Bible Babel
Making Sense of the Most Talked-about Book of All Time


“Kristin Swenson’s Bible Babel is wide-ranging, objectively factual and written for the common reader. … Swenson’s book possesses a singularly breezy tone, a kind of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ approach to the sacred. … this is a solid, readable work that doesn’t shy away from the tough issues.”
Michael Dirda, Washington Post (read the full review here)

“Hats off to Kristin Swenson: She has done what I really thought was impossible… Ms. Swenson combines meticulous scholarship with an original eye and a sense of fun. She has succeeded in presenting the Bible anew in a highly accessible way for an audience that either knows nothing about it, or that has been jaded by generations of cliches piled upon the numinous biblical texts. It’s a most welcome achievement.”
Martin Sieff, Washington Times (read the full review here)

“Finally, a book on the Bible for the rest of us! In a world where almost all of our conversation about religion seems to spill out of ideologues on the far reaches of the secular left or the religious right, this broadside against our collective biblical illiteracy hits the sweetspot between blind belief and angry atheism. Who said a book on the Good Book can’t be brave, smart, and fun?”
Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t

“Swenson successfully shows why, in spite of all its difficulties, the Bible remains a thought-provoking and infinite source of inspiration and debate for all kinds of people.”
Publishers Weekly

“Kristin Swenson offers a confident, well-paced, well-informed, accessible walk through biblical literacy. The reader may expect some surprises, some confirmation of hunches, and some challenges—exactly what ought to arise from serious, sustained treatment.”
Walter Brueggemann, author of An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible

“Bible Babel is a breath of fresh air in the musty library of introductions to the Bible. Kristin Swenson’s writing is brisk and lively. She has an informed sense of everything relevant to the Bible, from source criticism to the archaeological record, as well as an apt perception of what goes on in the biblical texts themselves. Keenly aware of how the Bible gets into popular culture and is also often distorted by it, she is an engaging corrector of misconceptions and a helpful guide to the common reader.”
Robert Alter, author of The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary

“This book is more than a pleasure to read. It’s out and out delightful … I learned and laughed all the way through. Bible Babel is a suitable read for the well versed in theology, for the initiates, for the lay, for anyone-even those not interested in religious pursuits. There is history, humor, etymology of words and phrases, misunderstandings and clarifications, and precise story telling, all told within the context of conversational pop culture setting and language.”
Chris Querry, (read the full review here)

“… not only is knowledge of the Bible essential for understanding Western culture, it is also important to maintaining an informed electorate… Knowledge is power and, conversely, ignorance is weakness. This is why Kristen Swenson’s Bible Babel is so important. While many similar books offer an introduction to the Bible, they are often done in a dry and partisan style. By contrast, Bible Babel proceeds in a breezy, accessible style…”
Joseph Laycock, (read the full review here)

“This is a fun, scholarly, fascinating, readable, engaging book. It is especially an excellent place to start for people who don’t know much about the Bible, and especially people who feel a little guilty about that. The author teaches religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and she doesn’t hestitate to get into some controversial areas, such as why the Bible sometimes has been a source of anti-Judaism. That plus the evolution-creationism controversy could fill separate volumes, but this book at least introduces readers to ways of understanding these matters by understanding what the Bible is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t. Got a young adult who would do well to be, if not biblically literate, at least familiar with the major themes and their arc? Get this book for that person, but first read it yourself.”
Bill Tammeus,“Faith Matters” weblog 3-22-11

“I read a lot. I read for pleasure, to solve mysteries, to learn, to distract myself, and to be inspired. Bible Babel by Kristin Swenson is one book that is truly inspiring… Kristin writes is a way that pays respect to the depth and weight of the best Biblical scholarship, while bringing freshness and lightness to the subject. She is clear and comprehensive, and has a good ear for how Biblical language continues to shape our culture. It also may have the best humor of any book about the Bible that I have ever read.”
Greg Richardson, (March 31, 2011 read the full review here)

“The best book I have read on the subject of the development of the Bible is Kristin Swenson’s tour de force, Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time, published as a Harper Perennial paperback this year. Professor Swenson has pulled off the remarkable feat of combining academic rigour with lucid and accessible prose. It should be in every classroom and church hall in the land.”
Ron Ferguson for The Herald Scotland (May 9, 2011)