Well this is not your ordinary handbook, but a scholarly work the scholars and beginners can appreciate alike. It's just a fantastic piece of work that point you in the right direction where understanding the bible is concerned. I believe Ryken and his team have pulled off a masterpiece and I am saying this not having completed the book yet.
Resources for studying the Bible are a dime a dozen, today. Every popular pastor or gifted teacher has his own study Bible or commentary set. Teacher's handbooks, small group study guides, commentaries of all kinds, and big thick dictionaries abound. Many of these resource tools aren't all that helpful, and some are outdated. Others are too bulky to be accessible, or too compact to be worth one's time.
Enter, "Ryken's Bible Handbook" (Tyndale). This handy, manageable volume stands apart in both its convenience and its worth. A wide variety of helpful material is arranged and presented in an attractive and accessible format.
Following the Bible handbook pattern, the information is arranged book by book through all 66 books of the Bible. The stress is on how best to read and understand the content of each particular book. Articles on Bible narratives, wisdom literature, prophecy, parables and more are placed at important positions throughout the handbook. And the book also cross-references these helpful articles often enough to ensure they remain useful (and not forgotten).
A fact sheet with information about the author, audience and special features of each book sets the stage. This is followed by an outline and a discussion of literary forms, key characters, doctrines and themes, and tips for reading or teaching the book. Next the flow of the book is traced so one can catch a sense of the whole. Interspersed throughout are helpful charts and a collection of quotes from Bible teachers and pastors. A discussion of the challenges to reading the book, and a guide to applying it are also included.
The handbook excels at keeping things simple yet providing real help. It manages to remain neutral on most theological controversies, aiming to equip one to read the Biblical book rather than actually teaching a theological position drawn from specific passages.
I found the article on parables to be particularly well done. That section makes the point that parables hint at something "alongside". "It is untrue that you can find only one theme or `point' in a parable. Most parables employ multiple themes or ideas." (pg. 447) This emphasis for me is especially important as I've seen other books on reading the Bible stress the opposite, which seems to contradict Christ's own interpretation of parables and leans to heavily on rationalistic scholarship.
Even if you disagree in a few places with the book, that won't take away from it's overall usefulness. Sunday school teachers, Bible students of all ages, pastors and parents will find this book very helpful. I heartily recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
This book was provided as a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers. This review has been a long time coming and in the future I don't ever intend on letting a review go on this long since the time I receive the book. I thank them for their generosity and patience.
This book is for teachers and students of the Bible and I think it would also be good for parents to use with their kids. Even though it's over 600 pages long, it's a smaller sized reference book and isn't comprehensive or meant to be. It's a concise handbook on how to read and study each book of the Bible. Anyone familiar with studying the Bible will benefit from this book.
Each chapter is devoted to a book of the Bible and includes things such as Author's Perspective, Audience Perspective or Implied Audience, Special Features, Challenges Facing the Teacher or Reader of the Book, How to Meet the Challenges, Form, Genre, Structure, Outline, Timeline, Characters, How To Apply the Book, Key Verses etc. Don't let that overwhelm you. Each part is concise and very useful and not every chapter has every one of those.
I especially like The Most Common Misconceptions of the Book since this is one thing I've been working on for a few years now whether it's books, passages, verses, etc. I also like Perspectives which are quotes on the book at the end of each chapter by various authors and scholars and somewhere in each chapter there may be a quote dealing with a subject of the book. I also like various Did You Know? inserts which are short factual items related to the book that are helpfully shaded in gray (see below).
Also sprinkled throughout the book are one page articles on the major genres of the Bible and other topics anywhere from How We Got the Bible at the beginning to Apocalyptic Writing in the end. My one complaint is that these articles don't look different enough from the rest of the book. It's easy to keep reading and not always realize it's the start of the article. The typeface is different but that's the only thing that sets it apart other than the title. A border or shaded background would be helpful.
The very idea of a "Christless sermon" appalled Charles Spurgeon and in the same vein this handbook always looks for how OT books point to Christ but doesn't press the point too far if it's scant.
There has to be some interpretation in a book like this but as far as I can tell it's very neutral. Since my theological outlook is the same as the authors', I may not be able to discern that as clearly as others. In any case, I can't imagine anyone not benefiting from this book.
Part of the reason this review took so long is because I read each chapter before reading each book of the Old Testament this year (in addition to having surgery right in the middle). This was very helpful. It gave me a "heads up" on things to look for without telling me how to interpret it or without it being a commentary that I would want to read after reading that book of the Bible.
This is the only book that I can remember reviewing where I really don't have anything negative to say other than the formatting issue of the article inserts. I often even try to find something negative so that I don't sound like a shill for the publishers that provide review copies for me. I like it that much.
I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. This book is a wonderful guide to reading and studying the Bible. There's a fact sheet for every book of the Bible, outlines, overviews, key verses, a 'did you know'? area and perspectives of each book of the Bible with quotes. Also, there's a one year Bible reading plan, an index of articles and maps as well. This Bible handbook is loaded and I love it! I enjoy having Ryken's Bible handbook nearby me when I'm reading the Bible for that little extra insight into the Word! This should be in every Bible student's library as a tool in accordance with the Bible.