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The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2nd Edition
Author: Bart D. Ehrman (Author)
In The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction, Second Edition, renowned biblical scholar and New York Times Best-selling author Bart D. Ehrman provides an exceptionally engaging survey of the Bible. Comprehensive yet succinct, current in scholarship, rich in pedagogical tools, and easily accessible to students of all backgrounds, this is an ideal textbook for one-semester courses on the Bible. Ehrman covers every book in the canon, including the Apocrypha, explaining the historical and literary problems posed by the biblical texts and showing students how to analyze scholarly evidence and conclusions.
Surely the single most difficult course to teach in the curriculum of biblical studies is the one semester Introduction to the Bible that covers the entire corpus, from Genesis to Revelation. In some ways, it is an impossible task. There is so much to consider—the content of all (or most of?) the books, the scholarship on them, and the evidence that makes the scholarship necessary and its conclusions sensible. But the course can also be exciting, stimulating, and extraordinarily important. For many undergraduate students, it is their one chance to learn about the Bible in an institution of higher learning and to see what scholars are saying about it. In many instances, these students will have heard about the Bible, and possibly even participated in studies of the Bible, in faith contexts; rarely will any of these students have seen how the Bible is more typically approached in academic contexts. In many other instances, students will be completely unfamiliar with the Bible, its stories, its themes, its teachings. In some instances, the one-semester Introduction to the Bible will be a gateway to more in-depth, upper-level courses; but often the course will be the one opportunity the student has to learn biblical studies in a formal academic setting. Having a textbook that presents the Bible and biblical scholarship in a way that is not only adequate but also interesting and compelling is obviously a sine qua non for such a course.
I took on the task of writing this textbook with fear and trembling, but it proved to be an unusually exhilarating experience. By far the most difficult task—once I decided on my historical and literary approach—was knowing what to leave out. A book that competently covers the field at the very beginning level would probably be 1,500 pages.
That’s obviously not possible. But a more succinct treatment has an obvious downside: given the constraints of time and space, one has to make decisions; and to some extent, an instructor’s choice of which textbook to use hinges on a basic compatibility with the decisions of the book’s author.
I hope I have made mine well; I have certainly made them deliberately and conscientiously. I think there are several major desiderata for introductory-level textbooks (although it is surprising how few textbooks pass muster on even the majority of these). They should • be well written and engaging for the undergraduate student, rather than dry and boring.
• be highly informative in a lively way.
• provide coverage of all the truly major issues of both content and scholarship without getting bogged down in less than truly major ones.
• engage the mind of the student and allow the student to see the force of the arguments that have led scholarship to the various conclusions that it has reached rather than simply present what scholars say as established fact.
• not be idiosyncratic in their views but represent the best of consensus scholarship. In the field of biblical studies, a textbook should
• encourage students to read the Bible itself and yet provide adequate overviews of the most important matters raised in that reading.
• not assume that students already have a fair grasp, let alone mastery, of the primary materials.
• stress both the historical and literary nature of the material (especially because many students will have only approached these texts from a devotional/confessional/theological point of view previously, if they have approached them at all).
• represent the current state of biblical scholarship without burdening students with information (which they will find to be of very little use indeed) concerning which scholar says what about this, that, or the other thing, except where a truly exceptional contribution has been made by a scholar in a field with which he or she is particularly associated (think Wellhausen). Above all, a textbook should be engaging, informative, accurate, clear, and interesting. I hope mine approaches these ideals; whether it does or not, I have written it with them in mind.