Even the most well-versed scholar must admit that the Bible can be a difficult read for most people. Reading through it requires time and patience (something that most people are unwilling to give). It requires scrutiny and study beyond the attention level of most people. the Bible is a book unlike any other because the intricacy of God’s Word carries significance, meaning, and connections that are not necessarily found in other forms of reading. To bridge the gap of limited understanding that many people have with the Bible, Dr. William H. Marty has put together The Whole Bible Story so that Scripture can be grasped at the most basic level.
Dr. William Marty recently retired from Moody Bible Institute where he taught many classes over his long tenure there, most notably and applicable Bible survey classes that certainly enable him to write such a book. In 19 chapters, Dr. Marty seeks to capture the major aspects of the Bible and simplifies them with language that takes the reading level down to the most basic of levels. The particular release that I had the opportunity to review was the illustrated edition that comes with the inclusion of both colored maps and pictures, which add aesthetic value but overall were not necessary as they provided little clarifying value to the book. As a book, the layout is quite beautiful with its font styles, colored section headings, and colored pages to indicate chapter divisions.
However, these details are insignificant when it comes to evaluating the most important aspect: content. There are two major points that the author has sought to clarify from the beginning. Quite simply he has written simply to tell the story of Scripture simply and understandably. As such he is quick to point out that this book is not a paraphrase nor should it act as a substitute for reading Scripture. One can appreciate his acknowledgement and emphasis on this because it is important to understand that only Scripture is the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word.
With that in mind, we have to question then, why write such a book? Personally, the author’s introduction about the need for such a book can leave readers feeling as those the Bible is insufficient by itself and needs our help in order to make it understandable. Admittedly, upon receiving this book for review, those were my first questions, and after reading through the book, those thoughts still remain. Yes, the Bible is difficult at times. However, the Bible speaks to its own perspicuity and to say we need to make the Bible more clear denies that very attribute. Perhaps the greatest issues is not that the Bible is so difficult, but that we demands things to be easier. The problem then is not with how the Bible presents the information but with how we invest in that information. Simply put, we must read the Bible faithfully and completely with the mindset that not every concept will be understood in the first reading. Instead, it takes years of faithful reading grasp the intensity of the concepts. And so perhaps we don’t need a new Word but a new mindset with how read the Word.
Aside from this major concern, Dr. William Marty’s presentation of the Bible lacks a number of aspects that one can only get from reading the Bible. First off, it should be noted that despite titling this the whole Bible story, it really isn’t the whole story. The author has chosen to exclude poetry, prophecy, and epistles, which make up major portions of Scripture. Additionally, Scripture is written utilizing a variety of genres that help convey themes, images, and nuances that are missed when everything is presented in a simple narrative. In order to make the narrative simple, the author uses basic language that mirrors more of a secular society and fails to capture the depth of the words in which the Bible is written. Finally, the most glaring omission in this form of writing is God. The Bible is written in such a way that exalts the Lord, pointing to his purposes, sovereignty, and graces, yet the summation within the book fails to capture the depth of those aspects.
One an appreciate Dr. William H. Marty’s intentions with this book (and those who compelled him to put the work together). Certainly, a lot of time and consideration was given to put forth this product, and the quality is reflective of that. However, rather than looking for the easier way, readers should simply invest more time in reading their Bible directly and seeking out godly, qualified individuals who may be able to help them when they lack understanding. There simply is no alternative to Scripture itself.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and instead is the result of my own reading of the book.