As the single work at the heart of Christianity, the world's largest organized religion, the Bible is the spiritual guide for one out of every three people in the world. The Bible is also the world's most widely distributed book. Translated into over two thousand languages, it is estimated that more than six billion copies have been sold in the last two hundred years. It remains the best-selling book in the United States, year after year, with at least twenty-five million copies sold in 2005 alone.
But the Bible is a complex work with a complicated and obscure history. Made up of sixty-six "books" written by various authors and divided into two testaments, its contents have changed over the centuries. The Bible has been transformed by translation and, through interpretation, has developed manifold meanings to various religions, denominations, and sects.
In this seminal account, acclaimed historian Karen Armstrong discusses the conception, gestation, life, and afterlife of history's most powerful book. Armstrong analyzes the social and political situation in which oral history turned into written scripture, how this all-pervasive scripture was collected into one work, and how it became accepted as Christianity's sacred text. She explores how "as the pragmatic scientific ethos of modernity took hold, scripture was read for the information that it imparted" and how, in the nineteenth century, historical criticism of the Bible caused greater fear than Darwinism. As she writes, "'If Jonah did not spend days in a whale, ' asked a Lutheran pastor, 'did Jesus really rise from the tomb?'"
Karen Armstrong's history of the Bible is a brilliant, captivating book, crucial in an age of declining faithand rising fundamentalism.