Making Sense Of The Bible, by David Whitehead
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany Books in exchange for an honest review.]
Although this is an exceedingly short book given its subject matter (it introduces the Bible and seeks to explain it on a simple level for those who are unfamiliar with the contents of scripture in about 170 pages including its endnotes), it is an immensely puzzling book. On the positive side, this is a book clearly written with a design of demystifying the Bible and making it accessible to those who would not read it, with the aim of encouraging people to develop a personal relationship with God. This is all well and proper, and the book does seem to be written with a fair chance of success in prompting its intended audience in taking the Bible seriously and in answering their objections about Christians as well as disarming objections to the validity of the biblical text while encouraging its readers not to be too hostile to those who prefer different Bible translations . The author himself, it must be noted, appears to favor those versions based on the questionable Alexandrian texts that are so popular because of their touch of gnosticism.
The organization of the book is a bit unusual, but there is some logic to it. It would appear, though, based on a mistaken reference on page 40 to the book’s chapter on poetry being in Chapter 7 when it is actually in Chapter 9, that the book’s organization changed during the course of the writing or that the author was unusually careless and sloppy in his references. The book opens with an introduction and then a defense of the proliferation of translations currently available before making an emotional appeal to the heart of the reader and examining the writing styles of the Bible before writing about the scriptures in the following order: Abraham (as a friend of God), the Gospels, the Epistles, the Old Testament narratives, Moses (as a man who saw God face to face), poetry in the Bible, David (as a man after God’s own heart), the prophetic literature, and Jesus (as God with us). If this order seems a bit confusing, especially in that it looks at the Gospels and Epistles before the law and the prophets that form the base of the renewed covenant scriptures and in that it talks about David after looking at biblical poetry and looks at people and parts of the Bible in order of the subjective importance to the writer (parts of the Bible from most important to least important, people from least important to most important), you are probably not alone in that feeling.
In the end, the value of this book is greatly harmed by two types of errors. For one, it is surprising given the fact that creating the daily Bible verse would presuppose a basic familiarity with scripture that this book is so sloppy when it comes to details. For one, the book says that Canaan is located in Turkey (p.46), even though Haran is, and Canaan is located somewhat south, as anyone with a basic familiar with geography would be able to recognize. Likewise, the book makes a common, though lamentable error, in conflating the Israelites with Jews by saying (in error, on page 124) that the Jewish army retreated south after the battle of Mt. Gilboa where Saul was killed, when it was an Israelite army that lost, of which the Jews made a small part as one of twelve tribes. Then, on page 128, the writer says that both Israel and Judah fell pray to the Babylonian empire after their division, when in reality both first had to deal with the Assyrian Empire, and then the remnant of Judah was taken into the Babylonian captivity. These are basic errors of sloppiness, which suggest that either the writer does not really understand basic aspects of biblical history and geography or had terrible editors who did not notice such basic errors, or both.
The other errors of this book are more fundamental and deeper than mere textual sloppiness, which is even more worrisome given the book’s purpose of encouraging readers to develop a close relationship with the God of the Bible, which demands that the writer know what God is like. Given the author claims that Jesus Christ doesn’t care too much about the law (Matthew 5:18-20), as the author has a clear antinomian bias that prevents him from realizing the substantial body of biblical law that still applies to believers, whether in a metaphorical or physical way or prophetic way. Failing to understand the purpose of God’s laws and prophets makes it impossible to lead people to follow God. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch. Likewise, the author compounds his errors by showing an unwillingness to tackle Revelation because his lack of familiarity with the prophets makes it hard for him to recognize the multiple layers of applicability in Revelation (or in prophecy in general, as he makes a similar error with regards to the prophecy about Jesus from Zachariah 8). Finally, the author assumes that all references to God as a plural (starting in Genesis 1:26) are actually references to the Trinity, a massive failure of equivocation that is lamentably common among Hellenistic Christians like the author. In short, while readers of this book may be interested to read the mostly mediocre references that the book has in one of its appendix, or to follow the program to read the Bible in a year in another appendix, the author does not have much insight to provide in terms of God or His word at either the factual or theological levels.
 See, for example: