Those readers who have attended Bible college or seminary will likely have used a New Testament or Old Testament introduction. Such books provide a survey of each book of the Bible, considering questions of date, authorship, occasion for writing, an outline and overview of the contents, and so forth. Such works, which are frequently academic in nature, typically give significant space to technical matters related to critical theories regarding date and authorship.
Except for that last item, How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart is very similar to those types of works, but the fact that it doesn’t spend time discussing academically oriented technical issues makes it extremely useful for both lay readers and pastors. Please don’t misunderstand: all evangelical pastors should know about and be able to defend scriptural authority in light of critical theories. As such, this book should not be the only reference work consulted by Bible readers and teachers. However, for many, this may be the first that would be consulted. By not focusing on critical theories, Fee and Stuart have provided a concise, readable volume that provides an overview of each Bible book that will be useful for beginners reading the Bible for the first time, as well as for teachers getting started on organizing a series of lessons on a Bible book.
The book begins with an overview that relates the overarching biblical themes that hold it together as a single story. In addition, prior to beginning each major section of the Bible, the authors provide an overview of the contents and interrelationships of those particular books.
The bulk of the work, however, is given to a highly readable survey of each biblical book. For each book, the authors follow a common organizational format. An “orienting data” section provides bulleted, basic information such as a brief summary of the content, the historical period covered or date of writing, authorship (where appropriate), and a list of primary emphases. This is followed by a general overview and a section on “specific advice” for reading that book of the Bible. The discussion of each Bible book then closes with “A Walk Through” providing a brief section by section summary of the contents of each part. This functions as a briefly elaborated on simple outline of the text.
As mentioned above, the authors for the most part do not address critical issues related to date and authorship, and for the most part they also don’t offer a range of interpretations and views. They simply give their own understandings. Thus, the reader will undoubtedly find himself disagreeing on occasion, and in any event, consulting a good commentary is never a bad idea to get both more detailed discussion and the range of views. However, by focusing on the mission of providing key introductory and summary information for each book, the authors have provided an extremely useful Bible help.
How to Read the Bible Book by Book is intended as a companion volume for an earlier work by the same authors, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth (see a review here). While “Book by Book” occasionally refers readers to the earlier work for more information on a given subject, one does not lose much by using it as a stand alone volume.