Xanga Post Friday June 9, 2006

About a month ago I received my weekly newsletter from the guys down at Relevant Magazine.  They were looking for a few people to read and then give a review of a book they were about to publish, Pocket Guide to the Bible: A Little Book About the Big Book by Jason Boyett (available from Relevant Books).  I responded that I was interested and received the book this past weekend.  So, here it goes.

This is the third in Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide series.  The first two are Pocket Guide to Adulthood and Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.  I have to admit that I haven't read these previous installments, but was intrigued and interested when I received this latest one.

The book is divided into eight chapters.  The first being a "Biblicabulary," which is an alphabetical listing and defining of some terms familiar to all Christians though not necessarily understood by them as well as being completely foreign and confusing to most not labeled with that particular moniker.  The next two chapters focus on characters from the Bible (again in alphabetical order) giving a brief summary of their importance and then the two after that cover "what happens" in a book-by-book synopsis.  All of this is well and good.  Boyett covers all of the bases and writes with wit as well as reverence.  Some passages my give the Believing reader pause (they did me) because of the unique humor Boyett discovers in the midst of the holy, but then you can't take yourself too seriously.  However, for any Bible-reading Christians and people who grew up being read Bible stories, a lot of this is old hack, though it is nice to have it all compiled for you in five easy-to-read chapters.

The next two chapters, though, are worth the price of the book alone.  Chapter six is entitled "The Brief History of Holy Writ (A Timeline)."  Here, Boyett gives the reader what is a brief though very informative history of how the Canon of the Scriptures came into being.  "Versions and Perversions (A Selective Survey of Translations" is the title of chapter seven and does just what it says.  It takes some of the most well-known translations and gives a brief description of them along with recommendations for reading and categorizing them into one of three categories of translation style: formal equivalence, dynamic equivalence or paraphrase.

The last chapter consists of a number of humorous lists from various categories.  Take it or leave it.  Though it would make for interesting trivia and humor at your next Saturday night "Let's-Get-Biblically-Crunked" party.

This isn't a book you'll study at any seminary, divinity school or many Bible studies (which is good since the point of a Bible study is to study a Bible, not the latest [insert popular Christian author's name] book).  However, in a day and age when there are many misconceptions about the Bible, when many Christians don't read it themselves on any kind of regular basis, when Dan Brown sparks more discussion of its canonization than does the thousands of sermons and lessons taught on Sunday mornings, it is refreshing to find a work like Pocket Guide to the Bible to serve as an interesting and informative introduction to God's Holy Word.  Biblical scholars can find it to be fun and a good resource to remember everything they've got crammed into their brain about the Good Book, but Biblical ingénues or even illiterates will find a great beginning to discovering what all the fuss has been about for the past few millennia.

Enjoy.  Or don't.  Whatever.

xangaChris Kinsley