“The Story of the Bible” review

The Story of the Bible coverThe Story of the Bible:
The Fascinating History of Its Writing,
Translation & Effect on Civilization

By Larry Stone
Thomas Nelson Publishers
21 September 2010

I was really excited to receive this book. I love history, and since visiting APU’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit late last summer with my family, I’ve been interested in learning how the Bible—as we know it today—came to be.

In terms of the images, style, and layout of The Story of the Bible: it’s all I could’ve hoped for. There are illustrations on every page and pull-out pages that are full-color, life-size photocopies from various Bibles to show the reader the differences and similarities between the versions (and how the Bible has evolved over time). On the back of each pull-out page is information about the front, including the author (transcriptionist/scribe), the time period, and some background about how it came to be (and where it is now!, if it’s known). Though the text is less than 100 pages, it’s engaging, colorful, and big enough to be a coffee table book, if that’s so desired. Stone makes sure to cite his sources in footnotes; there is no works cited or bibliography at the end. The inside covers and first and last pages contain a timeline that covers 4000 years, from 2000 BCE to 2000 CE.

As for the text itself (aside from the pull-out pages and images)?… well, it left something to be desired. It’s written as a history—and it is one—but it’s a history written by a Christian for Christians. Stone follows a factual statement—”The Bible is the only ancient writing with existing manuscripts in the thousands” (pg. 14), though I would argue that most of those manuscripts are partial at best—with an opinion that sounds like a fact: “Of course, there are so many manuscripts because the Bible is not just another book. It is the Word of God to two of the world’s great faiths—Judaism and Christianity” (ibid). The author here is using a fallacious argument: argumentum ad populum, which says that if many people believe it is so, it is so. That is, the Bible must be the Word of God because so many manuscripts of it (so many scribes to transcribe it) exist. Yes, the Bible isn’t just another book, but that’s not necessarily because it’s the Word of God; it’s because so many people believe it is, which isn’t the same thing at all.

Anyway, if you decide to read this book, read with a critical, open mind. There’s a wealth of information in The Story of the Bible, but it’s couched in the assumption that we already believe the Bible itself to be holy. If that’s fine with you, more power to you. I wanted this text to be more… I don’t know… more academic, more secular, or something. It is possible to believe the Bible is a great book—a work of art, even—without believing its contents.

Many other reviews I’ve read of this book on Amazon.com mention that it’s a beautiful text—and I agree—but its flawed text makes it subtly insidious.

DISCLAIMER: I received The Story of the Bible free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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