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The Bible in the Early Church

PAPERBACK; Published: 3/8/2022
ISBN: 978-0-8028-8174-8
Price: $ 19.99
204 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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A concise history of the Bible: its creation, use, and interpretation.

What is the Bible? To answer this question we must understand the Bible’s origins in the early church. In this book, celebrated church historian Justo González introduces the reader to some important features of the earliest Bibles—for instance, the Bible’s original languages, its division into chapters and verses, and even its physical appearance in its first forms. González also explores the use of the Bible in the early church (such as in worship or in private reading) and the interpretation of the Bible throughout the ensuing centuries, giving readers a holistic sense of the Bible’s emergence as the keystone of Christian life, from its beginnings to present times.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Shape of the Bible
          1. The Languages and Contents of the First Christian Bibles
          2. The Shaping of the New Testament
          3. The Physical Appearance of Early Christian Bibles
          4. Chapters and Verses
          5. The Transmission of the Text Through the Centuries
          6. From Manuscripts to the Printed Bible
Part Two: The Use of the Bible
          7. The Reading and Use of the Bible in Worship
          8. The Use of Psalms
          9. Private Reading
          10. The Bible and Education
          11. The Bible and the Social Order
Part Three: The Interpretation of the Bible
          12. Models of Interpretation
          13. Crucial Texts: Creation
          14. Crucial Texts: The Exodus
          15. Crucial Texts: The Word
          16. Lessons from the Past and Promises for the Future
Cast of Characters
For Further Reading

“This is the best introduction to the Bible in the early church currently available. In clear and accessible prose, González surveys the Bible as a physical artifact, its uses in various settings, and the different ways it was interpreted by its earliest readers. The Bible in the Early Church is both conversational and dependable, hallmarks of González’s scholarship over the decades. The book is ideally suited for general readers and undergraduate classrooms.”
— Peter W. Martens
professor of early Christianity at Saint Louis University
“Finally. A book on the Bible in early Christianity that answers the important questions that everyone asks and does it in a way that everyone will want to read. This is González at his best. He cuts to the chase, anticipates our queries, leads us to the best of the primary sources, gives us enough, but not too much, and does it all in the genre of bedtime story.”
— D. Jeffrey Bingham
professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Reading The Bible in the Early Church is like being transported across time to experience Scripture the way the first believers would have encountered it. In this excellent, accessible book, Justo González allows us to see the Bible come together before our eyes from separate scrolls, to codices, to the printing press. But he doesn’t stop there; he immerses us in the world of early Christians to show us what their relationship with Scripture was like in everyday practice, worship, and interpretation. This book is a wonderful introductory resource that fosters gratitude for the generations that preserved and passed down the Bible to us.”
— Karen R. Keen
founder of the Redwood Center for Spiritual Care and Education, Garland, Texas
“Justo L. González has gifted us in The Bible in the Early Church with a very personal, clear, and erudite introduction to the writing, use, and transmission of the biblical text for the life of the church. He explains from a historical and faith framework the special place and function of the Bible in the worship, education, and social order of the church. He enlightens us also concerning models of interpretation used in the past to understand three crucial themes in Scripture: creation, the exodus, and the Word. Dr. González hopes that the lessons learned from this past may be transformed into new lessons for the future. This book should be a most welcome addition to introductory courses on the Bible in theological schools and universities as well as in parochial settings.”
— Alberto L. García
professor emeritus of theology at Concordia University Wisconsin
Publishers Weekly
“González wears his considerable erudition lightly and shares it with readers all along the way, diving into etymology (the Greek word for broken pottery gave English the word ostracism), the development of biblical verse numbering, and the differences between parchment and papyrus. The result is a short work ideally suited for classrooms, whether in congregations or seminaries, but equally suited to anyone interested in the development of the Bible within the context of Christianity’s earliest days.”
The Englewood Review of Books
“Gonzalez’s worthwhile work reminds us of the trustworthiness of our Bible’s text, and the goodness of the Bible’s ultimate Author.”
“This small book is a gift from a seasoned scholar that combines great learning, clear prose, and rare wisdom.”
Church Times
“The title of the book — The Bible in the Early Church — is too modest, as it sets out the tradition of the Bible in the life of the whole Church. Its style is clear and accessible. At the end, it helpfully adds a ‘cast of characters’, with summaries of the contributions of the great theologians of the Church.”
The Rt. Rev. Frank Logue in The Living Church
“Writing in the ninth decade of his life, the author sees scripture as his lifelong companion and tells of his one certainty that ‘generations pass, nations pass, ideologies pass, pandemics pass. . . but this Bible that has accompanied me from my childhood shall not pass.’ I enjoyed the autobiographical journey of an able scholar who maintains the delight of the boy who proudly carried his big Bible into worship.”
Review of Biblical Literature
“A helpful and accessible entry point to understanding the issues involved with the place and development of the Bible in the early church.”
Reviews in Religion & Theology
“Gonzalez has gifted undergraduates and early-years postgraduates with a digestible yet detailed introduction to the formation and use of Christian scripture in the earliest worshipping communities. . . . The reader would be pressed to find another readable introductory work with this level of erudition.”