How Bible Stories Work

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time (just in case you were unaware of that fact). It is the greatest work of literature that has ever been produced. And, when we study and interpret the Bible, our tendency is to investigate any number of fields (genre, original language, etc.), but often neglect the actual literary structure of the text.How Bible Stories Work

Now along comes Leland Ryken with a series of concise volumes published by the Weaver Book Company which focus our attention the Bible as literature. Ryken’s goal is to get us to place our initial attention on how the authors of Scripture as they were guided by the Holy Spirit placed emphasis on the “how to” of telling a story.

Ryken, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, is Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College and a literary expert extraordinaire. He has written a number of books connecting the Bible as literature. How Bible Stories Work: A Guided Study of Biblical Narrative is the initial volume of six focusing on Reading the Bible as Literature.

The “Series Preface” says it all for the intent of this volume and the ones to follow: “ … to equip Christians to understand and teach the Bible effectively …” This book surpasses that intent.

Ryken walks us through the two components of a story and then the three elements that are included in every story. The book is structured in an orderly and logical fashion which help us not to get “lost in the weeds” of dissecting a story. But it is not a tedious outline with some academic explanation. Rather, each element is explained by the use of a biblical story. We learn by example. And at the end of each chapter Ryken has included a “Learning by Doing” section in which we can apply the principles taught in that chapter.

I will confess that I have already – consciously and unconsciously – used several of Ryken’s principles in preparing sermons and Bible studies. Therefore, I highly recommend this volume to pastors and anyone involved in teaching the Word of God to others. It will add a valuable tool to your study and education of the Scriptures.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Weaver Book Company for a fair and honest review.

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Illustrated Life of Paul

Illustrated Life of PaulThere are, as you might expect, a vast array of books on the life of Paul the Apostle. That number includes volumes at every level of education and scholarship. Therefore, you have a massive literary collection from which to choose.

If you’re just starting out on your journey with Paul, I would highly recommend the one we are reviewing here – the Illustrated Life of Paul by Charles L. Quarles. Quarles possesses a Ph.D. and is a professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Quarles has intricately and expertly woven together all of the information on Paul from the book of Acts plus information from all of his letters into a chronological biography of the Apostle. It is, if you will, a harmony of the life of Paul. As we follow Paul’s tracks on his three missionary journeys and his trip to Rome, Quarles inserts appropriate material from all of Paul’s letters to add detail to the story.

Another interesting feature of this book is the immense amount of background material used by Quarles. The supplementary material on geography, topography, cities, culture, etc., all add to the interest of reading about Paul’s life. You get a breathtaking appreciation of the trials and travails endured by Paul to spread the gospel.

A third element, obviously indicated by the title, is a wide collection of pictures, maps and illustrations that are presented throughout the book. As I read through the three separate chapters on each missionary journey, I found myself constantly flipping forward or backward to the appropriate individual map just to develop an assessment of where Paul was at any given time.

With that in mind I would highly recommend that as you read this volume you keep a copy of the Bible right beside you. Quarles makes constant reference to Scripture so you’ll want to see from where he is drawing his information. You’ll find a Bible at the ready to be most helpful.

The Illustrated Life of Paul is a perfect volume for all pastors, teachers and dedicated students of the Bible. It is not written by a scholar to scholars.  It is written to all who wish to increase their understanding of the Bible and the Apostle Paul in particular. I would say it’s a must read and a studious one at that.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by B&H Academic Publishing for a fair and honest review.