As the title suggests this multi-authored text focuses on providing readers with a macro view of Biblical literature. Poythress argues, forcefully and with an array of examples, that Jesus Christ constitutes the unifying theme between the Old and New Testaments. The book is further subdivided into four parts.
Part one covers the Old Testament with chapters covering, the theology of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, the historical books, the poetical and wisdom books, and prophetical books. Part two surveys the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments, known as the inter-testamental period. The goal of the section is to provide the historical background needed to better understand the issues behind the Gospel stories, particularly Christ's conflicts with Jewish leaders. Part three delves into the New Testament proper with chapters on the Gospels and Acts, the epistles, and the book of revelation. The final part is a collection of chronological tables beginning with Abraham in the 21st century BC designed to help readers put the stories and books of the bible into historical context.
The book fully fulfills its task of providing readers with the big picture of Scripture. The authors provide helpful insights to major themes and genres contained in scripture. But as with any multi-authored text, quality varies across the chapters. For instance, Gordon Wenham, author of the chapter on the Pentateuch, appropriated little space on the sacrificial system and Israel's law codes, such as the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the chapter covering the Gospels and Acts did a wonderful job surveying the major themes of the Gospels but neglected to give due attention to the book of Acts, particularly the ministry of the Holy Spirit as explained by Luke. I suspect the authors were under severe word restrictions and would have loved more room. I am simply wondering why some seemingly marginal elements were emphasized to the neglect of other apparently more significant ones. It was also unclear to me why background information wasn't provided for the Old Testament as it was for the New.
I don't want to leave the reader with a negative assessment, however. I found much in this text worthy of a reader's time. Each of the authors forthrightly addressed questions of authorship and literary integrity of the biblical books. They correctly surveyed biblical literature, emphasizing what is known rather than on academic theories regarding what is not known. They also rightly avoid theological disputes within the Christian church spending, choosing instead to discuss points of interpretive agreement. The book of Revelation is a notable exception. In this case, the author explains the various perspectives on its interpretation and lets the reader come to his own conclusion.
I highly recommend this text for readers unfamiliar with Scripture. Readers can be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of information contained in its pages. This text provides them with an important lens and framework by which to put the individual pieces of the Bible together into a coherent whole. Bible teachers (high school and older) and professors teaching introduction to Biblical literature courses should consider using this text.
Stephen M Vantassel is a tutor at Kings evangelical divinity school, broad stairs England. His research interests include interpretive methods and ethics, particularly environmental ethics and the animal rights movement.