Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 50:3 (September 2007) p. 595
The Essential Bible Companion: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word. By John H. Walton, Mark L. Strauss, and Ted Cooper, Jr. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006,150 pp., $14.99 paper.
As designed, The Essential Bible Companion is an elementary introduction to each individual book of the Bible. This will be beneficial for a beginning Bible reader, for Sunday School teachers aiming to give a 45-minute synopsis of a book, and perhaps for an undergraduate Bible Survey course. Like the Testaments the authors seek to summarize, there is great continuity between the OT and NT sections of the book. Most of the books in the OT and NT are summarized on two pages in an easy-to-use fashion (some of the OT prophetic books are combined and Revelation gets four pages). The summary of each book approximates the first page of an average study Bible: it includes key concepts, purpose statements, and information regarding dating. It goes beyond many study Bibles in that it is considerably more user-friendly with colorful maps, enjoyable pictures, and helpful timelines. For the Gospels, the book gives brief, but helpful, three- or four-point outlines. Unfortunately, this practice is limited to the Gospels; brief outlines for the rest of the biblical books would have contributed greatly to the design of this Bible companion.
While continuity assists aesthetically and pedagogically, there is—again like the two Testaments themselves—some discontinuity between the OT and NT sections of the book. Although this discontinuity in no way hinders its readability, it does make evident some omissions that might have been helpfully added. The OT section has “Key Concepts,” “Key Terms,” and “Key Teachings about God.” But the NT section seems to combine all of these into the much shorter “Key Themes.” Arguably, this is easier to do for the NT books, but I think it would not have been overly difficult to do for the OT section also, and would have shortened things considerably. Furthermore, “Key Terms” that are in the OT section are also spelled out in the glossary and therefore could have simply been listed (without definition) for reference in the glossary. I also see little value in the “People to Know” section; significant names were generally mentioned already in the “Purpose” overview. Space saved in these areas could have been used to include brief outlines and helpful information on matters of special introduction (e.g. possible authorship or recipients) that may have helped with understanding the “purpose,” subtly assisting readers to determine a book’s purpose for themselves. One thing I did enjoy was Walton’s selection of “key verses” (although Gen 3:15 and Psalm 1
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