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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: "The Bible in World History"

TITLE: The Bible in World History: How History and Scripture Intersect (Illustrated Bible Handbook Series)
AUTHOR: Stephen Leston
PUBLISHER: Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishers, 2011, (274 pages).

Expansive. Illuminating. Colourful. With clear diagrams, pictures, and photos strategically placed throughout, this book is a pleasure to behold. Unlike some encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, or similar survey of biblical history, this book packs a wallop without becoming too bulky to carry. Convenient to carry around, the reader will be captivated by the beautiful illustrations, and the clear point by point explanation of the Bible in history. The author's main purpose is to understand world history through the Bible. Leston's conviction is:

"Only a Christian view of history truly addresses the issues that drive mankind, and thus only a Christian worldview can give us what we need to understand the world around us." (2)

I will review the book in three ways. Firstly, I want so see how well it has demonstrated the strengths of the Christian worldview. Secondly, how has the book allowed the Bible to speak for itself? Thirdly, why should you read this book?

1) Has the book demonstrated the strengths of the Christian worldview?

Leston highlights the 6 Christian beliefs that make up the Christian worldview.

  1. It is a recognition that God is the Creator of the world. 
  2. It is an affirmation that in the end, God's Kingdom reigns forever. 
  3. The Bible is God's revelation to man, through the 66 books of the Bible. 
  4. God is the Redeemer of the world.  
  5. Judgment for the evil ones who refuse to repent.
  6. All creation will acknowledge the Glory of God. Eventually.

I must say that the author does a great job in constantly comparing the Bible event with a major world event. Using the Bible as a backdrop, he then weaves in archaelogical research from all other cultures and summarizes it side by side. Each chapter ends with a 2-column comparison of Bible history and world history. With the Bible as reference, the whole book looks firm. All understanding and learning needs to be based on a solid reference point. The Bible is that reference point, and it makes the reading of the book readable and the flow logical. In fact, the history of the non-biblical world has enhanced and illuminated the Bible passages. Thus, it is not the Bible that is lending a framework to world history, but world history enriching and illuminating many parts of Scripture. I like the way the histories of other cultures have been introduced. The link between the history in the biblical world and the non-biblical world is largely based on the timescale, rather than any political alliances or direct historical interaction between the biblical world and the non-biblical world. For example, on China, there is no direct relationship between the Chinese authorities and the Israelites at that time. The basic links are essentially by themes. Like war and suffering; or religious development. My conclusion is that the biblical worldview makes sense for two reasons. Firstly, there is a lot of archaelogical research and evidence that supports the Christian worldview. Secondly, the Bible is a unifying document, considering that despite the thousands of years of history, the Bible uniquely points to a common God consistently.

2) Has the Bible been fairly portrayed?

Mostly yes. The historical overview gives Bible readers a fresh understanding of the contexts of the biblical text. It informs, enhances, and gives readers a lot of incentive to read the Bible more. While the outline of the biblical material is logical, the book has to be seen as one that attempts to interpret world history from the biblical standpoint rather than an atlas or encyclopedia of the Bible. That said, for the purposes of this book, the Bible has been fairly portrayed.

I like particularly the three-fold emphasis throughout the book. Firstly, the sacred history uses the biblical view as a basis for reading world history. This is consistent with the way the world uses the BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) notations when referencing time periods. Secondly, the secular history is not forcibly merged into the Jewish historical context but compared in parallel, albeit geographically distant. Thirdly, the redemptive history demonstrates a hope for the future. This is great because unlike some history books that live in the past, this book adopts history with an optimistic hope for the coming kingdom of Christ.

3) Why you should read this book?

If you are new to biblical history, this book benefits you because of its clear overview of the contexts of the bible lands. This book enhances our understanding of history, culture, and people throughout history. If you are a preacher or a teacher, this book is a wonderful resource to teach beginner classes about biblical history.  Unlike books that are wordy, this book combines the best of storytelling, archaelogical research, and some history of non-Jewish culture. It will give readers in the Western world a better glimpse of ancient cultures outside the Western hemisphere. Even non-Christians can benefit from the reading of this book.

In summary, I believe this book enhances our understanding of the Bible as well as an appreciation of the world history according to the Bible.

Ratings: 4 stars of 5.


This book is supplied to me free by Barbour Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The comments given are freely mine.

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