These volumes in the stellar series by the Crossroad Press on how to read the Bible are available as separate volumes, but the work of Fr. Etienne Charpentier is such that when the reader gets one book, the other book will be desired. These volumes, 'How to Read the Old Testament' and 'How to Read the New Testament' from Charpentier are translated from the French series Les Editions du Cerf. This is in some ways a guide for those who don't know how to read the Bible. It is in some ways done as a travel guide - the Bible is the destination, but like most geographic places, there are actually a variety of landmarks and stops to make in any location, and these will all vary. These books are richly illustrated with maps, line-art drawings, side-bar boxes and pull-boxes, and other graphic-design features that make reading an adventure. One can read through each chapter as a narrative, and then return to fill in the blanks with the sidelined information. This guide can be used individually or as part of groups in church or school settings. It's outline would make for a good one-semester course on each Testament at the undergraduate or even advanced high school level, a Sunday school or Bible school series, or for an individual to use as 'traveller's friend' while going it alone. This book assumes the reader will have a copy of the Bible to use side by side with the text - it does not replace the Bible or the necessity of reading the actual texts in the Bible. The author recommends the Revised Standard Version or the Jerusalem Bible; both of which have also been updated since the original writing of this volume. In the first volume, the Journey's End is where Charpentier looks at Jewish and Christian continuations in worship and theology from these early texts, and provides a good (albeit somewhat outdated) list for further reading. There is also a section on Jewish literature outside of the Bible, The final timeline, a rather complex and involved grid, found on pages 118-119, is a very valuable study tool, worth keeping for study in biblical and historical subjects. It combines the history of persons, places and events on the top with the history of the writing of the actual texts below. In the second volume, Charpentier gives a good but somewhat dated list for further reading in New Testament and Gospel studies. He also gives a list of the writings of the Early Church Fathers for a look at the further development of Christian writing prior to the closure and formation of the canon of the New Testament. A great study aid, interesting and useful. Fr. Etienne Charpentier dedicated much of his effort to encouraging Bible study, particularly among his fellow Catholics. He gives tribute to those who worked with him in Chartres and across France as co-workers in the production of this volume.
A clearly written book, ideal for the beginner or those with a more advanced knowledge. Logically organised so that information is easy to find, with plenty of maps, tables and line drawings. Cross-referencing is excellent. This book is useful both for study and for general information.