Christian Book Club: John Barton’s “A History of the Bible”

John Barton

The Book Club’s next selection will be John Barton’s The History of the Bible, pub. 2019. John Barton is the Emeritus Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oxford University, and is the author of some of the most respected and authoritative works on the Bible, including The Bible: The Basics (Routledge 2010) and The Nature of Biblical Criticism (Westminster John Knox 2007).

It was published in the Spring of 2019 in both England and the US. Both versions are available from Amazon, although the American one (Viking, June 4, 2019) is featured. Hardbound and Kindle versions are available; a paperback edition is expected in Spring, 2020. describes it as “A uniquely ambitious study of the Bible’s creation: how it came to be written, how its contents were selected – and how it really relates to the religions that endorse it.” Goodreads’ review continues:

The Bible is the central book in Western culture, yet extraordinarily there is no proper history of it. This exceptional work, by one of the world’s leading Biblical scholars, provides a full account of how the different parts of the Bible came to be written; how some writings which were regarded as holy became canonical and were included in the Bible, and others were not; what the relationship is of the different parts of the Bible to each other; and how, once it became a stable text, the Bible has been disseminated and interpreted around the world. It gives full weight to discussion of the importance of the Tanakh (Old Testament) in Judaism as in Christianity. It also demonstrates the degree to which, contrary to widespread belief, both Judaism and Christianity are not faiths drawn from the Bible texts but from other sources and traditions. It shows that if we are to regard the Bible as ‘authoritative’ it cannot be as believers have so often done in the past.

Here are some interesting reviews: Church Times (England), The Guardian, Newsday.
The Book Club’s discussions of this work will begin on January 8, 2020, and continue on Wednesdays at 9:00 am in The Manger.