Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible by Grudem, Collins, and Schreiner

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well

See a list of and information about the editors and contributors here.

I’ll have to be honest. As I began to read this book, I was initially disappointed. The title of the book, especially the “Big Picture” part, gave me the impression that this book was a introductory Biblical theology of sorts. I was expecting this book to help its readers see how the various parts of scripture (e.g., the Pentateuch, historical books, wisdom literature, etc.) all fit together in the overarching “storyline” of scripture.

On the contrary, the book’s subtitle is more accurate than its title. This book doesn’t seem to be written so much to help one understand the “Big Picture” of the Bible; it seems to be written to help one better understand the individual parts (e.g., Pentateuch) that compose that “Big Picture.” In accomplishing this latter goal, the book does an excellent job. It is a great introductory book on how to read and understand one’s Bible, its different genres, and its various contexts.

Now, it’s worth noting, the book does have a chapter introducing “An Overview of the Bible’s Storyline” and two chapters on the Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Although extremely simple and brief, these provide a good start in helping the reader begin to see the “Big Picture.” However, they are no where near adequate in enabling one to walk away with a firm grasp on the Bible’s “Big Picture.” But agin, the book’s subtitle is better description of the book than its title.

In case my review sounds too negative at this point, let me assure you, this is an excellent introductory book on how to read your Bible well. I recommend it. It’s an unintimidating 160 pages. The editors pulled together an all-start crew of contributors. It’s got some really helpful charts and provides really simply, concise, and precise explanations of difficult and complex topics. When it comes to learning how to read your Bible better, this is a fantastic place to start.

But… another interesting aspect of this book–although it’s very introductory level, the chapters take time to mention issues related to the authenticity of the books of the Bible. Issues like, “did Peter really write 2 Peter?” or “did three ‘Isaiah’s’ write Isaiah?” are certainly important with which Christians ought to be informed. But it does make for an interesting dynamic in the book. From my experience, individuals who seeking basic, introductory help on how to read their Bibles better are typically not the same people interested in or struggling with things like form criticism. That’s just my opinion though. In other words, I think the book may unnecessarily introduce concerns for readers who are simply desiring to understand their Bibles better.

With all that said, let me reiterate, the book is good. I recommend it. It’d be a good resource for any Christian to have on his or her shelf.

Try this sample PDF via Westminster Books.

PS – Although most individuals seemed to have enjoyed the books content, many online reviewers have voiced their disappointment with the fact that this book is apparently just a collection of articles from the ESV Study Bible (see “Amazon Reviews” here). So, if you have the ESV Study Bible, I guess you probably won’t need to buy this book!