Book Review: The Bible Book By Book

The Bible Book By Book: A Manual For The Outline Study Of The Bible By Books, by Josiah Blake Tidwell

If you are looking for a particularly dry book that gives fairly commonplace details about the content of every book of the Bible, arbitrarily divides the Bible into various historical periods and provides a lot of questions for students of the Bible to answer on their own (without providing those answers), this is a good place to look. To be fair, this book is a very old one, probably used as a textbook back when people read Bibles in school (it has the feel of being used as as form of Bible education in a formal classroom setting). As the work of a Texan doctor of divinity, it represents early 20th century biblical scholarship of a conservative Protestant fashion.

The first eight chapters of this book seek to provide introductory material to the Bible of a very rudimentary and straightforward fashion, giving some reasons why we believe in the Bible based on internal and external evidence, a discussion of the names of God (at least as they were known to early 20th century Protestants with a limited knowledge of Hebrew), the sacred offices, the seven covenants, the divisions of scripture, the various supposed dispensations (as the author is a clear dispensationalist), the ages and divisions of biblical history and some notable personages in the Bible. The rest of the book contains a rather uneven summary of the books of the Bible with their contents, comments about their author and theme and perspective and questions for the reader (who is presumably a student).

As might be expected to be the case, a greatly disproportionate amount of the text of this book focuses on the New Testament, with a particular spirit that always seems on the verge of, if not actually crossing over into, a spirit of antinomianism. The author’s knowledge of Hebrew and biblical ways appears very limited and largely second hand. To his credit, the author does not claim any great originality of thought or expression (nor is it to be found in this work), but the lack of biblical understanding of the author does make this work of limited value for believers. Mind you, within those limits it is a book that is of modest pleasure and accomplishment, but it is very limited. However, a point in this book’s favor is that it does occasionally contain within its dry outline form answers to particularly notable questions within Christianity, including a refutation of the idea that Peter was the first Prelate of Rome, doing so economically but with some skill. On other questions, like the Sabbath, the book has little of worth to offer whatsoever.

Therefore, those who read this book should be aware of its limitations, so as to not have too high expectations of the work, but also to enjoy the occasional details the book does offer that is of interest. Generally speaking, the beginning of each chapter discussing the book of the Bible is the best part, giving a biographical account of the author and a brief historical introduction to the context of the work. What follows after this are largely superficial accounts of the organization of material (some of the time, such as in Judges, not showing any awareness of the chiastic form of organization within it, and failing to do justice to its structural integrity) as well as basic questions for the reader to determine how many times certain words or expressions are used in certain texts by certain authors (for example). For those who appreciate its limits and its dry and superficial nature, this book is of some interest to contemporary students of the Bible, so long as they are content with texts and no illustrations or charts or diagrams to liven the presentation any.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: The Bible Book By Book

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