I'd rename this book "Karen Armstrong Calls a Code on The Bible", as in calling a code in the hospital when someone has had a cardiac and/or respiratory arrest. By the end of Armstrong's book, the cardiac monitor hooked to the Christian Bible has a strong and steady beat.
I once took the time to read the Bible from cover to cover. Weary of being battered by Campus Crusaders (an oddly apt name), I went to the source (in English, I don't read Greek or Hebrew), and read every word, including the begats, including the many, many proscriptions for capital punishment, including the incredibly bloody and genocidal behavior of those who were supposed to be God's Chosen People, including funky dietary directions. My conclusion was that taking the Bible as the literal word of God can only be done by descending to a level of intellectual and emotional dishonesty that I could not personally access. If the Bible WAS the literal Logos (word of God), then, to paraphrase Ricky Ricardo talking to Lucy: God, you have some serious 'splainin' to do.
What then to do with this amazing collection of texts that has been somewhat haphazardly and arbitrarily lumped together and called The Bible? Answer: read Armstrong's remarkable, pithy, eye and mind opening book. The rich tradition of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) springs into a Joseph's Multi-Colored Coat dazzler: Violence, religious ecstasy, profound desire for knowledge of God, sex, political manipulation, ego, faith, hope, love, and raw lust for power swirl through this kaleidoscopic, richly layered, many textured book called The Bible.
By tracing the Abrahamic roots of biblical religions, tracking the gradual coalescence of religious writings that would eventually become the Bible, and giving a thorough AND thrilling history of the way Western faithful have reacted to Sacred Scripture, Armstrong made me, and might make you, want to again pick up a book that seems more often used for hitting people over their theological or political heads than inspiring compassion and cohesion. Armstrong's closing comments strongly belie the negative reviewer comments about her "attacking the Bible". Armstrong does nothing of the sort. She breathes life and hope into a book that has more often been used, of late, as a theological/political, anti-scientific football than a source of spiritual enrichment and growth. Read with a spirit of inquiry, Armstrong's The Bible, A Biography, is a resurrection, a healthy dose of CPR, for a Good Book that is dusty, unoriginal, dated, and often brutal when taken literally (except for the sexy parts, of which there are more than a few). Armstrong's book can't make The Bible into Chicken Soup for the Atheist, but it does make The Bible rich and enticing, even to those who are more concerned about freedom FROM religion than freedom OF Religion. Doubt me? Give it a whirl, we'll chat afterwards.