The Bible, argues this book, may belong to the Church or synagogue as an instrument of religious practice. But as the object of academic study it belongs to the world as a whole. Confessional biblical studies belong to a discipline better termed 'scripture', with 'biblical studies' designating a discipline that imposes no religious conditions and includes any form of rational discourse about the bible. A basic requirement of this discipline is to speak not of 'the Bible' but of 'bibles'. A number of exegetical studies suggest how a genuinely academic discourse about biblical writings, distancing itself from received canons of interpretation, can expose a subtext of deceit within the creation narratives, reconceptualize the relationship of Abraham and his deity, reveal lament psalms as texts of oppression, and identify the death of Daniel's God.
In new chapters for this second edition, Davies evaluates how the film Monty Python's Life of Brian contributes to "life of Jesus" research. Here is a challenge to conventional biblical scholarship and a bid to define and establish a genuine academic discipline of biblical studies.