Tag Archives: book reviews

The Big Picture Story Bible – David R. Helm

(Old Facebook Post – Updated)

Our oldest daughter’s favorite Christmas gift in 2012 was [amazon text=The Big Picture Story Bible&asin=1433543117], by David R. Helm.

[amazon template=thumbnail11&asin=1433543117]Lots of children’s Bible story books do a good job telling individual Bible stories, but few do a good job telling the “big picture” of our promise-keeping God–redeeming his people, to live in his place, in his presence, under his kingship, obeying his word, forever. This Bible story book tells the big story well. It also has large, colorful pictures that skilfully reinforce connections between key events of the biblical story. And it comes with 2 well-produced, reasonably-pleasant audio CDs (one OT, one NT), so children’s listening is not limited by parent’s reading time.

Many (seemingly most) children’s Bible story books add a lot of extra-biblical content. Without fail, I find some of that content unhelpful. A great strength of this book is that it has very few such additions. (The only one I recall is how it plays up Caesar’s role as an opponent of the true King: “How will everyone know that I am the great Caesar, the Roman ruler, the king of the world? I know! I will count all the people under my rule…” This is a theologically acceptable addition to the biblical narrative.)

This book has been one more tool to help our children form a mental timeline of biblical history, tracing the “spine” of redemptive history. With this spine in place, we can attach all the other “ribs”–the individual stories that a book like this can’t include (such as Cain and Abel, Esau, Gideon, Samson, Ruth, Saul, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Esther, Daniel, etc.). Highly recommended!

Here’s Amazon’s blurb:

“No child is too young to begin learning about the greatest love story of all—God’s love for his people, as portrayed in the Bible. David Helm and Gail Schoonmaker have together created a colorful book of Bible stories written especially for children ages 2–7. Rather than simply retelling portions of the Bible, this book presents the big picture—the unified story running through the Old and New Testaments. Twenty-six stories together form parts of this big picture.

Simply written and beautifully illustrated, this book teaches children the Bible’s whole story so they can begin to appreciate the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. The Big Picture Story Bible is perfect for parents to read to their children and for older children to read on their own.

First published in 2004, The Big Picture Story Bible has been widely praised and used by parents. It now comes with an audio recording of the book, read by the author and presented on two CDs, one each for the Old and New Testaments. Great for Sunday school classes and trips in the car [the book might be a bit heavy for that?], children can listen to the text and follow along in the book.”

 Five stars.

Handbook on the NT Use of the OT – G.K. Beale

(Old Facebook Post)

A lot of rather careless biblical interpretation is happening today. (By God’s grace, thankfully much of the time the truth is still being taught, even if by using questionable or haphazard exegetical methods.) On the other hand, there are a lot of really helpful books out there on how to interpret the Bible–books like [amazon text=Grasping God’s Word&asin=0310492572] that I do highly recommended.

[amazon template=thumbnail11&asin=0801038960]What I’ve rarely seen, however, are books and interpreters that consciously try to determine from the Bible itself how the Bible should be interpreted. Usually lots of helpful methods are imported from the disciplines of literature and history into the practice of biblical interpretation. All truth is God’s truth, so these importations can be very useful. But rarely do we ask: How did the Bible authors interpret the parts of the Bible that already existed in their day?

For the student who wants to seriously investigate that question and then apply the results to shape their own interpretive methods, I know of know better place to begin than this brief, information-packed book by G. K. Beale: [amazon text=Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament&asin=0801038960]. It’s only 173 pages, but it distills the very best on this topic that has been written in over 100 years.

Beale quotes Moises Silva:

“If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation–and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith.”

And Beale states his goal for his own book:

“The goal is to better grasp the way the two Testaments are related at the particular points where OT references are found. Our ultimate aim is to hear and understand more clearly the voice of the living God as he has spoken and continues to speak in his ‘living words’ (Acts 7:38 NIV) and accordingly to know and encounter God increasingly, to know his will, and so to honor him.”

Highly recommended.

According to the Scriptures – C.H. Dodd

(Old Facebook Post)

Have you ever wondered which are the most important Old Testament passages? Or at least which ones tell us the most about Christ?

There’s a fascinating old book I recently read, [amazon text=According to the Scriptures: The Substructure of New Testament Theology&asin=B000QXTH1Y], by C. H. Dodd. It analyses the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament to try to determine which OT passages were most central in shaping the apostles’ understanding of the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Which passages did they quote most often when explaining the gospel message? Which most powerfully explain the significance of Christ’s coming?

Dodd’s list could be refined a little, but it’s a great start. Here are some of the most important OT passages you will ever read!

Genesis 12:3; 22:18
Deuteronomy 18:15, 19
2 Samuel 7:13-14
Psalms 2; 8; 16; 22; 31; 34; 38; 41; 42; 43; 69; 80; 88; 110; 118; 132
Isaiah 6:1–9:7; 11:1-10; 28:16; 29:9-14; 40:1-11; 42:1–46:5; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13–53:12; 55:3; 58:6-10; 61
Jeremiah 7:1-15; 31:10-34
Hosea (especially Hosea 2-3; 5:8–6:3; 13)
Joel 2-3
Amos 9:11-12
Habakkuk 1-2
Zechariah 9-14
Daniel 7; 12
Malachi 3:1-6

Each of these passages were referenced by multiple NT authors, often in ways that show they assumed their readers were already familiar with them. Learn them well, and watch for how the NT quotes and alludes to them. Find a good cross-reference Bible to see where these verses are used in the NT, and ponder how the apostles understood them. Then see the gospel with new eyes, and read the OT with new eyes.

I think one of the most exciting ways this list could be used would be as a guide for selecting OT memory passages! It would also serve as a good guide for public Scripture readings in church services.

Dodd groups these passages according to key themes of the gospel message: 1) apocalyptic-eschatological–prophesies about the Day of the Lord, with judgement and redemption; 2) scriptures of the new Israel–judgement upon rebellious national Israel, the calling of the remnant, the inauguration of the New Covenant and the emergence of the Church; 3) scriptures of the Servant of the Lord and the Righteous Sufferer; and 4) unclassified–which interestingly includes a few explicitly messianic passages–very few of the others on the list actually speak of a coming “anointed” one!