Book about the Bible
October 13, 2008 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What's a good book about the Good Book?

I'd like to read the Bible again. I was raised Catholic and have the general memory of Bible studies that most ex-Catholics have. Since my apostasy I haven't really looked at it, except to occasionally verify that it says what some people might be claiming it said.

What I'd like to read (and maybe this hasn't been written yet) is a version that attempts to annotate the text of the bible with the following sorts of information:

Who do we think originally wrote this passage?
Is there a general consensus on what this means and why it's in here?
If this is referring to an historical event, what do we know about this event from outside sources?
How do the different Judeo-Christian denominations differ on this section?

I'm not looking for a maximalist interpretation that makes any assumptions about the accuracy of the Bible. On the other hand, I definitely do not want a text that was written mainly to point out the many logical flaws of the bible (like the Skeptic's Annotated Bible).

Does the book or resource I'm describing exist? If not, what's the next best thing?
posted by justkevin to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The ESV Study Bible, which will be released on Wednesday, sounds like it will meet all your needs.
posted by davcoo at 10:02 AM on October 13, 2008

Best answer: I asked a similar question here a while back, and as a result wound up getting Asimov's Guide to the Bible. (Yes, Isaac Asimov.) I haven't made as much headway in it as I'd like, but I've found it quite interesting.
posted by adamrice at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2008

A commentary may fit the bill for you. Take a look at either the New Jerome Biblical Commentary or The Collegeville. I am in the middle of reading the gospels from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (the final volume is not yet finished, but the complete books thus far are available as single little paperbacks).

Lastly, I enjoyed both Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt and Introducing The New Testament by Raymond Brown. Best of luck with your studies!
posted by jquinby at 10:16 AM on October 13, 2008

I'm reading a really great book called A History of the End of the World right now, but that's just about the Book of Revelations.
I'd still recommend it if you have time though./
posted by mannequito at 10:18 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Raymond Brown's Introduction to the New Testament, while not a straight line by line breakdown of each New Testament passage, does a good job covering historical evidence, source evidence, and, while dense, is extremely informative. It won't cover a whole heck of a lot about how a piece of text is interperted in different denominations (though I don't think many text's CAN do that) but it's a great introduction to what historians and scholars "know". He's also (R.I.P.) was an amazing Roman Catholic scholar and his Introduction was considered "valid" and passed mustered with the RCC in that it didn't teach anything that was considered invalid by the RCC but it also didn't just mention what the RCC took at face value. His goal in writing the Introduction was to have it pass mustard with all of the main Christian denominations (mainstream Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox).

Also, the 3rd New Oxford Annotated Bible is very good but when it makes interpertations of the various text (like every translation or work will make), it takes a very late 20th century, northern European mainline, Protestant view of it. The 2nd Edition takes a very mid-late 20th century, nothern European, mainline Protestant view of it (etc etc).

You're not going to be able to find a one-size fits all book - there just too much information and data out there.
posted by Stynxno at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had the Harper-Collins Study Bible in college and found it to be very useful.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:24 AM on October 13, 2008

I also use the Harper-Collins Study Bible at seminary. It's pretty good, but you should be aware that it doesn't answer your last question about the different denominations.

A book or series on the history of Christian thought might also be helpful. The one I read for class wasn't terribly well-written, but this kind of thing can help you understand the various motivations for including certain books in the canon, and can give you broader perspectives on themes and passages.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:45 AM on October 13, 2008

I found Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible really interesting with a minimum of snark. Good for historical context. I don't think it was that good for cross-denominational comparison.
posted by jdfan at 10:57 AM on October 13, 2008

I love my Oxford English Bible and its many footnotes and essays.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 12:54 PM on October 13, 2008

I also like Bart Ehrman's books. One that might interest you is The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:02 PM on October 13, 2008

The Bible With Sources Revealed may get to part of it (the who wrote it part.)
posted by callmejay at 1:33 PM on October 13, 2008

I got good responses relevant to your inquiry in this question.
posted by nanojath at 2:29 PM on October 13, 2008

Response by poster: I've ordered The New Oxford Annotated Bible. I'll see how I do with it, thanks for the suggestions.
posted by justkevin at 3:18 PM on October 13, 2008

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