Kristin Swenson, "A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible" (Oxford UP, 2021)

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The Bible is not only a book but also a collection of books. It has many authors but also at the same time many editors. It has not only been translated from one language to another but also translated with different doctrinal and methodological frameworks. It is not only a product of history but also a product of conglomeration of cultures, religions, beliefs, and practices. 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.

In A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible (Oxford UP, 2021), 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. Rather than dismiss the Bible as an outlandish or irrelevant relic of antiquity, Swenson leans into the messiness full-throttle.

Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India

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