Review: Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus, Jeremy Howard

understanding-jesus-coverWith this post begins a new feature to this site: book reviews!  It is my goal to review newly-released books that deal with Christian theology, worldview, apologetics, and Bible study.  These resources will help those of you who are interested dig deeper into many of the topics that are discussed on this site.

 

With Easter only a few days away, what greater topic is there to discuss than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?  Easter Sunday marks the most important event in history for those who are Christians.  However, many on the outside of Christianity, and even many within, are not really sure of the significance of the day.  Why did Jesus die?  Why does it matter if he rose from the dead?  And how does Jesus fit into the entire story of the Bible?

These are all good and important questions.  They are also the types of questions that author Jeremy Howard sets out to answer in the Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus.  In his book, Howard begins at the beginning – the garden of Eden.  In a highly readable and engaging format, the author tells the over-arching story of Scripture.  This is not just a focus on the life of Christ, but a presentation of how Jesus fits into the big picture.  So many Christians and non-Christians really do not have a grounded understanding of the sweeping narrative of the Bible.  This books does much to correct that.

The narrative style and the clear writing of the author are the clear strengths of this wonderful book.  Howard is able to incorporate many of the most important, and sometimes difficult, themes of both the Old and New Testaments in a way that both the average reader and the more advanced student can glean much from.  The 400 page book is also a very attractive presentation, having a large number (200+) of color images interwoven within the text.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand the big picture of the Christian worldview and how Jesus fits into the picture.  This is probably the best non-technical treatment of the topic I have read.

There are also five other books in the Holman QuickSource series (Bible Atlas, Christian Apologetics, Understanding the Bible, Bible Dictionary, and Understanding Creation).  I have not read the others, but if they are on par with Understanding Jesus, they would be worth the effort.

Let me know if you have read, and what your thoughts are concerning, Understanding Jesus or any of the other titles in this series.

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7 Responses to Review: Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus, Jeremy Howard

  1. Jeff says:

    Tim,
    Thanks for bringing this book to our attention. There are a lot of Jesus books already. What is there about this book that makes it unique enough to include in an already crowded library? Would you consider it written from a conservative, liberal or neutral point of view?

  2. Tim Farley says:

    Jeff:

    You ask some very good questions. The primary reason I think this book deserves a look is because of its unique narrative approach to the subject. It presents the sweeping story of Scripture in an engaging way and tells us how Jesus fits into and completes the story. There are not many books that take this type of approach. The book reads like a story, not a book of proof texts (although the author does quote a good amount of Scripture to show that what he writes is biblical).

    I think the book is fairly conservative in its approach to the subject matter. However, the author does have some views that will probably cause some conservatives to become a little nervous (i.e. how the Pentateuch was written).

  3. Tim,

    I want to thank for your reviewing my book. Your review is very well written, and I’m pleased to see that you’ve captured the essence of my aims for The Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus. As you state above, very few biographies of Jesus take a whole-Bible approach. Flip open almost any Jesus book and you’ll find it starts with the birth narrative, leaving many readers unable to place Jesus in his proper context. I crafted the OT survey (Part I of the book) for the purpose of supplying that vital context.

    As to Jeff’s question above about what theological spectrum the book reflects, you are right to say that it’s a conservative work. Ironically, my bit about the Pentateuch is one of the most conservative portions of the book, but since it’s a topic few Christians ever examine it does perhaps surprise people when they come across this discussion. Here’s what I mean: Having roundly and justifiably rejected the dictation view of biblical inspiration generations ago, evangelical scholars are left with the task of explaining how all the stories about the patriarchs (such as Abraham) came to be written in the Pentateuch even though they stem from an era that came and went many hundreds of years before Moses set out to write Genesis. The discredited dictation view would say that God simply fed Moses long-lost information about people, conversations, events, town names, etc. But in many ways the Bible indicates that inspiration was not a matter of the human author becoming robotic and receiving a stream of new information, especially about past events (cf. Luke 1:1-4). Rather, the Bible includes literary forms and conventions that were common to the former eras about which Moses wrote. Hence, it is best to conclude that Moses drew from oral and written accounts that originated way back in the days of seminal folks like Abraham, Noah, etc. And as I point out in the book, the Bible authors themselves admit to drawing information from non-biblical documents. If we reject the idea that Moses inherited oral and written sources that helped him craft (under God’s guidance and inspiration) the book of Genesis, we’re left with a difficult time explaining how Moses could have known anything about primeval history. On this view, God’s inspiration of Moses as he authored the Pentateuch includes guiding him in his choice of reliable oral and written resources.

    I hope I’ve been helpful here in this brief space. Feel free to hit me up with more questions. Thanks again for reading my book and telling your readers about its benefits. I hope it makes a positive impact for the Kingdom.

    Blessings,

    Jeremy Royal Howard
    http://www.jeremyroyalhoward.com

  4. Tim Farley says:

    Jeremy Royal Howard:

    Thank you for stopping by and offering your thoughts. I truly did enjoy your book I and recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of how Jesus fits into the biblical narrative. I truly believe that most people, Christian and non-Christian, lack in their understanding regarding Jesus’ role. This may be because we focus so much on the small details of the text and we seldom look at the big picture. Your book is a great help.

    I did not mean to insinuate that your view of how the Pentateuch was written is wrong. In fact, I agree with you. I was thinking about those who do hold to a faulty dictation view when I said some may get nervous. Unfortunately, I think there are still many who hold this view in our conservative churches.

    When it comes down to it, I think many Christians are unsure about how divine inspiration, human authorship, and the original editing/collecting of information (including oral history) all fit together.

    Thanks again for your comments.

  5. Tim,

    My pleasure. You’ve a fine blog going here. I’ve kicked around your site some and like it. Keep it up!

    And please know that I did not think you were calling into question the merits of the view I defend in my book. It’ll come as no surprise to you that I’ve already engaged in a few explanatory conversations over this very same issue as readers stumble across it for the first time. In the final analysis one of the better things I’ll achieve through this book may be introducing this and other overlooked apologetics issues to a general readership.

    Happy Easter, Tim.

    Jeremy Royal Howard
    http://www.jeremyroyalhoward.com

  6. Julia says:

    I saw your post about this book and then looked at it at Family Christian Stores here where I live. Do you think this is a good book for someone without a lot of Bible knowledge? I have been in church for most of my life, but I do not feel like I really understand the Old Testament. Will I be lost if I try to read this book?

    Tim, I have been reading your site for a couple of months and decided to finally comment when I saw the author of the book is answering questions here. How neat!

  7. Tim Farley says:

    Julia:

    Thank you for reading and for commenting. I think this book is very useful for someone with little or no thorough understanding of the Old Testament. Only the first few chapters of the book are dedicated to covering the OT and Mr. Howard does it in a way that will help any reader come to a better understanding of how the Old and New Testaments fit together. There is not a lot of technical language, but the book does present the major themes behind the importance of an expected Messiah and then the birth of Jesus as that long-awaited Messiah.

    I think this book would be helpful to you (and others) if you desire to have a greater understanding of how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ.

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