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Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know Paperback – October 12, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Tim Beal has written about the rich, thick connections between the Bible and popular culture . . . In a society of deep and dangerous disconnects, the connects of this book serve exceedingly well.” (Walter Brueggemann, author of The Prophetic Imagination)

“With skill and insight, Timothy Beal has given us a great gift: a lucid and engaging introduction to the most important book ever published.” (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion and editor of Newsweek)

“No book has shaped more culture, value and meaning [than the Bible]. Beal skillfully retells key biblical narratives but also cogently relates them to significant events in history. This is a readable, informative and timely book.” (Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity, Harvard University, and author of The Future of Faith)

“For those who are approaching the Bible for the first time . . . there is no better place to turn than Timothy Beal’s Biblical Literacy. Here you will find numerous gems of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, along with pithy, helpful, and at times even witty, introductions.” (Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Caroline, Author of Jesus, Interrupted)

“A fun and refreshing reference that gives a fresh look at Bible stories many people thought they knew.” (The News-Herald)

“Beal, who compiled need-to-know Bible stories in his new book, Biblical Literacy, talks about how these Sunday school stories are ingrained in pop culture. They are making appearances at your dinner parties, in your favorite music and in a theater near you.” (Religion News Service)

“Beal makes a case for reading, and yes, enjoying, the Bible.” (Interfaith Voices)

“In his new book, Biblical Literacy, he introduces readers to key biblical passages and their cultural significance.” (United Methodist Reporter)

“Beal… makes a well-stated case that a knowledge of the Bible is essential to understanding our culture. His book will serve as a handy first step toward that goal-- especially for the reader who may feel intimidated by ‘the boring bits.’” (Bookpage)

From the Back Cover

Everything You Need to KnowAbout the Bible’s Most Important Stories.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006171867X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061718670
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Big D VINE VOICE on December 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If you know little or nothing about the Bible, this book might earn a 5-star rating.

If you are relatively familiar with the Bible, even in a general sense, this book might well earn a 1-star rating.

Hence, a somewhat shaky 3-star review.

For those who are not familiar with the Bible, this book, as promised in the subtitle, "The Best Bits Without All the Boring Bits," is an excellent summary of the Bible, its key stories and terms that influence our culture, speech and interaction with each other on a daily basis.

If, however, you are generally familiar with the Bible and are looking for ways and examples on how it has shaped our cuture, this book is long on scripture and short on examples of cultural influence. In that sense it is woefully lacking and long on scripture, primarly a retelling of the old familiar, even semi-familiar stories.

The introduction to the book and introductions to the Old and the New Testaments and certain books therein are good and well worth reading, though a Biblical literalist will have trouble with them.

The Glossery of Key Biblical Words and the collection/explanation of Familiar Phrases and Images at the end may the best, most useful and generally informative part of the book.

Not a great book, but not a bad one. The less you know about the Bible, the better it is; the more you know about the Bible, the more lacking it is.

So, take your choice: To read or not to read, that is the question!!!
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Format: Paperback
I asked my sister for this book for Christmas and just finished reading it. As a non-Christian in a world heavily painted by the stories of the Bible, I had tried and failed three times to read the Bible. This book was the perfect solution. It is written as a compromise between that book's archaic writing style and a more fluid, modern approach, making it much easier to understand the stories themselves. All of the key myths are there and are introduced with a short, relevant background that helps explain what you're about to read and presents some broad questions to consider while reading (I didn't find those very useful, but could be nice for others). Alongside Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" (Greco-Roman mythology primer), these two much-highlighted books are definitely keepers, and I'm certain that I'll be coming back to consult them both repeatedly in the years to come. Definitely worth reading!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beal's latest book is a wonderfully insightful read that will keep you thinking and laughing long after you close the cover. Not only for people of faith, this book will open your eyes to how biblical texts are used throughout culture. The "asides" add to one's cultural education - a must for anyone who desires to be relevant. Beal is an excellent writer who will engage your brain and your soul.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a good survey of the Bible that skips over the parts which cause many people to struggle with maintaining focus. For readers who have not had as much direct reading in the Bible as they may have wished, the selections provide a fairly comprehensive overview that can be read in reasonably short amount of time. Naturally, one can quibble about the selections chosen by the author but on the whole they are good and representative of the parts from which they were selected. I personally would have selected the story of Gideon over that of Jepthath and I thought too much space was given to Revelation. Likewise, some excerpts from Nehemiah or Ezra would have been nice. But considering the breadth of the content, it is inherent that opinions will differ with respect to what should have been put in and what should have been omitted. The book has several sidebars that provide comments and ask questions about the various excerpts. I thought the author did an excellent job with the excerpts from Isaiah and the discussion about the gospel accounts is quite good. Overall, the author provides information that enables the reader to understand the excerpts in a sound context. For readers with little experience reading the Bible, this book will be a good resource for increasing familiarity with what the Bible actually says and, if desired, a good starting point for exploring other parts.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you ever decide that you need to educate yourself about the Bible, but do not have the time to read the whole thing, this is the book for you. Timothy Beal has selected 87 Bible stories (48 Old Testament, 39 New Testament) and presented them here in manageable bites. All the famous stories are here (the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah's flood, the nativity of Jesus, the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son stories, and death and resurrection of Jesus) as well as stories, maybe not as famous, but necessary for "biblical literacy" (Hagar and Ishmael, wrestling Jacob, Jephthah's Daughter, Jeremiah's Jeremiad, Rabbi Jesus, All Things in Common, A Thorn in the Flesh).

Beal chooses these stories because he believes that "Biblical literacy is a prerequisite for cultural literacy" (p. XV) and goes on to provide copious examples, both in his introduction and in the text, of the role of Bible stories and Bible characters in shaping our culture.

About two years ago, I read Beal's "The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book," which was published in 2011. That book was most enlightening about the process by which the contents of today's Bible were collected, revised, translated, and retranslated, approved by orthodox clerics, and entered into the Jewish and Christian canon of beliefs over a period of thousands of years. Beal was able to make sense of all that history.

"Biblical Literacy" is not an attempt to understand the history of these stories. It simply takes the stories as they are, presents a little introduction to each, and then lets the Bible verses themselves do the storytelling. (Beal uses the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.
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