Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book: The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong

Let's start with the Introduction, which is, thus far, the only section where I *haven't* felt the urge to beat my head against the desk/treadmill/wall.

Righty-o. First off, this book is apparently a part of a series called 'Books That Changed the World', all written by different authors, who, one must assume, are 'experts' in the field they were asked to cover. Or something like that.

Ms. Armstrong starts her introduction out: 'Human beings are meaning-seeking creatures.' To which I reply: duh.

There's some rambling about how language is important to our quest for patterns and meaning in our lives. How we use language to cause changes outside of ourselves, to manipulate the world around us.

I do like this sentence: 'When a word is spoken, the ethereal is made flesh; speech requires incarnation - respiration, muscle control, tongue and teeth.'

Ramble about how believers feel some sort of 'presence' when reading their sacred texts.

And, then a short bit about how scripture is being abused. Muslims terrorists using the Qur'an to justify their actions. Christian fundamentalists trying to suppress the teaching of evolutionary theory because it doesn't match up with the story of creation in the Bible. Jews using oppressive policies against the Palestinians because God promised Canaan to Israel. Those are the examples she gives when speaking of scriptural abuse. I'm...pretty sure that all of these things are not equal in their level of destructiveness. While I would never want evolutionary theory to be suppressed based on a six thousand year old creation story, it's a *skoshe* less diabolical than the other two, yes?

Hmmm...I do agree with her point that the literal interpretation of the Bible is a very recent development, around the 19th Century.

She claims that from the beginning the Bible had no single message. Biblical authors felt free to revise the texts they had inherited from prior generations to give them meanings that applied to their current circumstances. 'The Bible 'proved' that is was holy because people continually discovered fresh ways to interpret it and found that this difficult, ancient set of documents cast light on situations that their authors could never have imagined. Revelation was an ongoing process; it had not been confined to a distant theophany on Mount Sinai; exegetes continued to make the Word of God audible in each generation.'

On a *completely* unrelated note, I *just now*, right this very second, figured out what 'whiskey, tango, foxtrot' stands for. Goes along with 'alpha, mike, foxtrot'. Ah, fandom, you expand my horizons...

ALSO having nothing to do with either above points: Mythbusters, how I love you! If for no other reason than your entirely too amusing quotes: 'Guns are a part of our standard stock and trade on this show, and I gotta say I have some reservations about that. Because. Well, they kill people, and that's to be avoided.' - Jamie Hineman Chances are I shouldn't find this as amusing as I do. And yet.


  1. You are so funny! I'm reading along this post about the Bible and then there goes Amber's mind. And her train of thought takes me somewhere totally different than Armstrong's thoughts about the Bible. Ha! Does she bore you that much? ;)

    Did you finish the other book you were posting on? I'll look forward to whatever other info you share.

    I like that quote about words, too!

  2. Wait, is Karen Armstrong's book supposed to be the book that changed the world? Or writing about books that changed the world, so it's referring to the Bible? ...It's not really better either way, actually. :D If it's the first...no. If it's the second, why??? Why would you write books about the important books? Just make a list and tell people to read the actual books!

    It is very weird that she gave such different-scaled examples for abuses of Scripture. And it's not like Christianity doesn't have its own violent examples that maybe would have been more appropriate there.

    I am confused by your first unrelated comment, but Jamie is always amusing. I like the annoyed-parent looks he gives Adam.

  3. Susanne,

    My mind is a random place, is it not?

    It's not so much that she bores me as she has failed to engage me in this book. And so...Oooohh shiney!

    What? Where was I? Oh, yeah.

    I did finish the other book. The problem is I read much faster than I have time to post, and with that book, it's so complex that to go back and post on the topics would necessitate me rereading the passages. And I'd already moved onto this book...and yeah. Um...chalk it up to laziness?

  4. Sanil,


    *Definitely* not Armstrong's book that is supposed to change the world. I can't say for the other books in the series, but Armstrong's is supposed to give the reader an understanding of how the Bible came to exist.

    I know. Her examples struck me as odd too. As a student of religious history, I'm really surprised she couldn't come up with a more equal example.

    Ah. 'Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.' It's the letters, ye ken? 'W.T.F.'

    And 'Alpha. Mike. Foxtrot.' is from the A-Team movie. 'Adios Mother F*cker' See?

    Even if Mythbusters wasn't awesome on a number of other levels, Jamie and Adam would make it awesome. Adam's so nuts!

  5. Oh!

    Like your humour though :D

  6. Ahh, I see. I got the WTF part but didn't know where the words were coming from and had no idea about AMF. :D Cool.

    I never liked the A-Team show, but my mom loves it and so is avoiding the movie because it's not what she's used to, just like with Star Trek, so I probably won't be seeing it at least till it's on video and one of my friends gets it or something. Good, though?

  7. Suroor,

    As long as I can amuse! :) My posts about the chapters are going to be more informative than this one though, I promise.

  8. Sanil,

    I wasn't sure which part you didn't get, so I covered both. :)

    Hmm...I enjoyed it greatly. I grew up with the A-Team show, and while it wasn't a fandom for me, I was amused by it. You could point out to your Mom that the Star Trek reboot came out very well. Anyway. It had all the same over the top ridiculousness of the show, plus Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley. *cough* Anyway. Even if you don't like the A-Team, I think it stands on its own as a fun action romp. Flying. Tank. I mean, really. :)

    It's too bad you don't live down here, I'd take you to the movie and watch it again. :)

  9. Heh, aw. That would be fun.

    My mom hated the Star Trek reboot. Weirdly, I loved it and I'm not a fan of the original series (or anything that came after it until the reboot. But I also know plenty of people who loved both. She's just weird. :D

  10. sanil,

    Yes, yes it would. Because I am an *awesome* movie buddy! :)

    Really? Well, there's no hope for your mom then. ;) I'm a Trekkie (though admittedly I didn't watch the original when it first came out, not being alive and all at that point), and I loved it. If it helps, you can tell her that the A-Team reboot was much more faithful to the original series than the Trek reboot.


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