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The Bible: A Very Short Introduction

Second Edition

John Riches

Publication Date - 03 January 2022

ISBN: 9780198863335

176 pages
6.9 x 4.4 inches

In Stock


Very Short Introductions: Brilliant, Sharp, Inspiring

The Bible is one of the world's most read and most influential books. It has provided many rules for people to live by, and has shaped our language and our shared beliefs in ways that have both drawn communities together and fueled bitter disputes and conflicts. Having played a major role in the development of Western culture, the Bible continues to exert an enormous influence over millions of lives.

This Very Short Introduction explores the material, cultural, and religious history of the Bible. Looking first at how the books of the Bible came to be written down and collected as authoritative sacred texts, John Riches goes on to show how they were produced and distributed across the world, and how they have been read and interpreted by differing communities in different languages. Riches compares how Jewish and Christian communities have interpreted the same passage of the Bible, and looks at some of the strikingly varied readings a very short book like Galatians has received over 2,000 years. Finally, he explores post-colonial and feminist readings of the Bible, and concludes by surveying the uses of the Bible in art, music, poetry, and politics.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

New to this Edition

  • New chapter about the reception history of the Galatians, showing how it shaped different forms of Christianity, East and West, how it influenced the development of Europe at the Reformation, and how it continues to influence debates around gender
  • New chapter outlining how bibles were produced, translated, and distributed around the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries


  • A truly global history of the Bible from a leading expert in the field
  • Looks at readings of the Bible from the world of theology, philosophy, music, the visual arts, and poetry, as well as post-colonial and feminist readings
  • Examines the diversity of the Bible, from its numerous translations and complex textual history to the ways it has been interpreted by different communities
  • Shows how the Bible has played a formative role in the development of human culture
  • Part of the Very Short Introductions series - over ten million copies sold worldwide

About the Author(s)

John Riches, Emeritus Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, University of Glasgow

John Riches was the Chaplain and Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he taught philosophy of religion from 1968 to 1972. He then taught the New Testament at Glasgow University from 1973 to 2002, with periods as a visiting lecturer in theological colleges in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Riches' major areas of study have been the Gospels and Paul, with a particular interest in the history of reception of the Bible.

Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. The Bible in the modern world: classic or sacred text?
    2. How the Biblical books were written
    3. The making of the Bible
    4. The translation, production and distribution of the Bible
    5. Jewish and Christian readings of the binding of Isaac
    6. Galatians through history
    7. The Bible and its critics
    8. The Bible in the post-colonial world
    9. The Bible in politics
    10. The Bible in high and popular culture
    11. Conclusion
    Further reading
    Index of biblical references
    General index