History of the Bible


history theology religion literature book

I read The History of the Bible this weekend and enjoyed it a lot. I have a little collection of books about theology now, not because of any interest in faith but because I think it’s an interesting vein of history and culture. The bible is so often quoted, wittingly or unwittingly, in popular culture and everyday speech. Here are some good excerpts from the book.

The first I’ve included because I like the readings of the Old Testament that give God a personality. In this case it’s a taunting condescention. I also just think the language here is amazing.

The climax of the book is an appearance by God (not unlike the deus ex machina in a Greek tragedy), in which God sarcastically tells Job that he knows nothing, since he is so puny compared to the power of the creator:

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements - surely you know?
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
Or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly being shouted joy?

— Job 38:4-7

There are a couple of bits of analysis of the Epistles that highlight the texts drawing attention to their authorship. In the first case, in a reference I’ve lost, a little hello from Paul’s scribe is interpolated into the text at the sign off, “and goodbye from me too!”. In the second case it’s Paul himself writing the original letter:

When Paul says that a greeting at the end of one of his letters in written in his own hand:

See what large letters I make make when I am writing in my own hand!

— Galatians 6:11

It’s so childlike and human. The last excerpt I just thought was an interesting window into the huge debate around the trinity.

Paul also seems to see Jesus as lower in status than God himself:

Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:28

The New testament thus supports at most a subordinationist Christology, that is, one in which Jesus as the Son is of lower status than God the Father.