Friday, July 20, 2012

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible

There are many good books that have been written in the past year. But there are few good books that have been written on the topic of the Good Book. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible, edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, & Thomas R. Schreiner is one of those books. As the title states, the purpose of this book is to introduce readers to the big picture of the Bible by showing the unity of the Bible. In fact, that is how the book begins. Vern S. Poythress begins by showing an overview of the Bible as God' s plan to redeem a people for Himself. One can gain a better understanding of the Bible when it is viewed as all pointing to Jesus Christ. He says,
"Understanding the unity of the Bible increases when one pays attention to instances where God brings salvation, and instances where a mediator stands between God and man . . . In reading the Bible one should look for ways in which God brings his word and his presence to people through means that he establishes. All these means perform a kind of mediatorial role, and because there is only one mediator, it is clear that they all point to Christ" (17-18).
After the initial overview of the Biblical storyline, the book unfolds with five short articles on the Old Testament, three on the background to the New Testament, & then four on the New Testament. If you are curious, here is a list of the chapters and authors:

  • The Theology of the Old Testament by C. John Collins
  • Introduction of the Pentateuch by Gordon Wenham
  • Introduction to the Historical Books by David Howard
  • Introduction to the Poetic and Wisdom Literature by David Reimer
  • Introduction to the Prophetic Books by Paul House
  • The Time Between the Testaments by J. Julius Scott Jr.
  • The Roman Empire and the Greco-Roman World at the Time of the New Testament by David Chapman
  • Jewish Groups at the Time of the New Testament by John Delhousaye
  • The Theology of the New Testament by Thomas R. Schreiner
  • Reading the Gospels and Acts by Darrell Bock
  • Reading the Epistles by Thomas R. Schreiner
  • Reading Revelation by Dennis Johnson

The real strength of the book is found in three places. First, its authorship. As you might be able to tell from the above list, many of these theologians are experts in their fields. Add to the fact that Wayne Grudem is an editor of this book even adds to its credibility.

The second strength of the book is its brevity. There are certainly books with much more depth on these topics, but those books can become burdensome for many people. The brevity of these chapters allow for them to only deal with the main issues, which they do a great job of doing.

The third strength is found at the end of the book in the timeline charts. It was very helpful to read the couple chapters in the middle about what was going on historically during the time of Jesus. But also, to read a detailed outline of the intertestamental events was really helpful. For instance, I am not sure if I ever really understood that Julius Caesar was murdered just about 47 years before the birth of Jesus. In addition, to see by dates the events of the New Testament is probably something I will turn to again and again.

The only concern I have in this book is trying to decide who should read it. While it is brief and helpful, there are a few parts that seemed overly technical. The brevity seems to lend itself to the novice, but the technical parts of the book seem to lend itself to the professional. Either way, I think that everyone can take something from this book. The novice will learn some basic information on the unity of the storyline of the Bible while the professional might be challenged to keep things brief. As long as you understand that thought, I would heartily recommend this book to you if you are looking for a big picture of the Bible.

I received a free copy of Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible by Crossway Publishers for review.

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