Bible OverviewWritten by Steve Levy Reviewed By Paul J. Brown
As the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Swansea, Wales, Steve Levy writes a Bible primer that reflects his pastoral concerns and systematic-theological approach to understanding the metanarrative of Scripture. His ultimate goal is that the reader would “delight in the Bible” and “thirst after reading God’s Word, all of it, and delight in every single bit” (p. 11). The writing style is casual and non-technical, making it particularly well-suited for new Christians, especially new converts in their teens or twenties. He writes in short, vivid sentences, begins each subsection with an anecdote, and avoids theological terms and controversies. He addresses the task with a singular interpretive method and a pastor’s heart, arguing in concert with many of the Reformed creeds; the OT saints are to be regarded as the “church,” and the gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed to the OT saints in anticipation of his atoning work.
The book is organized in eleven parts, each part having three to six subsections. One unusual feature is the ordering of the OT books. Most often, a Bible overview written to be helpful for new converts follows the English Bible order of the OT books. Levy opts to follow the order of the Hebrew Bible—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. It is likely that he uses this ordering because it dovetails nicely with his hermeneutical key; everything written about Jesus in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings needed to be fulfilled (p. 16; cf. Luke 24:44).
The first subsection of Part One, “The Bible’s about Jesus,” introduces his systematic approach, which grows out of the assertion that Jesus is present in all of Scripture. Parts Two through Eleven guide the reader through the theological content of Scripture, albeit somewhat unevenly, from the covenant with Abraham to the missionary mandate of the church. For example, the most space is given to the Former Prophets, Genesis-2 Kings (120 pp.). Eighty-three of those pages are used to expound Genesis—31% of the entire book. Although Genesis is admittedly a theologically important book, it is also popularly regarded as one of the more interesting books to read. By contrast, the Latter Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi, less Lamentations and Daniel) total twenty pages. Here lies the problem; for the first-time reader, books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel pose the greatest challenges, and it is for these sorts of difficult sections that Levy desires to provide the key to understanding (cf. p. 9). Yet is his brief treatment sufficient to clear the fog from the mind of the overwhelmed?
The book evinces the predictable strengths and weakness of a brief, popular-level survey informed by systematic theology. It is an accessible and compelling read that gives a broad overview of the story of God’s work with his people throughout history. The weaknesses of this overview are its brief treatment of some portions of the Bible and an under-nuanced biblical theology. Paul Blackham contributes a “Frequently Asked Questions” appendix that answers the inevitable questions raised by a brief overview written by a pastor with young believers in view. With clarity and charity, he addresses differing theological viewpoints, accounts for the discontinuities between the OT and NT, and appeals to historic Reformed confessions to demonstrate the soundness of the hermeneutic applied by Levy. The book also includes three other appendices: quotes from church history selected by the author, Bible readings with study questions that follow the organization of the book, and an abbreviated list of OT quotations in the NT.
Levy helps the reader to understand the story of the Bible as a unified disclosure of the Son of God from Genesis to Revelation. Whether the author achieves his ultimate goal is difficult to assess; creating a thirst for the Bible can be measured only in the experience of the reader. One thing, however, is clear: Levy communicates his pastoral heart and passion for the Bible on every page.
Paul J. Brown
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Deerfield, Illinois, USA
Other Articles in this Issue
Bearing Sword in the State, Turning Cheek in the Church: A Reformed Two-Kingdoms Interpretation of Matthew 5:38–42
Among the many biblical passages that provoke controversial questions about Christian non-violence and cooperation with the sword-bearing state, perhaps none presses the issue as sharply as Matt 5:38–42...