> Skip to content
  • Published: 2 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9780141978505
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $29.99

A History of the Bible

The Book and Its Faiths

A uniquely ambitious study of the Bible's creation: how it came to be written, how its contents were selected - and how it really relates to the religions that endorse it

This book tells the story of the Bible, how it came to be constructed and how it has been understood, from its remote beginnings down to the present. It describes how the disparate writings which comprise the Bible were written and when, as well as what we know - and what we cannot know - about their authors and what they might have meant. Incisive readings shed new light on even the most familiar passages, exposing not only the sources and traditions behind them, but also the busy hands of the scribes and editors who assembled and reshaped them. Rather than the fixed, coherent text it is often perceived to be, the Bible is revealed to be the result of a long and intriguing evolution.

Tracing its dissemination, translation and interpretation in Judaism and Christianity from Antiquity to the rise of modern biblical scholarship, Barton shows how meaning has both been drawn from the Bible and imposed upon it. Part of the book's originality is to illuminate the gap between religion and scripture, the ways in which neither maps exactly onto the other, and how religious thinkers from Augustine to Luther and Spinoza have reckoned with this. A landmark in its field, A History of the Bible makes us rethink the central book of Western culture and the foundation of two world religions.

  • Published: 2 June 2020
  • ISBN: 9780141978505
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $29.99

Also by John Barton

See all

Praise for A History of the Bible

As eminently readable as the best of travelogues, it floods with light a subject too often regarded by many as a closed book. ... An extraordinary tour de force

Peter Stanford, Sunday Times

A superb overview ... Barton wears his erudition lightly, but even for those deeply familiar with the Bible there is much here to be learnt

Bart D Ehrman, Telegraph

John Barton's magisterial history brings the Good Book splendidly back to life ... It is an exhilarating achievement

Julian Coman, Observer

Cerebral entertainment of the highest class. This is an absolutely fascinating book, a staggeringly learned exploration of the origins of all those Bible stories

Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times (Books of the Year)

Vital, hugely informative

David Sexton, Evening Standard

Rare is the common assumption about the Bible that Barton fails to render problematic

Tom Holland, Financial Times

Compelling and endlessly intriguing, it courageously looks at the problems of variants, apocrypha, questions of translation and very much more. It should be in the armoury of anyone, whether a believer or not

Stuart Kelly, Scotsman

A work of exceptional merit ... a joy to read

Linda Hogan, Irish Times

The learning Barton brings to bear for this large undertaking is prodigious as well as judiciously deployed, and everything is conveyed in lucid, precise prose. If A History of the Bible is academic popularization, it may well be the finest example I have ever encountered

Robert Alter, Jewish Review of Books

Hugely important, very readable and judicious

Anthony Phillips, Church Times

Related titles