Tag Archives: Bible

Book Review: A Little Book for New Bible Scholars: Why and How to Study the Bible, by E. Randolph Richards & Joseph R. Dodson

A Little Book for New Bible ScholarsInspired by Helmut Thielicke’s popular publication from 1962, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, IVP Academic (of InterVarsity Press) has been putting out lengthier books—still quick reads—in it’s A Little Book for New [X]: Why and How to Study [Y] series. Thielicke’s work is so well done in that it shouldn’t be surprising to find it being quoted in these new books. So, what’s the point in trying to replace? I’m not sure that’s necessarily the intent, though some schools and classes may decide to go that route with their book requirements and recommendations.

The latest addition to the series, A Little Book for New Bible Scholars: Why and How to Study the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Joseph R. Dodson, is certainly not a replacement to Thielicke’s, but it is a welcome and helpful addition. Its helpful and encouraging contributions are often through narratives likely much more palatable and an easier introductory pull into the field for millennials than perhaps Thielicke’s language may be. It is also, as the title suggests, more specific to biblical studies than theology, a distinction students will (should) eventually learn. My only major criticism is on the awkward and uncomfortably forced chapter on equality wherein the authors encourage “female, black, Hispanic, and non-Western scholars to step up and do the hard work of biblical studies” (79). To be fair, it is a sincere and grace-filled attempt at inclusivity. As stated by one of the authors, “Sometimes white male scholars like me can be a jerk. (I may even have stated some things in this chapter in insensitive ways—forgive me.)” (87) That said, I would still recommend the book anyone interested in or considering academic Bible study.

 

Note: I have not yet read Kelly M. Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (2012), thus I am unable to speak to how his approach may or may not be different from Thielicke’s and what may or may not be gained from reading it in conjunction with others in this series.

 

*I received a temporary, unpublished digital copy for review from IVP Academic via NetGalley.

Book Review: The Jesus Bible, by Zondervan

The Jesus BibleMarketed as a Louie Giglio/Passion product, Zondervan’s The Jesus Bible claims “sixty-six books. one story. all about one name.” (As printed on the cover page.) I usually find gimmick and niche Bibles forced, unhelpful, and a rehashing of material (sometimes not even relevant to the gimmick) from previously published books. This one is better than many of those in one sense: there is a LOT of material trying to connect passages throughout the Bible to Jesus, and it took me quite a while to read every bit of it (I think I’ve reviewed five other books since I started this one). There are about thirty contributing writers in one fashion or another, but only the major essays note the authors. Those essays aren’t very helpful, but the authors’ names will likely help sales. General additional content is typically from a Reformed and Evangelical perspective, although I did find one contribution in Revelation that does not agree with the rest of the incomplete “faith only” comments through the text and rightly stated, “Believers today can take note: faith and works should go hand in hand. The relationship between faith and works is natural, and neither one should be overemphasized at the expense of the other” (p.1973). All additions in the Old Testament imply a conditional immortality stance on the afterlife, whereas additions in the New Testament hint at what many call the “traditional” view of hell. There are also hints of dispensationalism multiple eschatologies. So, there are inconsistencies that are often found with many contributors. Of course, the biggest problem is that every book in the Bible is not “about” Jesus, as is the central claim of this specialty Bible. Much “points to” Jesus, but little is “about” him. Some of the commentary is spot on, but much is a stretch, forced connection, or outright incorrect. So, overall, it’s better than many of these types of specialty Bibles, but I’d still recommend getting a proper study Bible if one wants commentary and the Bible in one collection.

 

Aesthetically, I will say that the gray cotton hardcover looks and feels great, and the black and white lettering accent well. However, the cotton dirties quite easily and the cover printing is paint that appears to be easily scratched off and will chip in time. The formatting of content within the text was done well, including side bars and pertinent timeline placement.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth, by Christopher J. H. Wright

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its WorthI have yet to read anything by Christopher J. H. Wright that I didn’t like and couldn’t recommend. His The Mission of God and The Mission of God’s People continue to be my most recommended texts. I now add How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth to that list for seminary students and those already in Bible preaching and teaching roles. Practical to its core, Wright guides the reader in approaching and handling the Old Testament with pastoral care, keeping his writing accessible to a broad range of readers while maintaining the same quality of method and depth for which he’s known.

The book is written in two parts. Wright begins by arguing for the importance of preaching and teaching the Old Testament and encourages the reader to do so, noting its increasingly limited exposure and the pitfalls that lie therein. He also corrects some commonly held misconceptions and sayings about the OT that are perpetuated by poor reading, exegesis, and sloppy books (e.g., the OT is not “all about Jesus,” as we often hear; it “points to Jesus”). We need to remember that the OT is comprised of different types of writing for different purposes, and that they each have their place and importance within the greater narrative. We should preach and teach them for what they are as they are and refrain from attempts at making them all fit into a simple “Jesus message,” which does not help others actually understand the OT—and thus rightly understand the New Testament—and is likely indicative of a preacher or teacher who does not properly understand the OT. The second part of the book—the bulk of the text—helps the reader to understand the different sections of the OT and then how to preach and teach from them. Wright offers many helpful checklists for sermon and lesson prep throughout the text, and he even includes easy-to-follow outlines and notes for several key Bible passages at the end of relevant chapters.

I highly recommend this for any and all preachers and teachers of the Bible. I imagine it will quickly find its way into Bible college and seminary syllabi everywhere.

 

*I received a temporary digital copy for review from Zondervan via NetGalley.

Book Review: Great Stories of the Bible (I Can Read! / Adventure Bible), Pictures by David Miles

Great Stories of the BibleGreat Stories of the Bible is a collection of six books in one from the Zonderkiz® Adventure Bible series with an “I Can Read!” level of 2 (reading with help). The stories include:

(There is no table of contents in the book, so I’ve included page numbers below. One may want to write them down on the first page for easy flipping.)

God’s Great Creation (pp.2–33)
Facing the Blazing Furnace (pp.34–65)
Ruth and Naomi (pp.66–97)
Miracles of Jesus (pp.98–129)
A Father’s Love (pp.130–161)
The Good Samaritan (pp.162–192)

Each story is greatly simplified for children and ends with a page that includes some or all of the following: a verse, character profile(s), and a few sentences about the story or another verse. I’m certainly not opposed to paraphrasing, simplifying, and taking a bit of artist liberty in retelling Bible stories, but just with adults (i.e., Eugene Peterson’s popular translation The Message) there’s bound to be some potentially harmful storytelling. Consider the following example from The Good Samaritan: “After a long time, a third person passed by. This person was a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The Samaritan saw the man lying in the dirt. He knew that the hurt man needed help. He forgot that Jews and Samaritans did not like each other” (182–183). I’m sure there are those who will disagree, but I think kids pick up on subtle messages like “the Samaritan only helped the Jew because he forgot they didn’t get along,” meaning it would have been okay to ignore or be mean to him if he had remembered. The point of the story is that the Samaritan helped despite his cultural stigma. Perhaps I’m not indicative of your typical American kid, but I would have definitely run with a poor understanding of that parable if I had read this.

We need to be careful how we teach these stories to small children because they stick with them. I remember talking to a friend years ago—both of us missionaries and well educated—who still had flannel-graph (remember that?!) info and stories stuck in his head that didn’t jive with Scripture because it was engrained at an early and impressionable age. Some may say, “But isn’t reading Bible stories helpful and better than other books?” Well, I don’t think that’s a “yes or no” question when it comes to books like these, but if one is going to read these books with a child I recommend reading an actual Bible (not another paraphrase like The Message) and take the time to explain Scripture in a way the child can understand. Am I giving little kids too much credit? I don’t think so, though I obviously can’t speak for everyone’s children.

As for the bulk of the book, the illustrations by David Miles are still a little too clean-cut and Caucasian for my liking, especially in an age where we’re becoming much more culturally sensitive and aware of those in Scripture. Kids, however, will probably like the chalky pastel drawings.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: NIV Bible for Men: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World

NIV Bible for MenThis review is not of the NIV translation of the Bible; rather, it is of the whole collection Zondervan has published as NIV Bible for Men: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World.

 

Superficial:

  • It’s a hefty hardback—way to big to be one’s go-to, carry-around Bible.
  • Font size is in line with most Bibles—small, but not tiny.
  • Dust-jacket is typical of young-adult marketing.

 

Basic Content:

  • 260 (five days a week for one year, primarily intended to be done alongside reading the Bible through in one year) one-to-two page devotional thoughts (D#) with a subsequent inquiry for application.
  • 52 (one day a week for one year) “myths” (M#), each about two pages, that are expressed with a subsequent rebuttal.
  • Reference list for all texts (nothing was written especially for this publication—everything was copied from online articles, Kindle edition books, and even another “men’s Bible” from Zondervan).
  • Reference list of specific scriptures and their correlation to included relevant texts.

 

Critical:

  • This purports to be a “Bible for Men”; however, there are precisely three (3!) of the included texts that can be identified as rather pointedly relating to men and from a male perspective (D12, D52, and D121). Thirteen others I have identified as attempts to be gender-specific but are actually gender-neutral, fully applicable to both men and women with the alteration of a gender-specific term or reference (M4, D21, D46, M16, D89, M20, D106, D108, M22, M27, D171, D172, and M40, much of which deals with porn, leadership, and other stereotypically identified as primarily male concerns). This means that 3/312 (0.96%) is specifically for men, 13/312 (4.16e%) is purported to be for men but is actually gender-neutral, and 297/312 (95.19%) is utterly gender-neutral. This is not a “Bible for Men.”
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being horrible and five being great, the texts included are completely hit-and-miss, running the entire scale.

 

Conclusion:

This is not what it purports to be, and isn’t worth the time or physical exertion of carrying it around. I recommend purchasing an actual study Bible if one wants some heft and decent scriptural insight, and then pick up any of the myriad of devotional books in print (topic- or gender-specific, if you like) to supplement your scripture reading and for further encouragement, accountability, etc.

 

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”