Reviews | This is the Bible
The Testimony review (from April 2012)
Summary and summaries
SOME YEARS AGO a young man who had had practically no exposure to the Bible came to stay with us for the last week of the year. Joining with us in the daily readings meant that he started to read God’s Word for the first time by beginning in the middle of Job, Zechariah and Revelation. At the time it occurred to me that this was a case of diving in at the deep end, and he must have found it especially challenging. If I had had a copy of Brother David Pearce’s new book This is the Bible I could have made his initial foray into Scripture rather less daunting than it must have been.
The book’s subtitle, A summary of the Bible and the books within, exactly describes the work. Effective summarising is a very rare skill; Brother Pearce raises it to an art form in this book. Each book of the Bible is summarised, usually on an individual basis; in some cases, where there is natural affinity, such as Kings and Chronicles, the records of the return from exile and some of the epistles, two or three books are summarised together in brief, concise chapters. His summary of Zechariah is one of the highlights of the book. I wish I had had access to this when our young friend came to visit us while we were reading Zechariah! Drawing on the historical context, he also directs the reader to the relevance of Zechariah to our Lord’s first and second advents.
Attention is given in the summaries to links between individual books (for example, the links between Haggai and Zechariah and between those prophecies and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah) and links between the Old and New Testaments. Time lines are used to assist readers to place books in their historical context. Helpful introductory and linking chapters assist the reader to weave the individual summaries into a cohesive summary of the Bible’s message. Liberal but judicious use of elegant drawings, black and white photographs, maps and tables add to the enjoyment and value of the book for readers.
Brother Pearce’s writing style is simple, but certainly not simplistic. One suspects the author’s experience of preaching, particularly in Eastern Europe, may have honed his ability to communicate in simple and concise terms without ‘dumbing-down’ the message. Whatever the source of the skill, however, a wide range of readers will benefit from its deployment in This is the Bible.
An ideal book for an interested friend or young person, those who are familiar with the Scripture from years of diligent reading also will enjoy this work because, in spite of the brevity of each chapter, Brother Pearce offers some intriguing and even provocative insights to pique their interest. For example, many students will be stimulated by a suggestion he makes in relation to the Queen of Sheba and the link he suggests between the Song of Solomon and Ephesians. He also provides helpful explanations of some unusual textual details; two examples of this are in relation to Jonah 4:11 and Micah 4.
A motif Brother Pearce uses more than once when discussing some of the prophecies is that of reading them through multiple pairs of spectacles. He suggests that two or even three pairs of spectacles are necessary if we are to recognise the relevance of the text to the time in which it was delivered, to the time of our Lord’s first advent and, in many cases, to the time when he returns to earth. This motif is used to particularly good effect in his summaries of Isaiah and Joel.
Sensitive introduction to doctrine
A feature of Brother Pearce’s summaries is the way he brings out the moral implications of the message. A good example of this is his drawing of lessons from Zephaniah that are relevant to life in the twenty-first century. In this regard the book addresses an inadvertent deficiency in some “Learn to Read the Bible” preaching seminar notes which, because of the nature of the crash course they present, often focus on factual and technical information about Scripture rather than the moral message of the Word.
Another facet of the work that makes it suitable for seminar attendees and other interested friends is the subtle way in which it handles potentially alienating doctrinal issues. Brother Pearce does not address these issues in a polemical manner but they are still brought out. Sometimes this is done by explaining a term, for example that Satan merely means an adversary. At other times, for example when discussing the nature of Christ in the context of 2 John, he merely provokes the reader to think about the options and their significance. No doubt with the interested friend in mind, the book almost always uses the word ‘church’ to refer to Christian believers, although there are a few places where the words ‘ecclesia’ and ‘ecclesial’ are found. For all of these reasons the book is suitable for being offered to public libraries.
Summaries are, by their nature, idiosyncratic. Inevitably they reflect the interests and focus of the one compiling them. Individual readers also have idiosyncrasies and will be more or less attracted to certain chapters. Some will find the author’s remarkable summary of Revelation (which draws on the continuous-historical approach) most appealing. Others may especially value the way in which he summarises the complexities of the letters to the Corinthians (arguably among the most difficult writings in Scripture.) Yet others will appreciate in particular his masterly overviews of Leviticus (which includes an excellent summary of the offerings and sacrifices under the Law of Moses) and Numbers, books which many Bible readers find intimidating.
Reference was made earlier to Brother Pearce’s preaching work in Eastern Europe. On page 107 there is a comment which may (unconsciously, perhaps) reflect his experience of that region in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union and of the communist régimes in its satellite states. Referring to the opposition of the Jewish leaders to the early ecclesia, Brother Pearce makes the point that “it grew into a campaign of violence, imprisonment and death—the classic response of an intellectually defeated establishment.” It is always interesting to glimpse the man behind the author, and in this case we can see a man in love with the Word of God and the freedom we can share in Christ, and eager to share that love with others.
As a community we should be very grateful to Brother Pearce for writing this book, and to the CMPA for publishing the work. It is hoped that this book enjoys a wide circulation and readership. It is recommended unreservedly.
(Originally published in the April 2012 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 149-150), and is reproduced by kind permission.