Last Christmas, one of my sisters gave me an autographed copy of Kristin Swinson‘s latest book, Bible Babel, Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time. Professor Swinson’s goal is to make some sense of what the Bible says, and what people say about it. That’s an almost impossible task, but the author makes a good effort, and the result is a highly readable book with a really interesting cover. One of my favorite passages is in the introduction:
“…many think that the Adam and Eve story in Genesis equates its talking snake with Satan, that the fateful fruit was specifically an apple, and that to this day men have one less rib than women. None of these are true…”
Some books are to be read at a fast pace, such as the latest thriller on someone’s best seller list, but others are worthy of more thought, and Bible Babel falls into that category. With a blend of pop culture usage (think DaVinci Code in the movies), and common concepts and misconceptions used as a springboard for topics, the author attempts to blend history, linguistics, scholarly research, and the good book itself to explain what it says, and why everyone seems to think it says something else. The table of contents reflects the varied topics she addresses, including “As It Is Written” History and the Bible….” and “Quotes and Misquotes….” and even “Flora, Fauna, Etcetera….”
As one of the best selling books of all time, and one of the least read, the Bible is constantly alluded to, but many of those who say, “it says in the Bible ________” could not give a book, chapter, and verse for the rest of the sentence. That’s because their “reading” isn’t reading at all, but they have heard something, somewhere, which was purported to have come from the Bible. Those readers who believe, for instance, that the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves” are not Bible readers, but are instead, have been educated by proxy. Bible Babel is written for such readers, as an introduction to what the Bible does say, and in what context. Those who have read and studied the Bible may be bored with passages which explain that the Jewish Bible is the basis for the Christian Bible, or that Paul is the author of much of the New Testament. And those Christians who believe that Jesus spoke in Elizabethan English, as recorded in the King James Version, will be a bit disappointed as well.
But, for those who are religious, the author is quite respectful. For those who are skeptical, there is plenty of fuel for their skepticism. While I fall into the former category, my brain is still working, so I enjoyed both aspects of this book. If you have ever wondered why the scripture seems to be in conflict with itself, at least some of the time, or if you simply want to know more about one of the foundations of western world literature, then do read Bible Babel. Just carve out some time, because, like its subject matter, it is worthy of more than a casual reading.