A Plethora of Bibles
Lori Anne Ferrell. The Bible and the People. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. 320 pp.
This book is a wide-ranging account of the history of the Bible. It is, to be more precise, a partial history: it focuses particularly on the Latin manuscript text from about the year 1000, with highlights from the 11th century to the printed Bibles of the English Reformation, and does its most interesting work from thence to the present in America. Ferrell describes herself as having taught at a liberal seminary for 16 years; currently she is a professor of early modern history and literature at the Claremont Graduate University, from which she acted as a guest curator for the exhibition on the Christian Bible held at the Huntingdon Library in 2004. This volume is a fruit of that endeavor, and one suspects that the book's rather breezy, even colloquial style (unusual in a university press monograph) as well as its popularizing inclusions (and omissions) owe to its being geared for a general secular audience.
Ferrell makes her non-faith-related purpose clear in her introduction: "What I will not do is attempt the impossible task of explaining divine inspiration, nor will I presume to justify Christian practice and belief." She has been successful in this regard; in many asides and remarks she indicates, for example, her distaste for Roman Catholic views of the Bible in the Middle Ages and evangelical views of the Bible after the 17th century.
From the point of view of a confessional Christian reader, the first two chapters, on the medieval period, are both interesting and frustratingly incomplete. For example, she seems to criticize medieval Bible manuscripts for their lack of user-friendliness, noting that "individual verses were not ...