Jennifer Bird has written a very readable book which introduces the academic study of the Bible. It is called Permission Granted: Take the Bible into Your Own Hands (Westminster John Knox, 2015).
The book is aimed at people who might never have encountered biblical scholarship, but who are curious to learn something about it. And the style of writing very much has this audience in mind. Its range of topics is drawn from throughout the Christian Bible, such as the Creation stories, the various things which the Bible has to say about sex, the spectre of violence within the Bible, the virgin birth, the historical Jesus, and Paul. The topics are introduced and presented in a way that is non-confrontational, yet which does not shy away from the critical issues which scholars raise about them.
Bird’s aim is to get confessional readers of the Bible to read it with different questions in mind. This might even, she suggests, enhance their reading.
One of the examples she discusses is the narrative of David and Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17. Bird notes that there are two other narratives in the Bible which suggest, contrary to 1 Samuel 17, that somebody other than David was responsible for killing Goliath. David was later given credit for killing Goliath, explains Bird, in an attempt to bolster his reputation. Understanding what the story in 1 Samuel 17 is trying to accomplish should, she contends, deepen our appreciation of the Bible.
Should the fact that Goliath appears to be killed by other people, in other versions of the story, rock one’s faith? No, says Bird:
On the contrary, it can enrich one’s faith to read passages in the Bible in a way that respects the purposes for which they were written.
Check it out: Permission Granted website.