Thinking Out Loud

June 3, 2013

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Jesus

Jesus A TheographyThere are two things that are immediately striking about the book Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Thomas Nelson, 2012). The first is the sheer scope of the work. While some books clearly are the product of a two week writing break, others earn to be called a “labor of love,” or earn the phrase, “represents the culmination of a lifetime of ministry.” This book fits into the latter camp and is the product of two authors who have spent untold hours in deep study of God’s word.

As a reviewer who prizes “rich text;” this is one of the richest books I have ever read, and any critical remarks I might make should be seen in the light of what is generally my highest recommendation. Truth be told, I have read about two thirds of this book out loud with my oldest son. While it slowed the reading time, it allowed me to process the material more fully, at the rate of half-a-chapter per night.  It also enhanced my appreciation of the final chapters which I read normally.  Jesus is definitely a book that delivers your money’s worth. You can’t read this book and not have a clearer picture of the Bible’s grand narrative.

The second thing that is immediately striking is the word theography in the title. The idea is that in trying to present the over-arching story of the Bible, most things printed are biography moving, as the authors say, “from womb to tomb.” The idea here is to look at Christ before and after the incarnation. This is an ambitious goal, and the two chapters most representative of this ambition were the only ones that disappointed, though I am continually interested in accessing books which deal with Christ before the manger — the pre-incarnate Christ — and deal with what the second person of the Trinity was doing before that Bethlehem morning. Ditto Christ’s present activity seated at the right hand of God.

This is a small matter however in a book where each page is full of illuminations, and in particular comparison passages where one aspect of what the writers call The First Testament is unmistakably linked to another in The Second Testament. Sometimes the insights simply involve a different way of expressing a familiar dichotomy; thus Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial is referenced as “Judas’ kiss and Peter’s kiss-off.”

There is also a trade off between the benefit of having two people craft the book who are already established and respected authors, and the tendency of the book to repeat itself in many places. Perhaps readers like me simply need to have some truths drilled in a little deeper.

The sixteen chapters of Jesus: A Theography break down the Christ story into chronological sections emphasizing the spiritual significance of every aspect of His life and ministry. This is truly a book like no other. I’ve seen some dissent online concerning the use of selective Bible translations to make a certain point fit, but we followed up in various texts from the various footnotes — there are 1,835 of them — and don’t feel that any verses were overly stretched to make a point. The authors have also gone out of their way to make dogmatic statements on any theological point which is contentious, making this a book for all Christian readers.

…To someone who mostly reads Christian fiction, I suspect that all doctrinal books look alike, but Jesus: A Theography is a volume like no other. This definitely fits in my top ten list of books I would want to be stranded on an island with. While not every reader will agree with every point this is definitely a book worth owning, underlining and filling with bookmarks. 

An excerpt from the book appears here at Christianity 201.


Jesus: A Theography is a book I truly wanted to read. When no review copy was forthcoming by the publisher after several requests, I purchased this copy with real money. TNI, you owe me one!

November 18, 2012

A Must Have Resource for Bible Teachers

“If we present something as God’s Word when it is not, we are misusing God’s name. Students of the Bible expect their teachers to present the authoritative teaching of God’s Word as given by the inspired authors. If we substitute this teaching for some idea we think is important, students don’t know the difference. We are then violating the third commandment because we have attributed God’s authority to what is really only our own idea.” (p. 25)

If you know anyone who is responsible for teaching the Bible in Children’s ministry, youth ministry, small group leadership; or someone who is simply wanting to get it right when it comes to their parenting responsibility in leading their family in their daily devotions, The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible by John Walton (Crossway) is an essential resource.

John Walton, professor at Wheaton College and his wife Kim Walton, a longtime curriculum user, developer and evaluator work through 97 Old Testament narrative stories and 77 New Testament stories in light of: Lesson focus, Lesson application, Biblical context, interpretive issues,  background information and mistakes to avoid.

It is the final section for each entry — mistakes to avoid — that is where this book shines. Too many times we’ve been subject to teaching which put the emphasis in the wrong place, missed the greater context, or simply went off down the rabbit trails of story details.  Often these misguided teaching foci proliferate or are passed on from church to church or generation to generation.

This is a book to keep on your shelf as needs arise. It deals exclusively with narrative passages; for example, in the New Testament, there are no entries after the book of Acts except for the lone one that covers all of Revelation.

Because it’s a Bible reference product, you might not read it sequentially, although you certain could take that approach.  But as a reference tool, I didn’t attempt to read it all; the copy I have is actually on loan; and the publisher is one whose products are not likely to cross my desk.  The Bible Story Handbook was published in 2010  and retails in paperback for $24.99 U.S.  It’s a great gift for a Sunday School teacher, youth pastor, or anyone with love for teaching the Bible to kids, teens or adults.

 

March 11, 2011

Words About The Words

So there you are, sitting in a weekend service, and the pastor says, “the word we know as ‘deacon’ is taken from the Greek diakonos which means ‘someone who serves food at a table;'” and you’re fascinated by the implications of this.

But a week later, when he says, “The word often translated ‘work’ or ‘works’ is taken from the Greek word ergon which means employment or toil;” and you find your eyes glazing over.

Sometimes what Bible college students and seminarians call “word study” can be captivating and engaging, and on other days, you find yourself saying, “So what?”

So you purchase a Strong’s Concordance, and the next week at small group, with great enthusiasm, you’re spouting off all the different meanings of “love” in the New Testament and finding yourself met by blank stares and yawns.   How can you capture the relevance of this subject without losing your audience?

Keri Wyatt Kent thinks you can do it devotionally.  In a new book, Deeper Into The Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament, she provides a devotional word study in evenly measured sections that may be read consecutively, randomly, or only when needed.  (Being a rebel, I actually started at the back of the alphabetical arrangement.)

This is a great book concept; one I wish I’d thought of myself. I only hope the ‘buy-in’ factor will be significant and that booksellers (physical or online) don’t consign this title to the Bible reference section.  It needs to be upfront.  (An Old Testament counterpart releases in November of this year.)

Like the examples I introduced with, I found that some of these studies clicked with me more than others.  Perhaps the need-based approach to this book is preferable, but then it’s limited by having only 100 entries.  I asked my teenagers to name some Biblical words or concepts and it took about seven or eight guesses before we found one actually in the book, which was “love,” which I ruled ineligible! However, they liked the concept, and after I had read two sections, asked if we could do one more.

I think the book could best serve as a gateway product to whet the appetite for more serious word study.  It also makes an excellent gift for that person on your list who is “too spiritual” to accept a Christian fiction title or a gift book with pictures of flowers and sunsets.

In other words, while this is very much a niche product, it’s a title I would very much like to see succeed.

And now I will take a ‘rest,’ which is from the Greek anapauo, which means, “to give intermission from labor.”

Deeper Into The Word is published by Bethany House in paperback at $13.99 U.S.

April 1, 2010

Audio Rights Sold to Strong’s Concordance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:18 am

It’s not every day I get to use this forum to make an announcement involving our own company, especially one of this magnitude. Over the years, Searchlight Books has dabbled in distributing and has manufactured some music products, but never have we taken on anything like this. The following is the official press release issued this morning at the Christian Book Shop Talk site:

Searchlight Books of Cobourg, Ontario is pleased to announce that it has negotiated the audio rights to what is probably the number one selling Bible reference tool of the last fifty years: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

“I had always wondered why there was no companion audio;” said Paul Wilkinson, owner of Searchlight; “especially considering the audio books market is one of the fastest growing sectors in our industry.”

He continues, “The story of how the purchase came about is rather amazing. I was leaving an industry event when I met a guy in the parking lot who said he was led to speak to me about something that would change the Christian publishing world. For a very reasonable sum, I could purchase the rights to release the best selling Bible study and reference title of all time. After some discussion, I signed the contract and wrote a check right on the spot.”

The project has had a tough time getting to market; “He told me that this isn’t the first time he has negotiated this particular deal, but in the end the finished projects never got released. He explained that he travels around to Christian product trade shows and conferences seeking out what he described as ‘a very special kind of person.'”

Wilkinson concedes that the project is very ambitious; “I don’t know how many CDs were talking about, but I suspect it will be a few more than actual Bible itself. I’m expecting to sell more mp3s than actual discs; but the first stage is to get the material actually recorded.”

Then there’s the challenge of finding someone whose voicing of the project matches the prestige of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance itself; “I’m not sure if we’ll hire a huge cast, but it will definitely be dramatic, with one voice narrating the key word, another giving the Greek or Hebrew equivalent, and another voice supplying the text references. We might go with a ‘next generation’ cast to try to draw a younger demographic into using Bible reference materials.”

No project release date has been set. If things go well, Wilkinson hopes to also release audio concordances for the Young’s and Cruden’s editions, as well as a Harmonized Gospel audio designed to play on 4-channel home theater systems with all four parts spoken simultaneously.

March 24, 2009

Read The Bible in One Year: Until Mid-March

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:55 pm

Did you set out to make this your year of Genesis to Revelation reading?

The way Jon Rising sees it, most of the people who set out to read the Bible through in 2009 should be coming to a screeching halt in Leviticus right about now.    Fortunately, he offers some encouragement to keep pressing through:

“Push through the howling winds of boredom in late Exodus and throughout Leviticus. Things pick up a little in Numbers and Deuteronomy. When you reach the plateau of Joshua you will see sunshine again. And remember, when you reach the summit in the Book of the Revelation, the view is breathtaking.”

By the way, if you like the idea of owning good theological reference books, or the idea of taking good theology courses online, or even updating your academic credentials with distance education; bookmark Jon’s blog, Word and Spirit for regular reading.

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