Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review - Understanding the Big Picture of the bible

The Big Picture
Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well is concerned with exactly what the title indicates; the big picture. It is an entry level book that introduces readers to major ideas, themes, and content of not only the biblical literature but also the historical context in which the Bible was written. This book is helpful due to its broad approach which provides an initial contact for understanding the Bible and a starting point for further study.

Wide Angle
This book is an overview to the Bible in three main areas; Old Testament, New Testament, and New Testament background. The relatively short essays in each section outfit the reader with a surprisingly substantial amount of helpful information. Both the Old and New Testament sections begin with an outline of that testament’s theology. This large field of view is slowly focused in both sections with the OT essay writers discussing the Pentateuch, historical books, poetic and wisdom literature, and prophetic books. Of these chapters, I found Paul House’s work on the prophetic boos most interesting. The NT portion follows a similar structure as it considers the Gospels and Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. I was intrigued by Thomas Schreiner’s tour through the epistles; their cohesiveness and unity was brought to light.

Background Details
Perhaps the most valuable segment for me was that on the background to the New Testament which was sandwiched between those mentioned above. Covering the times between the Testaments, the Roman and Greco-Roman worlds, and Jewish groups at the time, these three chapters presented information that was less familiar and therefore more enriching.

Only a Start for Study
As an introductory guide to reading the Bible, as expected, this book does not go into specific detail or into highly-focused topics. It does a good job of introducing a wide range of ideas. The book is written in such a way so as to encourage further study and investigation. The authors give enough guidance so one is not without general bearings. However, one’s interest is only piqued, and I found myself regularly reflecting that I would like to investigate a topic more thoroughly. This was the strength of the book in my opinion.

Uniform Structure
One improvement that I feel could be made, particularly in the OT and NT sections, would be a more uniform structure in terms of the content of each chapter. Some ideas were expressed throughout the book. For instance, themes of different genres and books were regularly explained. I would have found it helpful if other subtopics were covered across the spectrum of the chapters. This may be much to ask with the broad range of writings being considered. What uniformity the book did have, I found very helpful

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible is a helpful beginning resource for, as the book’s subtitle suggests, reading the Bible well. It is an acceptable companion to the already published Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability, and Meaning. These two books will cover most topics around Scripture and point the researcher in the right direction for deeper inquiry. I recommend this book.

No comments:

Post a Comment