Jerry Sumney's most recent work, THE BIBLE, AN INTRODUCTION, was projected to be used primarily as a textbook, but this very useful new reference is equally valuable for those studying their bibles at home. The term "textbook" does tend to make people long out of university grimace, causing them to regard a book using that moniker as something previously owned by a colony of lepers, but that need not be the case.
Sumney's THE BIBLE is logically laid out, unfolding itself to the reader in a general introduction covering the canonization, transmission, and inspiration of the biblical texts, and then two subsequent sections covering every book in both the Old and the New Testaments. Since THE BIBLE is a textbook, there are short reviews at the end of each chapter, as well as a section showing the key terms and ideas covered by the chapter. There are even questions for discussion at the end of each chapter, and it is the inclusion of these questions that actually makes THE BIBLE invaluable to the reader who is not using the work as a classroom textbook. Approaching a text from the need to answer a question generates a different reader-text dynamic than merely reading a text for the sake of reading it, and the questions found at the end of each chapter in THE BIBLE, while they reinforce the information found in the text, also illuminate the reader, prodding the reader towards the longing for an even deeper understanding of the Biblical message.
As in his other published body of work, Sumney's writing is clear, concise, clarifying, and always methodical, constructing his argument as carefully as any civil or mechanical engineer. An excellent example of his approach is the third chapter on the inspiration of the Bible. Sumney begins by showing the alternative translations available to the well known passage dealing with "inspiration" in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and then he follows the development of the concept of inspiration, from its origins within Judaism to its very confined manifestation in modern Fundamentalism. The chapter then closes with an extremely helpful analysis of writer John Goldingay's provocative axiom, "Scripture mediates divine revelation apprehended in human experience." (Models For Scripture), and this short analytical section may be one of the best arguments for placing this fine work on your biblical reference shelf. Sumney has an ability to interweave other references into his text in a very effective way that never intimidates his reader, while it succeeds in maximizing their comprehension of his basic premise.
Fortress Press has marketed this fine new work by Jerry Sumney as a "textbook", but their marketing strategy shouldn't make THE BIBLE as repulsive as a diet of lemon juice, bean sprouts, and raw tofu to the average reader. Sumney's fine new work THE BIBLE is an extremely useful and important work to any student of the Bible, whether they are inside or outside of a university.
In his preface to the book, Sumney states that his intended audience actually includes, besides students in an academic setting, anyone who studies the Bible "for guidance in their lives", and in view of that statement his new book THE BIBLE succeeds extremely well.