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How the Bible Became a Book
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  • Page extent: 272 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.57 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 220.1
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: BS445 .S315 2004
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Bible--History

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521829465 | ISBN-10: 0521829461)

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$51.95 (G)

How the Bible Became a Book combines recent archaeological discoveries in the Middle East with insights culled from the history of writing to address how the Bible was written and evolved into sacred Scripture. Written for general readers as well as scholars, the book provides rich insight into how these texts came to possess the authority of Scripture and explores why Ancient Israel, an oral culture, began to write literature. It describes an emerging literate society in ancient Israel that challenges the assertion that literacy first arose in Greece during the fifth century BCE. Hb ISBN (2004) 0-521-82946-1


1. How the Bible became a book; 2. The numinous power of writing; 3. Writing and the state; 4. Writing in the early Israelite State; 5. Hezekiah and the spread of writing; 6. Josiah and the text revolution; 7. How the Torah became a text; 8. Writing in exile; 9. Scripture in the shadow of the temple; 10. Epilogue; 11. Further reading.


"...provides an excellent example of how a historian acts as a detective... Daniel J. Harrington, America: The National Catholic Weekly

"Exploring the evolution of literature in society and its secular as well as religious ramifications, How the Bible Became a Book is a welcome addition to Biblical studies shelves, as readable and articulate as it is scholarly." The Midwest Book Review

"A fascinating read for lay or scholarly readers, it illuminates why these texts have authority as Scripture. History buffs will enjoy learning why Ancient Israel, an oral culture, began to write literature." Horizons

"...a richly textured and revolutionary book..." Publishers Weekly

"In this extremely well written book, William Schniedewind tackles what has emerged as the most important question in biblical studies of our time - the issue of when the ancient Israelite accounts and traditions were put in writing. In what is probably the most thorough discussion of the shift from oral tradition to literacy and textuality in Ancient Israel, Schniedewind engages the broader cultural and historical questions of the circumstances under which the Bible was written. . . . Sophisticated and broad in its scope and yet easy to follow, this book will certainly become a cornerstone in biblical studies and in the search for the historical Ancient Israel: a real intellectual delight." Israel Finkelstein, co-author of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts

"For general readers interested in ancient history and religion, for Jews and Christians who study the Bible and its backgrounds, and for scholars who study the relationship between orality and literacy, this book will be both tremendously helpful and very enjoyable.... it has the potential to reshape the study of the Hebrew Bible for years to come." Benjamin D. Sommer, author of A Prophet Reads Scripture

"In this and previous publications [Schniedewind] demonstrates a thorough grasp of the archaeology of ancient Israel, the history of the Hebrew language, and the development of biblical historical literature. Here he synthesizes the research of many others to develop a comprehensive story of the writing of the Old Testament. The result is a grand narrative of the development of scripture in Israel." The Christian Century

"This is a well researched and written book." - Bible Today Diane Bergant

"This book adds a new angle to the discussion of the origins of the Bible." An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies Ely Levine, Harvard University

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