The Bible: The Basics

The Bible: The Basics

The Bible: The Basics

The Bible: The Basics


The Bible: The Basics is a compelling introduction to the Bible as both a sacred text, central to the faith of millions, and a classic work of Western literature, containing a tapestry of genres, voices, perspectives and images. This masterly guide skilfully addresses both aspects of the Bible's character by exploring:

  • the rich variety of literary forms, from poetry to prophecy and epistles to apocalypses
  • the historical, geographic and social context of the Bible
  • contemporary attitudes to the Bible held by believers and non-believers
  • the status of biblical interpretation today

Including maps, a chronology and detailed suggestions for further reading, this is an ideal starting point for people of any faith or none who are studying the Bible in any setting or simply want to know more about the best-selling book of all time.



Some people love the Bible and some hate it; but few read it. Anyone who studies the Bible, whether as part of a course in theology or religious studies or for personal interest, is in a minority in the modern world. The aim of this book is to make their task easier, by providing some of the background information that can make what is now often an alien text come alive. What may happen next depends on the reader. For some a more intensive knowledge of the Bible becomes a strong support for faith, but for others it seems to reduce the text’s religious claims. I have not written with any religious intention, but simply to elucidate what is often a difficult and complex book. The only underlying assumption is that the Bible is important—not a trivial or uninteresting text. It has not maintained its centrality in Western culture by sleight-of-hand, but through having things to say that still demand our attention, whatever conclusions we come to about them. But the book is emphatically not a work of Christian apologetics or evangelism, and I do not believe that only believers can understand the Bible properly.

In reading the book it will help to have a Bible to hand. I have quoted a good deal verbatim, but there was not space to quote every passage I wanted to refer to. My quotations are from the Revised Standard Version, which I believe is the best modern translation; but it is going out of print, and readers may therefore have to manage with the New Revised Standard Version, which . . .

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