not approach his subject as an antagonist, but with the care and knowledge to make the text more meaningful. This book deserves a place in all libraries. History Book Club main selection; BOMC alternate.
- George M. Jenks, Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg, Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I must admit that I am a fan of Robin Lane Fox.
Avid Reader
Most of these are relatively minor, but the last twelve verses of Mark and the story of the women taken in adultery in John were clearly not in the original versions.
pnotley@hotmail.com
As a conservative, I found this book to be very a sophisticated and enjoyable read that is well worth the Christian and non-Christians time.
cout hey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
The first time I picked up Robin Lane Fox's 'The Unauthorised Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible', I was intrigued. While this was hardly the first time I had heard the historical information of the bible questioned in terms of accuracy or even plausibility, it was I believe the first time I had ever heard the word fiction applied in a serious way (the title, no less!) to consideration of the bible.
First, a note on the author. Robin Lane Fox is a fellow of New College, Oxford, and a University Lecturer in Ancient History. Among other popular and scholarly works he has produced are 'Alexander the Great' (a respected history) and `Pagans and Christians' (an interesting exploration of the conversion of the Roman world to Christianity). Robin Lane Fox explains in the preface to 'The Unauthorised Version' that this is an historian's view, not an exposition written from the standpoint of faith.
Robin Lane Fox is often discounted, particularly by Christians, because he purposely writes for Christian-dominated audiences, but does so from the stated standpoint of being an atheist. He does make a few historical errors in his framework -- he would say they are matters of interpretation, but I dispute that. For instance, he claims that his address to Christians rather than Jewish readers is because the Bible is a Christian creation. He discounts the Jewish influence in formation of the canon (both the positive and negative aspects related to that, yet another double-edged scenario in history). He reads the biblical texts as he would any other ancient narrative -- this is perhaps what he considers objective.
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful By pnotley@hotmail.com on January 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Robin Lane Fox is one of the leading classical historians today, known for major works on Alexander the Great and the clash between Pagans and Christians. And there is much in this book that many readers will find useful and interesting. Lane Fox starts off right away against those who believe the Bible is reliable history. He points out the two differing creation stories in the book of Genesis. He notes how Luke irretrievably muddled his nativity story by tying Herod's reign with a census conducted under Governor Quirinius of Syria, not aware that Quirinius, and the census vital for moving Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, were separated from Herod by at least a decade.
And then Lane Fox goes on. He discusses the history of the actual texts and the earliest copies, and how there are in fact thousands of differences. Most of these are relatively minor, but the last twelve verses of Mark and the story of the women taken in adultery in John were clearly not in the original versions. We learn about the practice of pseudonymous authors, and we have a long discussion of the claims of the Tanakh or Old Testament, and how they usually do not match the claims of archaelogy or surrounding records. We learn the interesting fact that no-one in the New Testament quotes the Songs of Songs or Ecclesiastes. We also learn this amusing anecdote about the plant that temporarily shades Jonah: "Traditionally, the plant has been seen as a gourd, but the Hebrew word is uncertain. When Latin biblical translators changed it to ivy, Augustine knew of congregations in north Africa who rioted until the gourd was brought back to the text.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hanson on June 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Fox is a brilliant writer and gifted scholar whose PAGANS AND CHRISTIANS may become a classic. THE UNAUTHORIZED VERSION, entertainingly written for the educated general reader, presents his professional's view of the Bible's value as history. Discussions about source issues and dates are too often written by Thomas Carlyle's old nemesis Herr Doktor-Professor Dryasdust. Lane Fox, to the contrary, argues with genuine verve and wit. His explanation of the reason why the Gospels' Infancy Narratives cannot be historically accurate is in itself a brief miracle of clarity. After reading it you would have to be singularly obtuse not to understand why you can have either a Roman tax census or Herod the King, but not both. He can be laugh-out-loud funny about the plight of the poor prophet, doomed to have his predictions fail if he succeeds in convincing people to repent. And when Biblical botanical issues crop up, and they do, he may be the only scholar alive really qualified to deal with them. He's written two books on gardening in his spare time. Personally an atheist, he takes care to be fair. Christian scholars who step outside methodological boundaries or who seem disingenuous are skewered mercilessly. Those who seem honest and conscientious to him are treated simply as scholars. You would never guess from reading this book alone that R.E. Brown is a priest. You would only know that he is a great scholar whose work Fox greatly esteems, even while disagreeing. Similarly, you would not know that the late W.F. Albright was an evangelical Christian. Fox's conclusions, of course, put limits on the ways we can trust the Bible as an historical source (primary for some limited purposes, clearly secondary for others, when not outright fiction). There is nothing earthshaking here, nothing new.Read more ›
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