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Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Adventuring Through the Bible" (Ray C. Stedman)

TITLE: Adventuring Through the Bible: A Comprehensive Guide to the Entire Bible
AUTHOR: Ray C. Stedman
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2012, new enhanced edition, (941 pages).

I have always been a fan of this book. Since its publication of the first edition, this book has been one of my prized references whenever I do any Bible survey classes or teaching curriculum.This new edition presents more publisher initiatives like:
  • new Bible reading plans;
  • additional timelines of major Bible events;
  • Topical lists for study;
  • Discussion guides
  • Personal application questions
  • Maps, images, and many more.
It is essentially an updated look of the original edition without changing much of the late Stedman's content. Part One brings together the series of sermons Stedman had given in the years 1963-1964. It shows readers the goal of the Bible. The purpose is knowing God, our life's purpose, and faith through the good news. From Genesis to Revelation, Stedman leads readers through a panorama of the Old Testament and New Testament, with stories and examples from contemporary life to highlight the relevance to our world. The conviction is that God has spoken in the past as well as in the New Testament present. God is always speaking. The question is, are we listening?

Part Two encourages readers to take the five steps to maturity using the first five books of the Old Testament, or commonly known as the Pentateuch. Genesis represents the beginning of faith, after the fatal act of disobedience by Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden. The essence of Genesis is that man can do nothing without God. Man need God more than the other way round. Exodus represents God's attempt to deliver Israel from slavery. The redemption theme is strong. Leviticus focuses on purity and wholeness, where the laws, the rituals, and the disciplines, are meant to help, not harm the people. Numbers points the reader to see the victory amid the disciplines and the setbacks faced. Deuteronomy wraps up the chronology of the entire redemption plan, with the law the strongest evidence yet of God's love.

Part Three covers the history of Israel and its neighbours through Joshua, Judges, Ruth, l and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, nehemiah, and Esther. One motivation to read and learn from the horrible events, the historical tragedies and sad events, is to make sure that readers do not repeat the mistakes made. It is also to give thanks to God for being the consistent rescuer despite the rebellion of the people.

Part Four introduces the wisdom books. Calling it a "music to live by," it goes through five poetical books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Relationships are not things that can be solved. Sometimes, they need to be expressed through lament, through music, through singing, through poetry. It is the "heart cry of humanity." Above all, the gist is that no matter what, humans can call out to God in purely ordinary human expressions.

Part Five is the part on the prophetical books. Called the "promises of God," it gives readers a fresh lens to see the major and minor prophets from the eyes of promise. The greatest promise of all, is of course the coming of the Messiah, of Jesus. What is remarkable is that despite the bleak events that Israel had suffered, the exiles, the persecutions, and the endless losing battles, there is a promise of hope in one Saviour.

Part Six begins the survey of the New Testament. It takes a look at the Apocrypha, the gospels and Acts, to show us the person of Jesus Christ. The conviction is that the focus person in both the Old and the New Testament is Jesus Christ. The reason why the Apocrypha has been excluded from the Protestant canon is because it does not fit into the overall theme of the Bible.

Part Seven details the letters of Paul, how the Church is encouraged to hang on to the faith amid the persecutions and the false teachers. The purpose of divine revelation is essentially the transformation of human lives. Stedman affirms Paul's epistles as letters that not only bring together the theological themes of the Bible, but it leads Christians to experience the grace of God in Jesus Christ personally, and with one another in the Christian community.

Part Eight is about "keeping the faith," through Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, the letters of John and Jude. Here is when the going gets tough, faith keeps the faithful going. It is a time to encourage the people to be living stones for God, to put faith into action, to live authentically, to stand up for the faith, and to be counted for God.

Part Nine is specially reserved for Revelation. It too brings together the beginning as well as the end, showing readers again that God has revealed Jesus, and will continue to reveal as the end times approach. 

My Thoughts

As with the title of the book, this is about "adventuring" through the ancient Bible, about the Living Word made even more alive in our modern contexts.  Clearly written, coupled with lots of diagrams, illustrations, summary boxes, it encourages readers to want to read the Bible more. One of the strong points in this book is the frequent summaries of different Bible contexts, movemenets, timelines, cultural nuances, and stories. It gives readers additional tools to use when it comes to analyze, to study, and to apply the Word of God. It is useful as a teaching tool to guide new believers and eager students to understand the overall focus of the Bible. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which part of the book is written by Ray Stedman, which by Elaine his wife, or by unnamed individual(s) in the publishing house. For example, since Ray died in 1992, there is no way he had written about the story of 9/11 in the book. Books of this nature can also suffer from reductionistic tendencies. This is the inherent weakness in any attempt to summarize anything.

That said, if this book can drive one to study the Bible more for themselves, it would have worth the price of the book. Stedman says it well. The Bible is an adventure of faith. That is why, adventuring through the Bible is an apt title that will stick. I thank the Lord for this servant, who has given the Christian world a valuable asset to use, in the study of the Bible. With this book in hand, there is no way Bible study can be boring.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Discovery House Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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