Hi! Sorry if you've already been asked that but I thought your post about Judas was SO INTERESTING and it's got me yearnin' to learnin' about nonfiction Bible/gnostic books? do u have any recs? Historical and crticial contexts of Biblical stuff is really interesting to me
WELCOME TO THE NICHE CORNER, MY FRIEND
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this is a topic of much interest to me, and I love to read about it! This is a list of books I’ve read and heartily recommend for anyone interested in the Bible or biblical history, context, and interpretation. It is by no means exhaustive - I tend towards common sense writing with a sociological or history lens when it comes to non fiction, and away from anything scathingly atheist or overtly preachy - but it’s more than enough to get you started.
- This may sound stupid, but you’d be surprised how many people who are interested in the bible haven’t read… the Bible. There are lots of reasons - people think it’s boring, people think it’s just for the religious, people have been scarred by Sunday school and/or scripture and/or those terrifying concerts your teachers made you endure with muppet like characters telling you the word of the lord was Totally Cool - but I’m here to tell you to think again, friends. The bible is a fascinatingly hot mess of a text that has influenced nearly every writer, politician, thinker, artist and layperson in the Western world and beyond for two thousand years. It is literally the basis of western civilization. The truth is, you probably have heard of or been influenced by stories and parables in the bible for your whole life - many people who read it as adults for the first time find themselves going, oh shit. That’s where that’s from, huh. The trick is in the telling - choose a bible that’s written in a style that’s not going to put you to sleep. I’m a fan of the King James version, because it’s the first one i read completely, but it’s flowery. The English Standard version is the most accessible, in my opinion (it’s what my new barbie bible is, lmao) - go down to your local bookstore and have a flick through whatever copies they’ve got. Another resource I love is biblehub - you can compare the way different versions have written verses + heaps of other tools.
- The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls are another primary source vital to the way we view the bible and the time of Christ in the modern era. This penguin version is the one I own and it’s both well translated and comprehensive.
- Judas: the troubling history of the renegade apostle - 12/10 HIGHLY RECOMMEND FOR ANYONE AND EVERYONE INTERESTED IN THIS TOPIC.
- Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth - there are a lot of biographical works about Jesus out there but this is the best one I’ve read. It’s all about examining context, baby - Judea in 4BC had no mass communication et al.
- If you can get your hands on it, Biblica: The Bible Atlas is an amazing text. It is enormous - like, enormous, here is my copy:
- that’s my tiger balm in the bottom left corner for reference. it’s A3 and at least 500 pages long but it has so much information, both written and visual, and it covers everything. If a place is mentioned in the Bible, it’s in this book.
- Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible & Why We Don’t Know About Them is a great book to get you thinking laterally about the bible - about how the writing can change the message, about how it’s basically been a crowdsourced text for as long as it’s existed, how early scribes changed meaning and shaped the way we talk about the book even now. There is no one right way to interpret the bible - there never has been.
- The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans and Heretics and The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus both tackle a topic that’s often overlooked: the inherent anti semitism in the passion story, and how that was specifically built upon in the creation of the early church.
- I’m currently reading A Brief History Of Christianity and it’s an overview of the spread of the Christian church after the passion to modernity. It’s nothing world shaking or revelatory, but it does a wonderful job of threading together events through history with the connective tissue of the Church, and shows how religion has impacted nearly every stage of the creation of the Western world.
- From Gabriel to Lucifer: A Cultural History of Angels - a fave. Takes a look at how angels are shown in the bible - terrifying, for the most part - and how that has been warped and transformed throughout history into the perception we hold of the host today.
- Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity - doesn’t that title just get you HYPE?
- After the Apple: Women in the Bible - I MEAN, DUHHHHHHH. A reexamination of nearly 20 biblical women and their stories. Essential.
- Out of the Garden: Women Writers on the Bible - THE FEMINIST TAKEOVER. COMIN FOR YOUR ESTHERS AND YOUR RUTHS
I’ve linked all the titles here to their goodreads pages for anyone interested, and I’ve collated them into a shelf on my own goodreads if you want to bookmark it for a later date.