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A Cultural Handbook to the Bible
John J. Pilch
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POD; Published: 9/21/2012
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6720-9
Price: $ 28.50
319 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6 x 9
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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.

Read more about the book in a blog post by John J. Pilch on EerdWord.
"An insightful collection of articles that helps place the Bible in a historically accurate cultural context. . . . Pilch has a knack for making potentially dry material lively and interesting, using pop-culture references like Garrison Keillor and Hollywood musicals to illustrate a particular point in a relevant and entertaining way. While this is first and foremost a reference book for those seeking to broaden their understanding of the Bible using current knowledge of Middle Eastern cultures, it may prove to be a draw for history buffs as well."
John H. Elliott
— University of San Francisco
"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."
Joan C. Campbell
— Atlantic School of Theology
"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."
Bruce J. Malina
— Creighton University
"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."
Jerome H. Neyrey
— University of Notre Dame
"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."
Peter C. Phan
— Georgetown University
"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."
Douglas E. Oakman
— Pacific Lutheran University
"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 readers with many satisfying insights. A Cultural Handbook to the Bible will well serve students, clergy, and university-level teachers."
Halvor Moxnes
— University of Oslo
"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!"
Theological Book Review
"This useful handbook (by the author of a similar Cultural Dictionary of the Bible, 1999) is made up of 63 concise, thematic, entries, and is a constructive attempt to apply key concepts in social science and cultural theory to the terminology and the landscape of Christian and Jewish scriptures. . . . Represents a lucid Catholic engagement with selected topics, and whilst it is not exhaustive in its treatment, it offers students of the Bible an apposite entry-point."
"An important and accessible resource for scholars, pastors, and laity alike; it will be useful for all readers who wish to explore biblical categories in an ancient Near Eastern setting."
Review & Expositor
"The book is easy to read and very insightful concerning ancient Mediterranean culture. . . . Anyone with an interest in the biblical world will find A Cultural Handbook to the Bible a worthwhile read."
Reviews in Religion and Theology
"This fascinating book is an excellent introduction to all kinds of topics concerned with the ancient Middle Eastern culture of the Bible. . . . I would wholeheartedly recommend this work, written in a wonderfully free style. Read with discernment, disagree, discuss, but do not dismiss."
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
"Introduces general readers and undergraduate students to the fascinating world of biblical anthropology."
Review of Biblical Literature
"This book is one that could be used by students who are getting into the social and cultural world of the Bible. . . . It is a good book for preachers or Bible school lecturers who want to share the insights of social and cultural anthropology in a distilled and very accessible way to an audience. The book is also a good reference source for scholars."
Southwestern Journal of Theology
"An excellent collection of Pilch's insights into the biblical world."
Congregational Libraries Today
"A solid reference work. . . . Highly recommended for clergy, seminarians, and other students of the Bible."
Booklist (American Library Association)
"An insightful collection of articles that helps place the Bible in a historically accurate cultural context."
Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly
"Pilch is never dull, and the objective of this book is laudable. Its value lies in its raising questions that every interpreter of Scripture needs to ask."