The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne 2016), the latest book from Robert R. Cargill, Asst. Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, is now available at all major bookstores.
About the Book
For many, the names Bethlehem, Babylon, and Jerusalem are known as the setting for epic stories from the Bible featuring rustic mangers, soaring towers, and wooden crosses. What often gets missed is that these cities are far more than just the setting for the Bible and its characters—they were instrumental to the creation of the Bible as we know it today.
Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, is an archaeologist, Bible scholar, and host of numerous television documentaries, such as the History Channel series Bible Secrets Revealed. Taking us behind-the-scenes of the Bible, Cargill blends archaeology, biblical history, and personal journey as he explores these cities and their role in the creation of the Bible. He reveals surprising facts such as what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus and how Mary’s Virgin Birth caused problems for the early church. We’ll also see how the God of the Old Testament was influenced by other deities, that there were numerous non-biblical books written about Moses, Jacob, and Jesus in antiquity, and how far more books were left out of the Bible than were let in during the messy, political canonization process.
The Cities That Built the Bible is a magnificent tour through fourteen cities: the Phoenicia cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome. Along the way, Cargill includes photos of artifacts, dig sites, ruins, and relics, taking readers on a far-reaching journey from the Grotto of the Nativity to the battlegrounds of Megiddo, from the towering Acropolis of Athens to the caves in Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
An exciting adventure through time, The Cities That Built the Bible is a fresh, fascinating exploration that sheds new light on the Bible.
Praise for The Cities that Built the Bible
“Cities That Built the Bible is a surprisingly easy and compelling read. Using the lure of a guided tour of the ancient urban centers that influenced the evolution of the two testaments and apocrypha, Cargill captures the excitement of different times and places as he narrates the history of the major events and influences that derive from each location. The result is a highly accessible book that is chock full of facts and stories that underscore the Bible’s centrality as a foundational document. Relevant chapters are appropriate for undergraduate courses in Old and New Testament. For the interested layperson wanting a general, up-to-date introduction to biblical studies, this is the book to read on the plane or as Cargill says, “on the couch or on a sandy beach” with your “beverage of choice” close at hand. Enjoy as I did!”
– Eric M. Meyers, Ph.D., Bernice and Morton Lerner Emeritus Professor in Judaic Studies, Duke University
“Cities That Built the Bible is the most original and entertaining approach to telling the story of the Bible that I’ve seen. This is both a delight to read and reliable in its scholarship. Anyone who wants to know how recent archaeological discoveries how have revolutionized our understanding of the Bible should read this book.”
– William Schniedewind, Ph.D., Kershaw Professor of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies at UCLA and the author of five books including How the Bible Became a Book
“Cities that Built the Bible synthesizes the latest archaeological evidence with the best of biblical scholarship into one exciting book exploring the origins of the Bible. With heartfelt sincerity and timely humor, Cargill possesses the historical knowledge, command of biblical languages, and archaeological expertise necessary to successfully communicate the tale of the Bible’s beginnings with a passion that highlights his love for the biblical world.”
– Oded Lipschits, Ph.D., Prof. of Jewish History and Director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, Israel
“Professor Robert Cargill is among the world’s most capable and impressive biblical scholars and archaeologists. In addition, he is a public intellectual of the first rank, capable of distilling the complex arcana of scholarship into language that is accessible to a broader public. And The Cities that Built the Bible is without peer, as it guides the reader, in a reliable and readable manner, through the world of the Bible, focusing on some of the ancient cities that were indubitably the most formative for the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament, from Babylon, Nineveh, Alexandria, Athens, and Rome to the Levantine polities of Ugarit, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth. Scholars and enlightened laypeople will want to have this volume in their personal libraries.”
– Christopher Rollston, Ph.D., George Washington University, Dept. of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
“An engaging journey into the Bible and archaeology from a new perspective: instead of starting with kings, prophets, or texts, the author starts with ancient cities in which so much was born – all the while combined with a lively personal account that puts flesh and bones on the tale.”
– Richard Elliott Friedman, Th.D., Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and author of The Bible with Sources Revealed
“In an appealing narrative full of interesting discussions and asides, Cargill takes the reader on a journey over the lands and through the pages of the Bible. A must read for anyone wanting to learn more about the Old and New Testaments…and the cities that built them.”
– Eric H. Cline, Ph.D., Professor of Classics and Anthropology, George Washington University
“Catapults the reader from place to place in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, and along the journey, the Bible comes to life as a real and complicated mess of texts written by humans with a variety of agendas. Eminently readable. Totally down to earth. And very much fun.”
– Kara Cooney, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture, UCLA Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
“In The Cities that Built the Bible, Cargill looks not just at cities that are the focus within the Bible, but the cities that provided the context for the shaping of the Biblical texts themselves, developed the alphabet first used to write them, and witnessed their collection into the compilations we now have. Although the book is worth reading just for Cargill’s answer to the question ‘Where do Babylonians come from?’ alone, the whole thing is woven through from start to finish with insightful scholarship, humor, and the warmth of his own personal experience. Reading Cargill’s book is a chance to go on a tour from Italy all the way to Iraq with a guide who is both an expert in Biblical archaeology and a gifted teacher. On the journey, he will take you places you couldn’t otherwise go – under the ground, into a cistern, across a border, and into closely-guarded archives – to see things you’d never otherwise see, which in turn will allow you to see the Bible itself in new ways. Whatever your current knowledge of or interest in the Bible, Cargill’s book will both educate and entertain you.”
– James F. McGrath, Ph.D., Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University
“After three decades of books that discuss how the Bible came into being, we have something new! Rather than focusing on textual or compositional history, Cargill explains, interprets, and amplifies the social settings that gave rise to the sacred books of the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament. This book, written in an accessible and engaging style with lots of stories, is critical as a supplemental textbook for undergraduates and as background reading for all students of the Bible. Highly recommended.”
– Andrew G. Vaughn, Ph.D., Executive Director, American Schools of Oriental Research
“The Bible may be the most famous of cultural icons today, but in this book, Robert Cargill reminds us that it emerged from small, marginal communities caught up within a vast imperial landscape. Journeying around this landscape, Cargill is a lucid and expert tour-guide, taking us from city to city to explain how and why the Bible is an extraordinary product of its material and urban contexts. The people, places, and peculiarities of ancient West Asia come alive in this exhilarating tour of the biblical past.”
– Francesca Stavrakopoulou, D.Phil., Professor of Hebrew Bible & Ancient Religion, University of Exeter
“A riotous gazetteer, one filled with astute observations about the literal and figurative building materials that biblical authors mined from key cities of the ancient world. Readers will happily accompany their learned tour guide as they reconsider Near Eastern influence on the Bible and perceive its text from new perspectives.”
– David Vanderhooft, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Theology Dept., Boston College
“In a compelling narrative that sparkles with life, Robert Cargill takes his readers on a thrilling tour through the cities that built the Bible. The expert guide leaves his readers longing for more. A wonderful way to deepen your knowledge of the Biblical writings, their historical context and the ancient world.”
– Mark Goodacre, D.Phil., Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Dept. of Religious Studies, Duke University
“Cargill explores the urban settings that influenced and shaped some of the Bible’s most profound people and events. He uses archaeology, literature, and personal experience to help readers contextualize the biblical Mediterranean and gain a firm hold on the topography of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the spread of Christianity. By tying the literature to the geography, Cargill has provided a fascinating, dynamic map for readers to navigate with.”
– Sarah E. Bond, Ph.D., assistant professor of Classics, Department of Classics, University of Iowa
“Behind the pages of the book most revered by Jews and Christians, Cargill transports readers to these ancient locales, illuminating the municipal dynamics that shaped the Bible. Readers skeptical and pious will learn much here about the history and archaeology of the Bible.”
“I wish I read this book in seminary. Not only is this book chock full of information but information that I could have used years ago for my preaching and teaching.”
– William C. Mills, Ph.D., Eastern Orthodox priest and author, A 30 Day Retreat