Few would deny that the Bible is a book. After all it contains a collection of individual books combined into one larger document. With that said, there is the temptation to view each of these individual contributions as isolated from the rest of the larger book. When approached in such a manner, the Bible becomes a collection of individual revelations rather than a cogent collection of books that all speak to one overarching theme. Outside of the essential continuity of Scripture, the narrative that flows throughout becomes clouded at best. In an effort to correct this tendency, Preben Vang and Terry Carter in the updated edition of their helpful text Telling God’s Story: The Biblical Narrative from Beginning to End, focusing the reader on the metanarrative running throughout Scripture, noting how this narrative weaves its way from Genesis to Revelation.
Already an excellent book in its previous form, this updated edition adds a variety of charts, photographs, and illustrations in a visually appealing manner. Outside of the excellent contents, the overall look and feel of this book is a distinctly positive, especially for those who are visual learners. The inclusion of these charts, photographs, and illustrations widens the appeal of this book and makes its useful in a larger variety of settings such as Bible study groups, homeschool curriculum, and personal devotions. This means this book has migrated from being an academic text to a book that all believers can utilize.
In regards to its content, the authors deliver quite well on their effort to walk the reader through the biblical narrative and how all of Scripture ties together to reveal a consistent message. Furthermore, they begin their discussion in the correct location, namely in the book of Genesis. It is quite tempting for laymen and scholars alike to zoom forward in the Bible to the Pauline Epistles or even to that most notoriously difficult of books, the Revelation of John. If one takes that approach, it is likely they have not built the proper foundation necessary to understand those writings. Skip forward past Genesis and one might have a difficult time fully grasping matters such as sin and redemption.
After providing a general overview of the greater biblical narrative and some necessary background on how the books of the Bible are presented and divided, Vang and Carter dig right into the biblical story. The way this book is set up is also quite helpful as the authors divide their discussion of the biblical narrative into 14 episodes with additional engagement of those episodes further sub-divided into acts. This approach helps the reader grasp the overarching idea taking place with the follow on analysis looking at how the specifics relate to the greater metanarrative.
For instance, Episode 7 looks at the captivity of Israel and Judah as the big theme with the sub-elements noting matters of judgment, captivity, the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem, and the importance of the wisdom books. At the end of each act are sections that should not be overlooked by the reader, Vang and Carter provide a series of “Bible Questions” and “Questions to Study and Ponder” that reinforce the information gleaned in that section. They also give the reader a series of assignments that dig even deeper into the material being discussed on both an academic and a personal level.
While there are a plethora of books on the market that take a look at the biblical narrative, Telling God’s Story by Preben Vang and Terry Carter stands above the crowd due to is readability, clear message, the inclusion of useful tools such as color charts, maps, and illustrations, as well as the excellent study questions provided at the end of each section. This is a book I highly recommend not just for those in Bible College in Seminary, but also for all believers interested in having a book in their library that will serve as a valuable resource for sound Bible study. In fact, I plan on using this book in my homeschool curriculum in both middle school and high school over the coming years.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”