Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: The Whole Bible Story by Dr. William H. Marty

Dr. William H. Marty's book The Whole Bible Story attempts to provide a summary of the historical elements of the Bible, from Creation through the end of the book of Acts. Some things, like Levitical law, the Old Testament poetry, and the New Testament letters were left out, since the book is not a summary of the Bible, but a summary of everything that happens in the Bible. Think of it as a kind of like a detailed plot synopsis.

The book was easy to read and it didn't take long to get through some of the more... drawn out sections of Scripture (there are are no begats). Since the book looks at the Bible historically instead of book by book, Kings and Chronicles was combined, as were the four gospels. For people unfamiliar with the events occurring between King David and the end of the captivity, that section would be extremely helpful in developing a chronological understanding of the Bible, kind of like what a harmony of the Gospels does for the New Testament.

The book itself was very detailed, including much of the story and leaving little out. I do some chronological Bible storying as a discipleship tool and we frequently discuss what was left out in the telling. Here very little was left out, although the book gets more and less detailed in various sections.

I was surprised to see that Job was absent from the book. This is the one biggest absence in the book. I know Job is poetry and reads like an epic, but most people would agree that Job actually existed before or during the time of Abraham. Its absence leaves a significant hole in what would otherwise be a complete summary of the Bible. Other content that was missing include:
  • the story of Judah and Tamar, in Genesis;
  • Aaron's sons, and the death they suffered for offering "strange fire" to God;
  • Shimei, who cursed David when Absalom attempted a coup, was not mentioned until he was killed by Solomon;
  • though the events of the book of Ezra were mentioned, Ezra himself was missing until he comes back again (with a minor role) in the book of Nehemiah;
  • Ezekiel wasn't mentioned at all, and few of the other prophets (besides Jonah and Daniel) were mentioned at any length. Most received a sentence pointing out that they served during the reign of King so-and-so.
Here is a general summary of the book's level of detail:
  • Genesis through Judges was covered in significant detail (with that one exception noted above).
  • Starting in Samuel and going on through the time of the Kings, the story became much less detailed compared to the first section. A few stories were covered in more detail, like the ministry of Jonah.
  • Starting in the exile, the prophet Daniel and his life was very detailed. It even included a summary of his visions and prophecies. Esther and Nehemiah were likewise detailed.
  • The Gospels and Acts were covered in detail much like the book of Genesis. Some of the parables were left out, but when you consider that the book is primarily historical, this is understandable. Once the author got to the New Testament he began quoting Old Testament prophecies and some New Testament passages verbatim, which was a change in style compared to his treatment of the Old Testament.

Though he is a professor at Moody, Marty didn't add his own interpretation to the passages. I was bothered that he said some people consider the flood to have been localized instead of global. I wasn't sure why he felt the need to bring it up since he didn't mention anything that typically goes along with creation (e.g. evolution, young-earth, day-age theory, etc.).

There were two errors I saw in the book:

  • Marty erroneously mentions that Jesus is flogged twice.
  • There is an error in geography where he mentions Paul stopping in a city in mainland Greece, when in actuality it was in Italy.

Overall, the book, as I said above, is an excellent chronological summary of the Bible. For new believers, or even seasoned believers who could use a little clarification of the events as they unfolded, this would be an excellent tool to use in small groups or even one-on-one discipleship.

For a PDF the first two chapters covering all of Genesis, click here.
To buy the book on Amazon, click here.
For another helpful resource on Bible storying, check out my review of Truth that Sticks by Avery T. Willis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from BethanyHouse Publishers as part of the blogger review 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."

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