The task of interpreting the Bible --which was written by and to people living in very different cultural contexts from contemporary Western society--can seem monumental. The opposite is also true: people can easily forget that studying the Bible is a type of cross-cultural encounter, instead reading their own cultural assumptions into biblical texts.
In A Cultural Handbook to the Bible John Pilch bridges this cultural divide by translating important social concepts and applying them to biblical texts. In short, accessible chapters Pilch discusses sixty-three topics related to the cosmos, the earth, persons, family, language, human consciousness, God and the spirit world, and entertainment. Pilch's fresh interpretations of the Bible challenge traditional views and explore topics often overlooked in commentaries. Each chapter concludes with a list of useful references from cultural anthropology or biblical studies, making this book an excellent resource for students of the Bible.
A Cultural Handbook to the Bible is a splendid resource for teachers (at any level), preachers, and general readers seeking to bridge the gaps (geographical, historical, social, cultural) separating us today from biblical times and everyday life in antiquity.
-John H. Elliott,
University of San Francisco
From beginning to end, John Pilch breaks the cultural world of the Bible wide open, enabling readers along the whole theological spectrum to be more considerate readers of texts that derive from a social system vastly different from our own. With this aid at their side, readers of the Bible will avoid common misinterpretations of biblical terms, symbols, behaviors, values, and more. This is a must-have resource for theologians, preachers, and students.
-Joan C. Campbell,
Atlantic School of Theology
John Pilch's expertise in Middle Eastern culture shines through in pointed scenarios concerning the cosmos, the earth, persons, family, language, human consciousness, God and the spirit world, and entertainment.
-Bruce J. Malina,
Pilch's Cultural Handbook to the Bible is so interesting that readers will find it hard to stop reading. Very accessible for a wide range of readers--college students, seminarians, theologians, laypersons...Materials from this book would give lots of fizz and snap to sermons.
-Jerome H. Neyrey,
University of Notre Dame
In a highly accessible style yet with deep and wide scholarship, John Pilch, an international authority on the biblical social world, leads us, like a trustworthy tour guide, through the highways and byways of the ancient world. Thanks to his work, the Bible becomes alive to us again as God's Word in human words. I most strongly recommend this handbook to both scholars and general readers.
-Peter C. Phan,
An award-winning predecessor volume by John Pilch (The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible) proved enormously useful for my undergraduate biblical-studies classroom. This new compilation of articles once again demonstrates Pilch's rich knowledge of biblical culture and provides the readers with many satisfying insights. A Cultural Handbook to the Bible will well serve students, clergy, and university-level teachers.
-Douglas E. Oakman,
Pacific Lutheran University
Once more Pilch has given us what we have come to expect from him--thorough knowledge from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures giving new and unexpected insights into the texts of the Bible. Short essays on a wide range of topics provide answers to the curious Bible reader, and bibliographies give students tools to pursue their own explorations into the fascinating world of the Bible. This is a book to enjoy and learn from!
University of Oslo
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