Friday, June 4, 2010

30 Days to Understanding the Bible - Review

I sometimes get asked for a book that would be a good basic introduction to the Bible for adults. A handbook to the Bible is sometimes useful but if the person has no background in the Bible even that can be a little intimidating. I ran across a book by Max Anders called 30 Days to Understanding the Bible and there is much here to commend its use for adults with no Bible background (though I have some cautions which I’ll explain later). It’s been out for a while but I’ve not seen it before.

Anders begins with a proposition: “If you’ll give me fifteen minutes a day for thirty days, I’ll give you an understanding of the Bible . . .” (7) During the month Anders covers “all the major men and women, all the major events, and all the major points of geography.” It presupposes no prior knowledge of the Bible on the part of the reader. It is filled with charts, graphs, diagrams and symbols it help with remembering key people, places and concepts. I especially enjoyed his emphasis on geography. I recall my first class in Biblical geography. It was such an eye opening class and I’ve since then made frequent use of my favorite Bible atlas. Anders covers eight major bodies of water and seven locations in the Old Testament. They are reinforced in the New Testament. The Bible is divided into nine major eras. Each era is then given a central figure. For example, Creation has the first man Adam, Patriarch has the first patriarch Abraham, and Exodus has Moses as the leader of the Exodus and so on. Remember, this is an overview so there is a lot of material not covered. Anders is simply trying to give a bird’s eye view of the Bible. If you use this book in a class for new believers or individually you can always supplement it as you deem necessary. After covering the Old and New Testament Anders covers ten great doctrines: Bible, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Angels, Man, Sin, Salvation, Church and Future Things. Each of these is divided into four major subdivisions. The book concludes with a summary of the Bible, and articles on “What the Bible Teaches, in 1,000 Words” and “The Message of the Bible.” The appendix has a number of nice features including reproducible images for teaching. Overall, this is a good book to give to a new believer who wants an introduction to the basic storyline of the Bible.

A couple of concerns. Anders says “No attempt has been made to interpret the Bible. The information is presented at face value as it is found in Scripture.” (7) I appreciate what Anders is saying but “interpretation” abounds throughout. Man is dualistic (218, 236), the Bible is recorded “without error” (265), the Church begins at Pentecost (136, 244), the Christian receives his “new body” immediately at death (237), and the sin at the Tower of Babel was disobeying God’s command to fill the earth (44). It is clearly a Protestant work since it excludes the apocrypha and says “our salvation is completed at the death of the body.” (236) For a Catholic these are matters of “interpretation” made by Protestants. Anders takes all the numbers throughout the Pentateuch at “face value” even though many scholars believe these can be understood in other ways. The decision to take things at “face value” is an interpretive decision in itself. There is no discussion of the death of Christ as an atonement for our sins in the chapter on Christ (the four subdivisions are Deity, Humanity, Resurrection and Return). It is not covered under “salvation” either. I would have replaced the chapter on “Angels” with one on the atonement. This would be an area I would surely supplement.

My concerns aside I still like this book and think it can be used by a new believer to start to put the pieces together as he/she begins to read the Bible for the first time. Here’s some other good news. The book retails for $16.99 but we are offering them for only $5.00! You can’t beat that. You can see many of the charts, graphs and diagrams at Thomas Nelson’s website here.

Max Anders (Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary, Th.D. Western Seminary) became the Senior Pastor of Castleview Baptist Church in January 1999. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Western Seminary, Dr. Anders is the author of 22 books, including the best-selling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and a ten-volume series entitled What You Need to Know About. In addition, he is the original developer and general editor of The Holman New Testament Commentary. A former college professor and adjunct seminary professor, as well as instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, he is listed in Who's Who in the Midwest. Max and his wife, Margie, live in Indianapolis with their two children, Tanya and Christopher, whom they adopted from Russia.

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