Two for Tuesday – The Book of Common Prayer and The Book of Job

The Lives of Great Religious Books is a series offering fascinating histories of important religious texts from around the world.  These short volumes are written for general readers and examine the historical origins of texts from the great religious traditions, and trace how their reception, interpretation, and influence have changed–often radically–over time. For “Two for Tuesday” we highlight two new books published in the series and invite you to read their introductions online.

commonThe Book of Common Prayer: A Biography
by Alan Jacobs

While many of us are familiar with such famous words as, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here. . .” or “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” we may not know that they originated with The Book of Common Prayer, which first appeared in 1549. Like the words of the King James Bible and Shakespeare, the language of this prayer book has saturated English culture and letters. Here Alan Jacobs tells its story. Jacobs shows how The Book of Common Prayer–from its beginnings as a means of social and political control in the England of Henry VIII to its worldwide presence today–became a venerable work whose cadences express the heart of religious life for many.

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

Read the introduction online:


jobThe Book of Job: A Biography
by Mark Larrimore

The book of Job raises stark questions about the nature and meaning of innocent suffering and the relationship of the human to the divine, yet it is also one of the Bible’s most obscure and paradoxical books, one that defies interpretation even today. Mark Larrimore provides a panoramic history of this remarkable book, traversing centuries and traditions to examine how Job’s trials and his challenge to God have been used and understood in diverse contexts, from commentary and liturgy to philosophy and art. Offering rare insights into this iconic and enduring book, Larrimore reveals how Job has come to be viewed as the Bible’s answer to the problem of evil and the perennial question of why a God who supposedly loves justice permits bad things to happen to good people.

Mark Larrimore directs the Religious Studies Program at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts.

Read the introduction online:

For more books in the Lives of Great Religious Books series, visit: