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  • « John's Letter to Timothy | Main | Advent Readings »

    Book Review: Bible Overview, by Steve Levy

    Synopsis: As many bible handbooks, surveys, and overviews as are already in print, a reader may glance at the non-descript title Bible Overview, groan, and wonder, “Why another one?”. Such at least was my initial reaction; but it took only a few pages for me to realize that this is a different kind of bible overview, which fills an urgent need, and which I cannot recommend highly enough. It's a simple enough book, really: easy-to-follow, down-to-earth writing, peppered with homey illustrations and straightforward explanations; but what it says is so certainly true, so earth-shatteringly important, and yet sadly, so often overlooked today, that it has a value which far outweighs its unacademic presentation. This is a book written for ordinary, unknowledgeable Christians, to help them see the whole point of the scriptures in spite of their lack of acquaintance with the outlandish and inexplicable customs and cultures of their original settings; but it should also be read by scholars and theologians who likewise miss the whole point of the scriptures even in the midst of all their erudite research into those same difficult questions.

    Imagine, for a moment, a vast, intricate, and breath-takingly beautiful mosaic, that employs countless thousands of small, brightly-colored pieces of rock and shell to lay out a stunning portrait. Two scholars approach this mosaic with the goal in mind of describing it to simple persons far away, who have never seen it. The first one gives a brief history of the development of the art of mosaics, touches on the latest scholarly opinion as to where the various shells and rocks were quarried out, and describes in detail the shape and function of all the individual pieces. The second one, after briefly acknowledging the whole method and purpose of mosaic art, simply steps back and, surveying the picture as a whole, describes in glowing terms the beauty of the portrait that all those pieces work together to produce. The readers of the first scholar's description would gain much information; but would they really know the whole point for the mosaic, the reason for its existence? The readers of the second description might not gain as much knowledge of the details and circumstances of the mosaic's origins and formation, but they would certainly appreciate it more fully, and have a better opinion of what it truly is as it now exists.

    Although an imperfect analogy, Steve Levy's Bible Overview could be compared to the second scholar's description. He does not give detailed historical backgrounds and archaeological findings, he does not delve into complicated matters of genre and language, but what he does do is far more important, and provides the necessary foundation for all those later, more detailed studies: he simply shows, from the bible itself, that its sole and self-stated purpose is to proclaim the glory of Christ, from beginning to end. And then, in simple, but heartfelt and glowing terms, he describes in glorious detail the beauty of this portrait of Christ, beginning in the first pages of Genesis, and not ending until the final consummation spoken of in Revelation.

    Friends, this is vital! In a world in which we have been blessed (and inundated!) with more biblical information than we could digest in a lifetime, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. It is easy to know much about the bible, but to miss its whole significance entirely. But the bible says of itself that it is about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus, and the only thing we need to know to understand God in his glory, and to realize and be a part of his eternal glorious plan, is found in the portrait of Jesus that the whole bible, in an astonishing and delightful variety of ways, works together to paint. Whether you have never heard all the details of the sacrificial system, the diversities of the poetic and wisdom literature, the sometimes bizarre and always majestic utterances of the later prophets – or whether you have studied these things all your life, but struggle with seeing the significance and coherence of it all – this book will be a help and a joy to you. It will help you bring everything together in a coherent, self-interpretive, and utterly thrilling whole. It will show you that all the scriptures, from beginning to end, exist only to display the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, for the eternal salvation of his Church. And that will be the rock-solid foundation that will equip and motivate you to pursue more detailed and specific studies with the joy that only comes from understanding the purpose of it all.

    Be sure not to miss the valuable appendices either, which answer common questions, show the solidarity of Levy's Christ-centered approach to the bible with the teachings of many great saints and expositors in church history, provide passages and questions for further group study, and address the vital question of the New Testament's usage of the Old Testament scriptures. These appendices combine with the refreshingly and rigorously Christ-centered chapters preceding them to make this book the very first one-volume overview of the bible that I would recommend to young believers or those who are frustrated in failing to see its unity and significance in all their studies, and to make their daily investigations a delight and spiritual communion with the God whom only the bible's one subject, Jesus Christ, can reveal.

    Available at Monergism Books.

    Posted by Nathan on November 24, 2008 01:49 PM

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