I think Smith's work is a is a bit poppish. There was kind of a funny interview with him last year in the _East Bay Express_, in which he said he performs rituals from every major as well as a number of minor religious traditions. Jack Miles _God: A Biography_ recieved positive reviews when it came out in 97. Another thing you might want to look at is William Countryman's _Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and their Implications for Today_. Also Christopher Wright's _God's People in God's Land: Family, Land and Property in the Old Testament_.
I was doing research on Jewish social/economic ethics for a while, mostly Biblical through Talmudic, so if you're interested in any of that, I can send a bibliography. That would be useful if you have an interest in Leviticus and/or Deuteronomy.
On Sun, 7 Jun 1998, Max Sawicky wrote: >
> Smith appears to be a standard in the field. I picked up "The Joyof Sects"
> yesterday and have begun that. There was no "Christianity
> for Dummies." A related question: any suggestions on books
> providing a first look at the Bible(s)?
> Anyone hoping to understand politics would do well, I feel,
> to strive for a little more knowledge of the core beliefs of
> Go in peace,