Friday, August 08, 2014

Review: The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible

Review: The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible
Dr William H Marty
Dr Boyd Seevers
Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1128-7

The Quick-Start Guide to the Whole Bible is a good book for Christians who need to understand the timeline, summary, and spiritual significance of the books of the Bible. It is a good starting place for Christians who wants to get a basic idea of each Bible book before reading it. That means the entire Book of Psalms or the book of Isaiah are distilled into four succinct pages. The writing is accessible and informative. 

Sometimes, one finds one's self wondering why a particular book was written in the first place. Especially when for the price of this book, one could get a book which gives much more indepth commentary ..or even buy a good used printed study Bible from Ebay or a new study Bible on kindle.

How shall I describe this book? Well, it's somewhat useful for those who have never read their Bibles or for people who know Bible verses but who really don't know why or when each Bible prophet wrote his book. Think of it as the Cliff Notes edition of the Bible, although Cliff Notes would probably be more indepth. 

There is another book, published a few years ago, called:
The Whole Bible Story: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English by Dr. William H. Marty
Yep! The same author. I really liked that book. This book looks like the outline for that book. So... I ask again: why was this version needed?  Did someone say an even smaller summary of the Bible was needed? 

The authors should have given their manuscript to folks who know nothing about the Bible. Why do I say this? Bevause sometimes the belabor seemingly unimportant points and ignore important points. When they belabor an unimportant point, the knowledgeable Bible reader finds herself feeling she has subtly been indoctrinated into some picayune pet authorial doctrine. For instance, in Genesis, they go out of their way twice to mention the Sethite theory and to declare that no one is sure who "the sons of God" is. (This seems to be done to make the reader aware of the Sethite doctrine.) Yet, earlier in the Genesis chapter, the authors don't comment on what the meaning of the "serpent" might be. If ever there was a place which needed a comment about what folks not "knowing" or agreeing on an interpretation, shouldn't this be it? No, really! Serioiusly! It's not as if I want the author to jump around from book to book, but if they said something to the effect of: "the book of Revelation defines this serpent as Satan" then I'd be cool.

And speaking of the Book of Revelation, the authors repeatedly say that the book was written by John. Well, yes, the book is written by John but John also says it is also a revelation given by Jesus. And John was directly told what to write to the seven churches. Instead, the authors say that John describes Jesus as being the source and subject of the book of Revelation. A comment which felt kind of mealy-mouthed to me. If the authors wanted to be fair, they could have said that "some people -- not us, mind you-- believe that these were actual visions. But we feel that John was consciously using apocalyptical metaphor."  I understand that authors need to cover their butts in case they offend testy argumentative Christians but I wish this book had been more honest about what the authors actually believed. Instead, we get a feeling of authors putting themselves in a safety-zone in order to have a book that is the lowest common denominator among denominations. Of course writing a book about the Bible...well, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. We Christians are pretty argumentative. Still, for all their generalize summary of the Bible books, one does get a strange feeling that one is being treated to a party line.

Call me a cynic but I tend to think that many Christian authors of big publishing companies try to keep themselves safe. They write about the same 600 or so topics.  Christian publishing houses just like selling books. Christian authors don't seem to really care about writing better than their competitors. They just imitate each other. I can imagine the editorial meeting for this book: "Let's put 'Quick-Start Guide' in the title. Folks like the words 'guide' and 'quick-start' and will buy our book. And this book will really help those folks who don't want to read the Bible."  

There is nothing reallly bad about this book. It could certainly help a lot of people. But there really isn't anything all that great about it either. There are countless other books that seek to encapsulate the Bible and who do a better job. Heck, one can go on the internet and find used study Bibles that are more helpful... and those study Bibles INCLUDE an actual Bible.  

If you can afford to, and if you really hate reading the Bible and want to pretend you have, I'd suggest getting Dr Marty's other book. Or David Pawson's Unlocking the Bible. It's a little bit more expensive and it is kind of heavy to carry around but it's much more helpful than this one is. The chapters describing each Bible book are like introductory sections in a Study Bible. One leaves the book feeling dissatisfied...and vaguely looked-down upon. 
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