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The Bible: A Biography: Books That Changed the World | [Karen Armstrong]

The Bible: A Biography: Books That Changed the World

As the work at the heart of Christianity, the Bible is the spiritual guide for one out of every three people in the world. It is also the world's most widely distributed book, having been translated into over 2,000 languages, as well as the world's best-selling book, year after year. But the Bible is a complex work with a complicated and obscure history.
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Publisher's Summary

As the work at the heart of Christianity, the Bible is the spiritual guide for one out of every three people in the world. It is also the world's most widely distributed book, having been translated into over 2,000 languages, as well as the world's best-selling book, year after year. But the Bible is a complex work with a complicated and obscure history. Made up of 66 "books" written by various authors and divided into two testaments, its contents have changed over the centuries. The Bible has been transformed by translation and, through interpretation, has developed manifold meanings to various religions, denominations, and sects.

In this seminal account, acclaimed historian Karen Armstrong discusses the conception, gestation, and life of history's most powerful book. Armstrong analyzes the social and political situation in which oral history turned into written scripture, how this all-pervasive scripture was collected into one work, and how it became accepted as Christianity's sacred text. She explores how scripture came to be read for information and how, in the 19th century, historical criticism of the Bible caused greater fear than Darwinism.

The Bible: A Biography is a brilliant, captivating book, crucial in an age of declining faith and rising fundamentalism.

Listen to more Books That Changed the World.

©2007 Karen Armstrong; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Who better [than Armstrong] to recount the history of the Bible?...Intriguing." (Publishers Weekly)
"Groundbreaking....Armstrong shows a depth of insight and transparent understanding of complex theological issues....[She is] simply one of the best writers ever on religion." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (90 )
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4.2 (26 )
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  •  
    Gary Decatur, TX, USA 06-30-09
    Gary Decatur, TX, USA 06-30-09
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    "Great Listen"

    This book was very thought provoking, but you should already know something about Bible history to get the most out of this listen, it is not an entry level book.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leo woodbine, MD, USA 02-20-09
    Leo woodbine, MD, USA 02-20-09 Member Since 2006
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    "A very important contribution to history"

    I realize some who have never read anything about the historicity of the Bible may hear some words they have never encountered before. That said if you have read Armstrong before or historical discussions on the Bible this book was not difficult to follow.

    The most important aspect of this book is in reality the comprehensive linear layout which is without doubt a very important historical contribution from Armstrong. I have not found a single source text that lays out the evolution of the various contents of the spiritual documents for the Hebrews and the Christians from antiquity to today. Most history type books such as the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary present slices of the Bible but even that set of book doesn't take a reader all the way through the Bible to illuminate how it came together presented side by side by with the major historical factors.

    Further the book is so very compact and therefore can be reviewed quickly and so enables the reader to see the trajectory for the evolving spiritual thinking. This vista which Armstrong reveals to us the laymen reader is virtually unparalleled in the history of those that have written these histories in the past. Personally I wish it had been longer so that even more details could have been exposed.

    Finally I must confess that I am an Armstrong Fan to the core and therefore I admit I have some bias in what I read/listen to from this very insightful writer and researcher.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Union, Ontario, Canada 03-23-10
    James Union, Ontario, Canada 03-23-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Do you wish your computer could read you a book"

    Written by Karen Armstrong. Narrated by a robot.

    I found this books good points came in how it covered the evolving context of religious beliefs to changes in relation to history and textual criticism. The author also draws connection to the controversies between scholarship and biblical literalists and different sects themselves.

    You'll like the book. That is if you can handle hours of monotone speaking.

    PS Although it doesnt come in audio form James Kugel, in my opinion, is still the best on covering, in well annotated detail, the old vs new understandings of the bible in his book "how to read the bible"

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dan Alhambra, CA, United States 04-15-14
    Dan Alhambra, CA, United States 04-15-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Expanded my perspective and compassion"
    Any additional comments?

    Having grown up in a secular household which merely went through the motions of Christian holidays, I have only exposed myself to the Bible in small ways over the years, reading passages here and there and treating it like any other sacred text - a book that has more significance for other people than myself.

    I assumed that the Bible had a rich and complex history, but I was not prepared for what I read in this book, and I emerged from it with a new perspective, and perhaps most importantly, a new found compassion and respect for Christianity.

    Modern Christianity's focus on the literal interpretation of the Bible as a historical, factual document has always been one of my main reasons for avoiding that faith and its most ardent followers.

    I did not know that the literal interpretation was a relatively recent phenomenon, and read with great interest the passages about mystical and allegorical traditions and how they changed over time. I have found inspiration in Bible stories - as allegories - over the years, and was pleased to read that some still consider the text useful to that end.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vincent Breda, Netherlands 11-19-13
    Vincent Breda, Netherlands 11-19-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Is Josephine Bailey a computer?"
    Any additional comments?

    Perhaps an interesting book, but the narration was awful. I find it hard to believe it was not computer generated.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mariana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 07-31-12
    Mariana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 07-31-12
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    "Very interesting history"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Bible to be better than the print version?

    No


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    I don't think this book would make a movie.


    Any additional comments?

    The audio was very good. The book has many details that I think would be worth reading, but I learned a lot from this oral presentation. I think Karen Armstrong is a great historian, a great writer and great thinker. I've read some of her books and I think they open many doors to important knowledge that all human beings should have in order to have a better understanding of the meaning of religion and God that we are in urgency to posses to reevaluate our realtionship as human beings. I very much recomend this and all of Armstrong's books.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Max Ontario, Canada 05-25-08
    Max Ontario, Canada 05-25-08 Member Since 2006

    Max

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    "Stay clear...unless you are a biblical scholar"

    I was interested in this book because I wanted to learn more about how the Bible came to be. Since the subtitle pens it is a 'biography', I thought (silly me) that it would be an engaging account of the history of the book. Instead, this was a dry, almost clinical, account of the minutia of ancient Biblical history. The author, Karen Armstrong, seems to take delight in throwing verbose grammar at the reader, to the point that it obscures the message. If I wasn't driving while listening to this book I would want a dictionary to go along with it. The narrator does not help things, as she reads this book like a scientific research paper: dry--no, make that arid. I would only recommend this book if you are already a Biblical scholar; Armstrong goes into such rapid fire detail about such a vast expanse of history that it is impossible to follow the thread of the book unless you have a good grounding in the subject matter already. There must be a better, more engaging narrative out there on how the Bible came to be.

    16 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Rancho Santa Fe, CA, United States 08-04-10
    Matt Rancho Santa Fe, CA, United States 08-04-10 Member Since 2006
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    "too much echo!"

    WARNING - A slap back echo effect has been added to the readers voice. It's a pity because it's very distracting and ruins an already weak delivery.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry Canon City, CO, USA 08-21-09
    Terry Canon City, CO, USA 08-21-09
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    "Poor Adaptation - Not "Down to Earth""

    I found the narrator to be extremely hard to understand and that she read the book way too fast. and even when I did understand her, the language used in the book was not language used by everyday readers. I got the impression that the author was more interested in showing off her language skills than trying to write a book that could be understood by us common folk.

    4 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results
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  • Maolsheachlann
    DublinIreland
    12/11/08
    Overall
    "Are the Ten Commandments Written in Stone?"

    A better title for this book might have been \"Reading the Bible: A History\". Karen Armstrong spends comparatively little time discussing the Holy Book itself. And, to be fair, nobody will have any difficulty finding other books that do that. The real subject of Armstrong's is hermeneutics, the methods by which people have interpreted the Bible through the millennia. This book is a call for tolerance and open-mindedness in interpreting the Bible. Fundamentalism and Bible literalism, it explains, are very recent phenomena, ironically tied to the rise of science and rationalism. Previous generations have had no problem reading Scripture allegorically where they found the surface meaning to be incoherent or morally objectionable. I was surprised to learn that Augustine, so often portrayed as austere and fanatical, proclaimed that no Bible interpretation could be true if it violated the principle of charity or caused division between Christians.

    A possible objection to Armstrong's approach is that it makes the Bible nothing but a cipher. If we are to interpret it according to some prior ethical system, why should we bother with Scripture at all? Is it simply a mirror for the philosophy of each era, a prism for our own personalities? But this need not be the case. Throughout the book, Armstrong shows how both Jews and Christians have often viewed the Bible (to use a modern term) as an \"interactive\" text. They have used it, not as a blueprint for living, but a living thing itself. Medieval monks were told to study the text until they felt an inward revelation, a mystical response. The rabbis who wrote the Mishnah (a commentary on the Old Testament or Torah) believed that the Bible's capacity to generate new meanings was infinite. Perhaps a less dogmatic to the Bible shows, not that we do not take it seriously, but that we take it very seriously indeed; that we have faith in its ever-fresh wisdom. This is a book well worth reading.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Farnham, United Kingdom
    3/4/10
    Overall
    "Interesting book, spoiled by robotic narration"

    I found the content of this book interesting, particularly discovering that over-literal interpretations of the Bible (inc' the creation stories) are a relatively recent development.

    However, my enjoyment of the book was significantly spoilt by the appallingly robotic narration and strange, sometimes misleading, voice inflections. This made listening hard work. Consequently I've dropped at least one star from the rating I would otherwise have given.

    Was the narration computer-synthesised from samples of Josephine Bailey's voice rather than the book being read normally? If so, I hope this isn't a general trend for Audible. (That said, I guess if it means we get access to certain books that would otherwise be unfeasible produce in audio form there's some benefit, but it's put me off a somewhat.)

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Anne
    Stafford, United Kingdom
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "Best Biblical Historian"

    The book does is not a history of the Bible more of how the interpretation has developed .



    The message preached is one of tolerance in an age of rising secularism and fundamentalism . Armstrong's words will resonate with those with an open mind . The narration is however very stilted .

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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