Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Bible in one handy volume--slick, superficial, and unreliable. Translator Howson has improved on the German original by curbing some of Barthel's excesses and Anglicizing the references, but this pop commentary remains strictly for devotees of jazzed-up, newsweekly scholarship. (""The majority of the sayings in the Book of Proverbs are prosaic examples of what in a less venerable context would be called the conventional wisdom, on a level somewhere between Poor Richard and Dear Abby."") Barthel's basic method is to serve a smorgasbord of informational tidbits: Julius Wellhausen's ""showpiece of philological detective work"" (which Barthel misdates), Leonard Woolley's studies of the Flood, the possible connection between manna and Hammada salicornica, the latest astronomic speculations on the Star of Bethlehem, and so forth. When he's not simply retelling various biblical stories or summarizing entire books, Barthel is chasing after red herrings: Egyptian dietary practices or the casting technique used for the ""sea of brass"" in Solomon's temple. Of religion, philosophy, literature, or any serious subject he says as little as possible. But worse than any of this are the errors and inaccuracies that litter the text. ""The great theme of the prophetic books is the coming of the Messiah."" Pentateuch means ""divided into five parts."" Ahasuerus ordered Vashti to appear naked before the people. Paul may have been a ""pioneering champion of women's rights."" Nonsense--but not untypical moments from this foolish performance.