The task of interpreting the Bible—a book 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 accessible chapters Pilch discusses 63 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.
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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, professor emeritus of New Testament, 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, professor of New Testament studies, Atlantic School of Theology
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, professor emeritus of New Testament studies, University of Notre Dame
John J. Pilch is visiting professor in the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and was adjunct professor of biblical literature at Georgetown University for 18 years.