Bible Babel for Lit Award — please vote!

Click here for quick and easy voting.* I’m honored that Bible Babel is in the company of excellent nonfiction books short-listed for the Library of Virginia’s 14th annual “People’s Choice” literary award. Thank you for following the link to cast your ballot. Please tell your friends and family, too!

Each year the Library of Virginia recognizes authors from the state for outstanding books published in the previous year at its annual autumn dinner event. It’s a delightful evening. Hosted by Adrianna Trigiani, attendees can count on loads of laughs as well as great food and stimulating conversation. 

Bible Babel Q&A

“It’s one thing to read the Bible, quite another to appreciate the historical context in which its various books were written, the different translations and versions that have emerged over the centuries and the indelible impact the book continues to have on our culture. With her new book ‘Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time,’ Kristin Swenson, a religious studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, seeks to raise our biblical literacy with an objective and humorous guide that will appeal to skeptics and true believers alike. Swenson discussed ‘Bible Babel’ in an email interview with Eileen Flynn.” Follow the link to read the brief Q & A at the Austin American Statesman

Bible Babel on a Sunday Afternoon

Had a great time at Chop Suey Tuey bookstore in Richmond’s Carytown yesterday for Bible Babel‘s paperback debut. In the midst of the excitement of VCU’s big basketball game (on to the Final Four! wow) and the ever-amazing French Film Festival at the historic Byrd Theater, just across the street from Chop Suey Tuey, we filled the room and sold out of books. Thanks, Andrew Blossom, for making it possible. Some wonderful questions, including the challenge of integrating learning and faith, mysteries of the KJV, and how people have responded to Bible Babel so far, and time for some brief catching up with friends new and long-standing afterward made it a delightful occasion. I’ve posted some clips on YouTube, if you’d like to hear some snippets.

The Whole “Blood Libel” Thing

That Sarah sure does have a way with words. Palin’s latest, not an “oops” moment but actually something she posted online, upped the righteous hackles of a lot of people and left others going, “huh?” So, what is it? In short: “blood libel” is an accusation originally and historically used as a means of inciting hatred against Jews. (Reminder: Palin has worked hard to be sure that no one doubts her evangelical Christian identity.) It has evolved to include anyone falsely accused, which is how Palin appears to have intended it when she claimed to be the victim of a blood libel following allegations that her rhetoric and politics contributed to Loughner’s twisted decision to shoot in Tucson.

Bible at the Movies… Again

Job and Proverbs. Texts from those (very different) biblical books launch the two movies that I’ve seen most recently — Secretariat and True Grit. Stories about determination and perseverance, success in the face of misfortune and seemingly impossibilities. But this wee post isn’t about the movies so much as to note how they begin — with biblical texts, both from the Old Testament, yet opposite in sense. The character Job in the Bible is described as a righteous man who nevertheless suffers tremendously. He challenges the accepted theology that he must have done something to deserve this corrective punishment from God. (We readers know that he has do nothing wrong.) The whole book questions this situation of undeserved suffering and God’s role in it. When God finally answers, it’s not an answer per se (though some find an answer in it). Rather, God goes on and on about the intricacies of the natural world. It’s a strange response with some intriguing implications, which I explore a bit in Bible Babel. And it’s frankly quite beautiful. The poetry is exquisite and the images evocative. Among them, praise for the graceful, strong, and swift horse. So that’s how Secretariat begins. True Grit begins with a pithy saying from Proverbs, a book full of pithy sayings. What those proverbial sayings have in common is a solid sensibleness — that everything follows as it should. So, live responsibly, work hard, be decent, and you’ll enjoy good reputation, health, and material success. Quite the opposite of Job. But “the wicked flee when none pursueth” is a fitting beginning to the story that True Grit tells. (Interesting: a Coen brothers film; the Coens also made A Serious Man, based on the book of Job.)  It also lends the whole a kind of biblical righteousness patina… and so invites faith-based interpretations and contemplation such as and but doesn’t require Bible-based religious faith to appreciate. And I’ve been thinking: how about a True Grits restaurant? Love the grit(s).

The Writing’s on the Wall

Ah, the power of the written word. Did you know that this phrase comes from the Bible? This phrase, which we use to tell that something’s sure to happen, comes from Daniel, one of the latest books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Today’s quote of the day puts a new spin on it. Here’s an excerpt from Bible Babel that explains the phrase’s biblical roots:

Chris Querry’s Bible Babel Review at

I don’t know Chris Querry, but I’d sure like to meet him. I’m delighted to read that (despite his academic training?), he appreciated Bible Babel as a book appropriate for lay and religious audiences, teachers and students, alike. Anyway, Chris, wherever and whoever you are, thanks for the great review! For the rest of you, do check out for a fresh look at new books… or to do a bit of online gambling,… in German, if you like. Really.

Dead Sea Scrolls today!

And tomorrow, a TV interview for KARE-11… all in Minneapolis. I’m visiting MN during one of the year’s most beautiful times in the “land of 10,000 lakes.” Believe it or not, this place — so far from the desert wilderness of Israel is hosting an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This afternoon, my whole Minnesota family will check it out. My St. Paul sister Deb, who lined up tickets to the show, asked if I’d seen them before. “Yes,” I said, “but years ago.” “Well, they’re older now!” she quipped. My Minneapolis sister Linnea brought Bible Babel to the attention of the museum, which has been selling copies to supplement the exhibit. How different today’s modern books are from those ancient scrolls, dating to a few centuries straddling the year zero. Enormously important for our understanding of the Bible’s development, mysteries remain. One, who wrote the scrolls? has been the subject of considerable debate among Bible scholars and archaeologists. The collection of discovered fragments includes texts identical to what’s in the Bible, others show variations in what became biblical, some share ideas and imagery with biblical texts but are not otherwise “biblical,” and still other scrolls have in common with biblical texts only the Judaism(s) of the communities that passed such texts along. Most people have assumed that the texts were written (and hidden) by a break-away, ascetic sect of Jews called the Essenes. But recent evidence suggests that they may actually represent the collections of a number of Jewish groups, some of whom fled Jerusalem when the Romans attacked in 70 C.E. (A.D.) and deposited their precious scrolls in the dry caves around the Dead Sea.  But time to go!

Enjoyed a fun conversation about Bible Babel with radio host Faith Ranoli yesterday. Listen live in a week or so.

We talked for about an hour about all things Bible — where it came from, what’s the best translation, how people use the Bible to argue different sides of the same issue, why the Bible says people lived for centuries, and what’s with all those names for God. I’m afraid I rambled an awful lot but it sure was fun.

Bible Babel Goes to the Windy City

Great day in Chicago, starting at 0’awfully-early with a TV interview at ABC-7. Nice folks there, a fun chat about “Lost,” among other things, then hello black coffee! Took the metro ez-pz up to Lincoln Square where I stopped in at the Book Cellar. That is one very cool indie bookstore! Back to the hotel to drop off… er… the shoes I bought. And not just one pair. But never mind that. Back to work: cab through a sudden rain that ended just as soon. Caught the commuter train down to Hyde Park, home of the brick and ivy University of Chicago. And home to co-op bookstores. The rain had quit, sun was out, so I donned my hat and set out. Visited with Javier, a manager at the 57th Street Books and then found my way into the caverns of its partner store — the Seminary Bookstore on campus. Both of them are funky yet cozy, with amazing inventory (including Bible Babel – yay!). Awesome that they’re essentially owned by the customers.