Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
#1
Old 04-01-2004, 07:30 AM
C3 C3 is offline
Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,128
Non-religious Bible study guide

I'm an atheist. I've read parts of the Bible before, but I want to tackle the whole thing this summer. Is there a study guide that I could use that discusses the literary, historical, and religious implications of the Bible without being a guide geared specifically towards Christians reading it for their religious study?
#2
Old 04-01-2004, 07:32 AM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: austin tx usa
Posts: 35,294
Well, Isaac Asimov was an atheist, too, and he wrote on the Bible (heck, what DIDN'T he write on?).

It's called "Asimov's Guide to the Bible." You'll learn more here:

http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...735689-7421637
#3
Old 04-01-2004, 08:17 AM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: In the mountains
Posts: 7,939
Drat, astorian, you beat me to it. I haven't read the book in question, but I've heard of it. I probably should read it sometime, though.
#4
Old 04-01-2004, 08:46 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: massachusetts
Posts: 479
There's a book called God: A Biography by Jack Miles. He attempts to read the Old Testament (actually the Hebrew Scriptures) as a literary work and describe the character of God. A lot of history is mixed in to explain what a passage would've meant to people during the time it was written. Miles is evidently an expert on biblical studies, including history, languages, and religion.
#5
Old 04-01-2004, 09:00 AM
Guest
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 4,024
Quote:
Originally Posted by C3
I'm an atheist. I've read parts of the Bible before, but I want to tackle the whole thing this summer. Is there a study guide that I could use that discusses the literary, historical, and religious implications of the Bible without being a guide geared specifically towards Christians reading it for their religious study?
Depending on how much background info you're looking for, you might consider just the Oxford Annotated Bible (either RSV or NRSV). It's a well-respected translation, it has copious footnotes that give historical background, explain possible amiguities in the language, and give alternate translations of certain passages. Each chapter is prefaced with several paragraphs that explain what is known about the authors of the chapter, who the audience was, etc. There are chapters explaining Hebrew poetry, etc. I've heard it's the standard in many seminaries.

Also, tackling the whole bible may be insufferably boring. Keep in mind that the ordering of the books is not chronological. The books of the bible are just that--seperate books that were chosen to be incorporated into a single canon. Also some of them can be flat-out mind-numbing (like the passages that explain all the nuances of Mosaic Law...).
#6
Old 04-01-2004, 10:45 AM
Member
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 43,484
Quote:
Originally Posted by astorian
Well, Isaac Asimov was an atheist, too, and he wrote on the Bible (heck, what DIDN'T he write on?).

It's called "Asimov's Guide to the Bible." You'll learn more here:

http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...735689-7421637
I was disappointed in this. Dr. A was straining so hard to be inoffensive to theists that he provided only the most superficial explanations. More important, it is kind of out of date now, and does not iinclude the latest archeological results. You might want to look at a copy in the library before you buy. It is well written though, hardly surprising given the author.
#7
Old 04-01-2004, 11:21 AM
Guest
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 634
For the New Testament, I'd recommend Bart Ehrman's introduction. It's designed as a textbook for a NT religion course, but it's very readable and scholarly at the same time (a rare combination).

I don't know of anything comparable for the OT. You could search online and see what texts are being used for OT courses.
#8
Old 04-01-2004, 11:52 AM
Member
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 42,571
The Anchor Bible is extremely well-footnoted, and it gives the information Bible specialists look for. It's Looooooooong -- each "book" of the Bible has at least one, and often several, volumes.

I've found the Pelican Bible Guides pretty good, too -- I have one for each of the evangelists.

You may have to walkaround a few interpretations, but the above are useful guides for believers or skeptics.
__________________
"Mr. Chambers! Don't get on the ship! We translated the book, and it's a TENNIS MANUAL!"
#9
Old 04-01-2004, 12:34 PM
C3 C3 is offline
Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 4,128
Quote:
Originally Posted by CalMeacham
The Anchor Bible is extremely well-footnoted, and it gives the information Bible specialists look for. It's Looooooooong -- each "book" of the Bible has at least one, and often several, volumes.
Okay, that one's right out.

I think I might start with a used copy of Asimov's guide and go from there.

Thank you all for your suggestions! Keep 'em coming if you have more.
#10
Old 04-01-2004, 12:36 PM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 36,258
Some good OT commentaries & good general reading:

Who Wrote the Bible? and The Bible with Sources Revealed, both by Richard Friedman

A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and A New Interpretation of Genesis, both by Karen Armstrong (a former nun turned rabbinical scholar)

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Neil Silberman and Israel Finkelstein (secular deconstruction of biblical anthropology and evidence)

The Oxford Companion to the Bible (separate from the Oxford Study Bible mentioned above) and The Oxford History of the Biblical World, both excellent reference sources (although the first one is quite expensive- most large libraries have it, though)
#11
Old 06-21-2012, 03:55 AM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1
An old thread, I know; but I had to put in a plug for R. Crumb's tour-de-force, "The Illustrated Book of Genesis". Aside from the complete text, it also includes an interesting interpretive essay. Crumb has really refined his technique over the years; it's a beautiful book and an interesting read.

Last edited by Peter du Chemin; 06-21-2012 at 03:57 AM. Reason: sp.
#12
Old 06-21-2012, 04:22 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: IN USA
Posts: 13,246
Quote:
Originally Posted by carterba View Post
There's a book called God: A Biography by Jack Miles. He attempts to read the Old Testament (actually the Hebrew Scriptures) as a literary work and describe the character of God. A lot of history is mixed in to explain what a passage would've meant to people during the time it was written. Miles is evidently an expert on biblical studies, including history, languages, and religion.
He has a second book also CHRIST: A Crisis in the Life of God, that continues the literary biography of a God deciding to take on human flesh & dwell within creaturely limits.

Last edited by FriarTed; 06-21-2012 at 04:22 AM.
#13
Old 06-21-2012, 08:19 PM
Guest
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Upper Midwest
Posts: 508
The book that David Plotz wrote based on his Slate blogs about reading through the Bible was interesting.
http://slate.com/articles/news_a...good_book.html
#14
Old 06-21-2012, 10:33 PM
Guest
Join Date: May 2011
Location: 6' deep in the heart o'Tx
Posts: 1,787
Who Wrote the Bible?, by Richard Elliot Friedman, ISBN 0671631616. While not exactly what you're looking for, is very interesting.

Last edited by Toucanna; 06-21-2012 at 10:34 PM.
#15
Old 06-22-2012, 01:45 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Western New York
Posts: 77,340
Jonathan Kirsch is a very readable Bible scholar. He hasn't written a general bible study guide but his stuff is worth checking out. You can pick up a copy of The Harlot by the Side of the Road (one of his first and best works) really cheap on Amazon.
#16
Old 06-22-2012, 02:02 AM
Guest
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 3,846
I don't think this is what you're looking for specifically, but I'll offer it up because it's funny and it's written by a self-described agnostic.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J Jacobs. Jacobs is the editor at large for Esquire magazine. The book is not chronological or comprehensive, but he does delve into the history of certain subjects and asked questions of people that others might not have access to, when he didn't understand something. For one year, Jacobs goes through the Bible and literally tries to apply all its concepts to himself.
#17
Old 06-22-2012, 03:22 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 47,806
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quercus alba View Post
The book that David Plotz wrote based on his Slate blogs about reading through the Bible was interesting.
http://slate.com/articles/news_a...good_book.html
I came across this tome in a thrift store, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It only covers the Old Testament, but Plotz gives a brief summary and an excellent commentary on each chapter.

It is a fascinating read.
#18
Old 06-22-2012, 03:43 PM
Guest
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: "Hicksville", Ark.
Posts: 34,227
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
I came across this tome in a thrift store, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It only covers the Old Testament, but Plotz gives a brief summary and an excellent commentary on each chapter.

It is a fascinating read.
The articles themselves aren't too bad, either, even if they have some broken links.* Though it is weird that he says he read the "complete Bible," which implies he assumes his readers to be Jewish, yet constantly refers to comments from Christians, so he knows his audience includes them.

*Fixed links on index page:
Judges
Joel, Amos, Obadiah

Last edited by BigT; 06-22-2012 at 03:43 PM.
#19
Old 06-22-2012, 11:37 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: PNW
Posts: 528
I second The Oxford History of the Biblical World.
#20
Old 06-23-2012, 08:30 PM
Guest
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 948
The Robert Alter translations are pretty dense, but deeply rewarding. If you don't want to jump directly into one of his translations, try his "The Art of Biblical Narrative."

http://forward.com/articles/146729/a...e-bible/?p=all

Last edited by davidw; 06-23-2012 at 08:30 PM. Reason: added link
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:07 PM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: judges wig discworld miniatures jeff east paparazzi origin cat hallucinations fuck pc tsuro tiles wff'n proof slough pronounce skip homeier imdb frost cutlery swords made in west germany what is a peck of oysters cost of dragon skin armor boyfriend calls me mommy how to keep corn tortillas from cracking why do romance languages have gender paper burns at what temp lake shore drive song meaning box 13 w-2 washed phone in washing machine what is considered an empty stomach