Discovering the Bible
Story and Faith of the Biblical Communities
Publisher: Beacon Hill Books
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Publishing a textbook for introductory level Bible survey courses, Beacon Hill adds their contribution to the vast field of similar books. How does this one measure up?
First, in terms of production, the book has a very durable hard cover, a must for a reference book that hopes to last a long time. However, the page layout left much to be desired, putting too much white space on the outside of the page and burying the double-column text in the cracks. The image selection is pitiful in both selection and reproduction.
Then, there are some ridiculous issues of content. For example, each chapter title page includes a box of “Key Words to Understand”. For the chapter on Romans, the list includes “Martin Luther” and “John Wesley”, confusing historical theology with Bible survey. Also, “Resources for Further Study” at the end of each chapter contained items of dubious merit for beginners. Given the stated goals of a Bible survey textbook, tighter editorial work would have been helpful.
All this could be forgiven, however, if Discovering the Bible could have maintained intellectual honesty in matters pertaining to controversial areas of Bible interpretation and scholarship. In such areas, a textbook should not short-circuit the learning process of the student through intellectual snobbery by stating, “Nearly all scholars believe…” as if that alone should settle a difficult text. A sampling of areas for concern include:
(1) Denial of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in favor of a documentary hypothesis
(2) Positing a second-century dating of the book of Daniel, which of course makes the prophetic word not prophetic at all but merely a history lesson.
(3) A two or three-author approach to Isaiah
(4) Skepticism about aspects of the creation account that come from the angle that the original writers had a limited scientific understanding and cannot be faulted for writing things that are not true. However, with proper interpretation, the examples they give prove nothing.
(5) An egalitarian interpretive position regarding women in ministry.
(6) Only providing two options for understanding the doctrine of Scriptural inspiration – either dictation or dynamical… and thus they set up a false dichotomy. Verbal plenary inspiration is not even mentioned.
Following the standard pattern for a Biblical survey, this work moves book-by-book through the entire Protestant canon of Scripture. While not offering commentary on individual passages, the writers lay out the broad outline and theme of each book of the Bible. The writing is clear and does the job of introducing the text to new learners. Each chapter closes with summary statements, questions for reflection and a suggested Bible study assignment.
There are much better Bible surveys on the market today. I do not recommend this one at all.