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Asimov's Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, the Old and New Testaments Hardcover – December 12, 1988

4.4 out of 5 stars 145 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Isaac Asimov thinks big; readers of his science fiction works are familiar with his grasp and mastery of scale and how the individual stories unfold within the epic work. In Asimov's Guide to the Bible he utilizes this skill to pare down and untangle the many intertwined threads of biblical history and mythology. He views this guide as a way to illuminate the world of the Bible by incorporating the secular aspects of history, biography, and geography into a deeper understanding. Asimov's Guide to the Bible is not a book to be read in continuum but an indispensable companion to any journey through the Bible. Situating the writers of the various books of the Bible in time and space, Asimov gives its writings context and also explains how that context has morphed with time. While some of his conclusions and "qualified speculations" may challenge certain traditional assumptions (for example, there is no reference in the gospels to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute; rather, she was a madwoman whom Jesus cured by casting out seven demons), his aim is not to tear it apart but to flush out some of its mysteries, give it a context that the average Bible reader can understand, and therefore make it more real. --Jodie Buller

From the Inside Flap

In Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov explores the historical, geographical, and biographical aspects of the events described in the Old and New Testaments. Asimov's attempts to illuminate the Bible's many obscure, mysterious passages prove absorbing reading for anyone interested in religion and history.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1295 pages
  • Publisher: Avenel; Reprint edition (December 12, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 051734582X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517345825
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book covers what Asimov calls in the introduction the "secular aspects" of the bible. As a result the book pays little attention to the spiritual meaning of the bible, and I wouldn't advise buying this if that is your main interest.
However, whether you are Christian or not, Asimov does an excellent job of placing the events of the bible in a historical context. There are dozens of maps, which I found invaluable--for example he provides a sequence of maps that cover from 1 Samuel through 2 Kings that show the changing boundaries of Israel and Judah from the reign of Saul through David and Solomon and onwards. He also provides a chronology of important events in biblical times, covering primarily biblical events but also other historical events.
Although Asimov was not a Christian, there is little here that can be construed as a direct attack on Christianity, unless you feel that a secular approach to the bible is already an attack. Occasionally his approach highlights points which an atheist will be happy to see, such as the fact that the later gospels ascribe more miracles to Christ than the earlier ones do, or the fact that the gospel of John has many inconsistencies with the other three. For the most part, however, Asimov sidesteps the question of Christian truth.
The book is now thirty years old, and as a result does not contain the latest scholarship. However, it is not intended as a scholarly work: instead it's a very readable presentation of a great deal of the fascinating background to the most influential book in Western civilization.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent read if you are looking to learn more about the background of names, places, and events described in the Bible from a secular-historical standpoint. It doesn't pretend to be a work of original scholarship. It is what it's titled: a 'Guide' to the Old and New Testaments. Asimov emphasizes chronology and context, which gives the reader the sense that the things depicted as occurring in the various books of the Bible aren't just a collection of disconnected and discordant events. It is an extremely interesting history book in and of itself, and I learned more from it than from any other book about the Bible I've read of narrower topical scope. This was an ambitious project even for Isaac to attempt to tackle, and the range of his 'general overview' is as informative and fascinating as anything else he ever wrote.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have an interest in understanding the historical background, religious and political motives, fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies, and vague allusions concerning the events and characters which fill the Bible; this secular review contains a wealth of knowledge as well as being entertaining.

Each book of the Jewish Bible and New Testament are covered as well as several non-canonical books. The evolution of contemporary Judaism and Christianity thought can be traced through the mythical stories of genesis, the Yawists of ancient Israel, the influence of Babylonian, Persian, and Greek beliefs as well as the Babylonian exile and Roman persecutions which inspired biblical apocalyptic writings. Great watershed events such as the invasion and conquest of Canaan by the Hebrew tribes, the establishment of the Davidic dynasty by Samuel, the splitting of the Israel/Judah confederacy due to Solomon's policies in building the first temple, the conquest of Israel by the Assyrians, the conquest of Judah and destruction of the first temple by the Babylonians, the return from the Babylonian exile and construction of the second temple, the destruction of the second temple by the Romans, the life and crucifixion of Jesus, and the establishment of the Christian religion through Paul's efforts are all covered in this 1200+ page tome.

Asimov's book reads like a historical novel which is more readable and easier to understand than reading the bible cold. After reading through this book, I feel confident in engaging my Christian and Jewish friends in discussions about the bible and in most cases, am more knowledgeable about their holy book than they are.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Asimov's writings. His Science Fiction has helped create the genre. His History works are always insightful.
I also love the Bible, and knowing old Issac is an Athiest I bought this book with a degree of trepidation.
My trepidation was unfounded. Asimov treats the Bible with respect and understanding. He recognises many of the Old Testament Prophecies about Jesus (another point that concerned me, knowing of Asimov's Jewish heritage).
He puts the Bible into its wider historical perspective.
This isn't the first book I will refer to to understand a part of the Bible, but it is one to which I will often refer.
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Format: Hardcover
over the past few years i've begun to critically evaluate my faith and position on christianity. as part of this "quest", i wanted to read a secular history of the bible to help me understand the historical context that the books of the bible were written in. this book fit the bill perfectly and was an interesting and entertaining read to boot. it took me a while to read (in small chunks), but i feel i have a much deeper understanding on the bible now.
that said, asimov is an avowed atheist, and there is a clear bias against christianity. but that's fine- i don't mind having my beliefs challenged, and his points are food for thought.
if i have any complaints, it's that asimov rarely cited his sources, and i would have liked to read some of those books as well.
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