July 8, 2009

Bible Overview

We continue our series of recommendations sparked by a recent reading of Marian Plant's book, Faith Formation in Vital Congregations.

This week's suggestion, finding an "entire Bible" overview, is a fairly hard nut to crack.

In my next blog, I'll address Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament Scriptures and overviews written about them, but recommending a whole Bible overview is more challenging.

Having graduated from seminary a few decades ago, there are, obviously, more current and up-to-date scholarly works available. To be honest, I don't remember having a Bible survey book from seminary and a look at my library at home and the office didn't offer any possibilties.

My friend and colleague Lynn, a more recent seminary grad, couldn't recommend a specific overview from her seminary days, but did recall that some friends of hers use - believe it or not - The Bible for Dummies as a textbook to introduce the OT/NT to general readers. The authors of the book are both college professors teaching general religious studies. They are well versed in the Biblical text, well versed in Greek and Hebrew, obviously familiar with recent archaeological discoveries, and have an understanding of contemporary culture that makes the book understandable and appealing to a wider variety of people than one would imagine.

Their greatest gift, however, is the clear, understandable language that they use. Part of my hestitation in recommending scholarly works for the average layperson is always the fairly academic language that some scholars inevitably use, as their primary audience tends to be people studying for the ministry or scholarly pursuits, including teaching. This is not a problem with this book.

Another possibility - and more "scholarly" in approach - is Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. This book is written for the person whose faith has been frustrated by the perception that the only Christian view is a fundamentalist one. Borg writes with an historical/metaphorical perspective that many find quite refreshing. He is also very approachable as a Biblical scholar, finding a large audience of Christian laity in recent years.

Either of these books would serve well to someone looking to study an overview of the entire Bible.