31/12/2015

Meet the Bible (by Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn)

It’s over two years since I bought this book from a second-hand online store. I was attracted to it by the fact that one of the authors is Philip Yancey, one of my favourite modern Christian writers, although I knew nothing about the other author, Brenda Quinn. I also liked the idea - as indicated in the blurb - of going through the entire Bible in a year. However I had an alternative reading plan last year so started going through this on January 1st 2015.

I was a little surprised to find that nothing is dated; instead the readings and brief commentaries are titled ‘Day 1’ up to ‘Day 366.’ The introduction explains that this is so that people can start at any time of the year, and take breaks if they wish. However, as I did want to complete it in a year, I went through gradually and marked in the dates of the year, with an extra one for the last day as it’s not a leap year.

Unsurprisingly I didn’t exactly stick to the dates as given; when we were away, I didn’t take this book with me as it’s quite a heavy hardback, so got a couple of weeks behind. Other days I was up too late, or did too much, and didn’t remember to read it. But since I had written on the dates, and wanted to finish by the end of the year, I was able to catch up by reading more than one on other days.

The format of most days is a chunk of text from the Bible, given in full (so there was no need to find references and read elsewhere) followed by about a page of commentary, sometimes on the historical background, sometimes on how Christian faith and theology relate to it, sometimes with challenges for the reader. Each one ends in a very brief thought or prayer for the day, relevant to the passage in question.

I was surprised at first to find that, while some of the quotations are a couple of pages long, others are significantly shorter; however I quickly realised that this doesn’t in fact cover every verse of the Bible; it has something from every one of the 66 books, but while some are covered extensively, others are only touched upon lightly. I was a little disappointed at first as I had somehow assumed that this was commentary on the entire thing; however, it’s meant to be a panoramic introduction, so it makes sense to be the way it is, and I appreciated it.

Sometimes I read for myself the chapters or verses that were not included, and in many cases they didn’t add anything particularly relevant. In a few cases they were very difficult or discouraging sections, about mass violence or strict laws that make little sense in today’s society. Undoubtedly the authors (or the publisher) picked and chose what they commented on, but I think on the whole it gave a fair view of the narrative sweep of the different books of the Bible. The order is not always that of the Biblical books, but is more chronological, particularly switching between different books when some of them run alongside each other historically, such as the books of Kings and Chronicles.

Every so often, instead of a new section from Scripture, there’s what’s called a ‘reflection’: maybe a summary of a book that’s just been completed, or a reminder of some principle or focus that’s been covered in recent days. I often found the reflections particularly helpful, as they were more free-form and often relevant.

I felt that the mixture of the two writers worked well; their styles weren't the same, but gave a good balance overall. Both writers are American, but I don't recall this ever being a problem. Many people would not be interested in something like this, but for those who would like a good overview of the Bible, with some helpful commentary and explanations, mostly in non-controversial language that would be of relevance to any Christians, new or long-standing, I would recommend this book.

Available on Kindle, and still in print in the US as well as widely available second-hand.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

sparrow girl said...

Thanks for writing this review of Yancey's book, it sounds useful and interesting..I remember really enjoying his book, What's So Amazing About Grace, several years ago...

Have a great day and happy New Year!
Sparrow