The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible

by Robin Lane Fox

Hardcover, 1992



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Knopf (1992), 478 pages


An atheist presents his analysis of the Bible as truth and fiction.

User reviews

LibraryThing member John
I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf for some time (it was published in 1991); a note from my friend Aldo who had been reading in this area inspired me to pick it up, and I'm very glad that I did. Lane Fox is a noted historian (Aldo knew of his work on Alexander), and he brings that
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discipline to this exhaustive analysis of the Bible.

From a strictly historical point of view, the Bible does not fare particularly well: the nativity scene was a complete fabrication, Jesus was not born in Bethlehem, and the wise men were added later; there is scant historical evidence for many persons/events described in the Bible; the Gospels were written 300 years after the events they describe, and with one exception (John), were not based on primary sources, but represent more the work of compilers, editors, and justifiers; the production of the first English version of the King James Bible was based on a Greek text which has since been shown to be incorrect, and it was not the only text in existence; the history of the Bible is one of selections by writers/compilers that interpret/channel history in certain directions that could just as easily have gone off in other ones ("Even within individual books, what we now read in the Bible is the result of padding and reinterpretation."). In his search for an answer to the question, "What is truth" (the question Pilate put to Jesus), Lane Fox examines the Bible in terms of correspondence to the facts (known from other sources), and truth in coherence with a general system of beliefs. He examines the Bible in and of itself (and finds it almost hopelessly contradictory), and assess Biblical references against other sources whether written, historical, or archeological.

"So far we have followed the slow, incoherent growth of the scriptures and their tests; we have cut down to size the claims for the ‘text as we have it' or the biblical canon as keys to their meaning; we marked out the likeliest areas of primary information (the last half of 2 Samuel; the books of Kings; bits of Nehemiah; the fourth Gospel and the acts) and we have set samples from these parts and others against evidence outside them, in Gentile texts, below and above ground in the known course of the future. The results refute anyone who might wish to argue that long stretches of biblical narrative are true because they correspond in detail to the facts. Beyond a minimal framework, even the primary sources interpret and elaborate events in a fascinating range of ways. Elsewhere, biblical authors can be shown to have failed to describe what happened; they disagree between themselves; they address the future, but even with the help of friends and editors, their details are no more accurate than those of weather-forecaster who is not speaking the ‘word of the Lord'".

Fox Lane does, however, recognize the power and appeal of the Bible and its many stories..."...scripture also puts words to feeling; it offered hope and comfort; it seemed to make sense of life...". And he argues that the power of the Bible lies within its humanity rather than its divinity, humanity in the broadest sense, bad as well as good: "So far from being the word of God, the scriptures confront us as a mirror of fallen man". This, for Lane Fox, is the answer to the Pilate's question of what is truth. Fundamentalists would, of course, reject such a humanistic approach or interpretation of the Bible and scriptures, but to my mind this comes closer to an understanding of the wide-spread appeal that the Bible has, and the comfort that it does Bible provides to a lot of people. But to base all of one's actions and beliefs on scripture (written almost 2,000 years ago in completely different historical, social, and political circumstances and motivations) is nonsense. Fox Lane:

2 Timothy contains the text which fundamentalists have often idealized: ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for corrections' (2 Timothy 3:16). The translation is arguable, as is the text's authority. It is a pleasant measure of the complexities in the Bible's truth: the text which has been misused to support a literal view of the entire Bible's inspiration is itself the work of an author who had lied about his identity.
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LibraryThing member marfita
Fox doesn't believe in God, but he does believe in the Bible. Aw, let him try to explain it. I love books like these. I have several and they all are different. Fox's conclusions about which Gospel got things right it totally different from Bart Ehrman's, but they both agree that you might be able
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to glean some historical facts from the conflicting information provided.
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LibraryThing member AuntieClio
Robin Lane Fox writes in his preface, "It is unauthorized because it addresses question which the Bible itself obscures: Its authors, historical growth and historical truth."

This scholarly work delves into both Hebrew and Christian scriptures and pieces together the times, places, authors and ways
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in which the Bible was written. Well-researched and developed, Fox takes the reader through the dense forest of biblical research and explains how he has reached the conclusion that some books were not written by who readers often believe the author to be and why they were not written in a contemporary (to the event) time frame. It's fascinating, but be warned, Fox's writing is frequently dense and can, at times feel like a slog. Definitely worth the effort.
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LibraryThing member busterrll
When he disagrees with some other author, he just claims superiority. No reason given. Some good points of the relationship between archeology and bible history.
LibraryThing member wishanem
I'm interested in this subject, and there were lots of tidbits of information, but the author's presentation of it was almost unbearably dry and slow.


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478 p.; 9.5 inches


0394573986 / 9780394573984
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