My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a very short summation of the author’s more scholarly works on the bible. He writes about how controversial his thesis is although it seems pretty reasonable to me. I suppose if your view of the Bible’s creation is a set of individuals writing down their message from God, then this more historical approach would be disturbing if not blasphemy.
Barton argues that the development of the bible went through various stages. First they were written; then they were collected into a set of works. Then “such collections came to be read in special ways which do not apply to secular books – allegorically, for example, or aw universally relevant, or as full of hidden meaning.” [p 87] The final stage is “where some competent authority pronounces that the category of scriptural books is not full, and draws a line under the collection to turn it into The Holy Bible.” [p 87] This step is called canonization but “is less important than it sounds for either the Old or the New Testament.” [p 87] It is less important because in the life of the church some books are more important than others. For example “ecclesiastical committees still debate whether it is appropriate to read Revelation in church.” [p 85].
All in all this is a good book with some interesting insights into the Bible. I was surprised by the lack of drama.