A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible

ISBN : 9780190651732

Kristin Swenson
288 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Apr 2021
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  • Written for religious and non-religious readers alike
  • Offers a new way of looking at a very familiar text
  • Shows that it's virtually impossible to say "what the Bible says" about anything

The Bible, we are constantly reminded, is the best-selling book of all time. It is read with intense devotion by hundreds of millions of people, stands as authoritative for Judaism and Christianity, and informs and affects the politics and lives of the religious and non-religious around the world. But how well do we really know it? The Bible is so familiar, so ubiquitous that we have begun to take our knowledge of it for granted. The Bible many of us think we know is a pale imitation of the real thing.
In A Most Peculiar Book, Kristin Swenson addresses the dirty little secret of biblical studies — that the Bible is a weird book. It is full of surprises and contradictions, unexplained impossibilities, intriguing supernatural creatures, and heroes doing horrible deeds. It does not provide a simple worldview: what "the Bible says" on a given topic is multi-faceted, sometimes even contradictory. Yet, Swenson argues, we have a tendency to reduce the complexities of the Bible to aphorisms, bumper stickers, and slogans. Swenson helps readers look at the text with fresh eyes. A collection of ancient stories and poetry written by multiple authors, held together by the tenuous string of tradition, the Bible often undermines our modern assumptions. And is all the more marvelous and powerful for it.
Rather than dismiss the Bible as an outlandish or irrelevant relic of antiquity, Swenson leans into the messiness full-throttle. Making ample room for discomfort, wonder, and weirdness, A Most Peculiar Book guides readers through a Bible that will feel, to many, brand new.


Chapter 1 - A Problematic Book
Chapter 2 - God
Chapter 3 - Angels, Demons, and a Talking Ass
Chapter 4 - Good People Behaving Badly
Chapter 5 - Impossibilities, Normalized
Chapter 6 - Misconception, Misapprehensions
Chapter 7 - And General Befuddlements
Chapter 8 - Arguments Behind Closed Doors
Chapter 9 - Biblical (Im)morality
Chapter 10 - But in the Original...
Chapter 11 - The Perennial Bestseller
Chapter 12 - Ten Commandments for [Best Word Here] the Bible
In Conclusion, Sola Scriputra

About the author: 

Kristin Swenson is Associate Professor of Religious at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the author of Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time and Living through Pain: Psalms and the Search for Wholeness.

"Rigorous [and] stimulating... Both religious and secular readers will benefit from Swenson's illuminating analysis of the Bible's contradictions and oddities." " - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Do you think you know the Bible? Wait till you read Kristin Swenson's new book. What if you don't know the Bible at all? Even better. A Most Peculiar Book is a deeply informed, completely accessible, and endlessly fascinating explanation of what scholars know about the Bible and lay people, as a rule, do not. Read this book and prepare to learn!" - Bart D. Ehrman, author of Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife

"One can only truly love and respect the Bible if one is willing to embrace its complexities, problems, messiness, and just plain weirdness. Whether you are looking to deepen your relationship with sacred scripture or are coming to the Bible for the first time, Kristin Swenson will help you appreciate — even love — the Bible as it is." - Peter Enns, author of The Bible Tells Me So and How the Bible Actually Works

"A stimulating and challenging book, which questions all simplistic 'Bible-believing' theories about the authority of Scripture by showing how complex and contradictory it often is. Kristin Swenson tackles the problems head on while still making good her claim to love the Bible." - John Barton, author of A History of the Bible: The Story of the World's Most Influential Book

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