A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible (Hardcover)

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A Most Peculiar Book examines the Bible through a purely historical lens.  Why were certain things added or removed or even changed from their original source material?  How do other additional historical texts line up with the information in the Bible?  And how have differing translations of ancient languages affected our modern societal views?  Author Kristin Swenson, a Christian herself, blew my mind with this book, bringing to light the importance of looking at any religious text in a historical context rather than purely a religious one.  I am always highly recommending this book to anyone and everyone!

- Carissa

— From Staff Favorites Winter 2023


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.

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.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780190651732
ISBN-10: 0190651733
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication Date: February 1st, 2021
Pages: 288
Language: English