Both the Christian life and education are rightly described as a journey. In sanctification and education we are going somewhere. There is an end in mind and we are progressing along that path towards our goal. Paul (most likely a highly educated person) knew that knowledge pursued for knowledge's sake actually made people more conceited and proud (1 Cor 8.1). So, for a Christian, even knowledge must be pursued with an end goal in mind.
The single most important piece of information a Christian must come to terms with is the person of Jesus Christ. It is essential that we learn to discern all the many false "Christs" available from the one true Christ of Scripture.
In order to help people correctly understand both Scripture and the person of Jesus many New Testament Surveys and Introductions have been published. Most of them - honestly - are incredibly boring and lifeless. Not everyone should endeavor to write one. In fact, only very few should. Bruce Fisk has bravely entered the NT Survey fray and contributed another volume. His, however, is unique. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus presents the usual information in a journal format. You still have your discussions of who Jesus was (i.e. Historical Jesus studies), who he thought he was (Mark's Messianic secret), why he came (Revolutionary? self-identified prophet?) and so on. Instead of being laid out in standard format, these ideas are each presented as entries in the journal of a man exploring both the Holy Land and Christianity itself.
I think there are a few strengths worth highlighting:
First, the unique presentation sets it apart. I have had to push through many a boring Survey textbook of the Gospels and the New Testament. Sometimes the information dump of a survey book is just too much to handle. Fisk has presented us with a similar work that explores the same ideas and concerns but does so in a more "life-like" manner. It is all presented as a young man wrestling through these ideas. It is much more like my own personal exploration than simply a lifeless monologue.
Second, the pictures were extremely helpful. It seems many academics tend to think that pictures reduces the perceived quality of their scholarship. They shouldn't. Few people have had the privilege of walking where Jesus and his disciples walked. Providing readers with pictures of the places that are written about only serve to bring ideas and history to life. They allow us to enter into the story of Scripture more fully. They should be encouraged.
The cumulative pedagogical value of all of this is quite high. It presents information as people usually encounter it. Also the pictures only serve to highlight what is being learned, thus making it more "real". It is also more true to life in that by presenting the information as one person's journal it forces us to think of this study as a personal journey of faith.
The only question I have concerns the quality of the information gained. While the conversational, exploratory tone may make the content much more accessible, I wonder how much content can be grasped. For the average introductory student I can see this text being of great value. However, for more intermediate or advanced students of the Gospels and New Testament its value may be limited to its novelty rather than its interaction with scholarship.
Nevertheless, I think this is a helpful volume that will serve many people in the kingdom of God. We're not all called to be scholar, so we need good books that will help the average Christian in the pew to understand his Bible. I think this one can do that.
NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission I would like to state that I received a complementary copy of the aforementioned text for the purposes of review. I was not required to furnish a positive review.
Also this review is part of the Blog tour promoting A Hitchhiker's Guide to Jesus.