[Review] National Geographic's Who's Who In The Bible: Unforgettable People and Timeless Stories From Genesis To Revelation by Jean-Pierre Isbouts
Author: Jean-Pierre Isbouts
Publisher: National Geographic November 5, 2013
Theme: Archaeology and Bible history from Old Testament through New Testament and the early Church history age.
Pages: 384, with 400 color photographs and 25 maps.
Rating: 4 Stars over-all, see review for explanation.
Source: Free copy from Media Masters Publicity and National Geographic for the purpose of review.
The name National Geographic is respected in its field for maps, photographs, and content. I was intrigued and over-joyed to read and review a book for Media Masters Publicity and National Geographic.
From the creation story in Genesis, to the book of Revelation and the early Christian Church; Who's Who In The Bible, explores Bible history pertaining to archaeology findings and history from other sources, in a "chronological narrative."
Jean-Pierre Isbouts wrote the book with an aim of: "a non-denominational perspective. It does not conform to any particular theological orientation, but rather treats the texts as historical documents, so as to appeal to the broadest possible readership." Page 12.
In addition: "Who's Who uses the nondenominational temporal indicators of B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) instead of the traditional B.C. (Before Christ), and likewise C.E. (Common Era) rather than A.D. (Anno Domini, or Year of the Lord) to identify dates in history." Page 12.
The Bible translation used is the "New Revised Standard Version, 1989."
I'm glad the author stated in his introduction the book is a "non-denominational perspective" and does "not conform to any particular theological orientation". This was a forewarning the book would be secular in nature. It's as if the Bible is looked at through a lens of history and science, but not God's story and plan for mankind.
The strengths are its: organization, historical information from other sources (Gnostic and Jewish sources), maps, study content, visually stimulating lay-out, fascinating and eye-appealing photographs and illustrations, approachable content, recent archaeology findings, political correctness. It is a book that appeals to everyone regardless of belief in God, or the Bible, or world religion.
This is both a positive and negative thing.
It's positive in that it may lead a non-believer to read and study the Bible and more importantly believe in Jesus Christ.
It's negative in that the book minimizes the Bible as God's breathed Word. See 2 Timothy 3:16.
Over-all I believe this is a marvelous book to view and would make a lovely addition to a library; however, it is not the end-all on Bible characters and history, the Bible is.
I'm concerned some readers may read this book and not be aware of other scholar's who believe differently. For example Who's Who In The Bible, teaches the book of Matthew was written in "the early 70s to the mid-80s of the first century. Given this date, it is unlikely (though not impossible) that the author is the disciple of 'Matthew' who worked as a tax collector in Capernaum until Jesus called him to his ministry (Matthew 9:9)."
The Crossway ESV Study Bible, page 1816, states the book of Matthew by "tradition" was written in "late 50s or early 60s." "Matthean authorship is denied by some modern scholars especially on the view that the author of Matthew borrowed much of his material from Mark's Gospel. Given that Matthew was an apostle while Mark was not, it is assumed that Matthew would not have needed (or chosen) to depend on Mark's material. But even if Matthew did borrow from Mark's Gospel, it would only have added to Matthew's apostolic credibility since the evidence suggests that Mark himself relied extensively on the testimony of the apostle Peter."
There are several other places where the view is liberal, this will cause a problem for conservative readers.
If you are an astute reader and or Bible student, you will be able to take the information in this book with a "grain of salt." If you are not familiar with the Bible then I'm afraid you would take this book at "face value."
There is minimal information on Jesus' death on the cross or His resurrection, this was the greatest disappointment for me. The only words uttered by Jesus given in the book are when he speaks to "his mother, 'Woman, here is your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother." John 19:26-27. The author goes on to interpret, "which beloved disciple is Jesus referring to?" Reference information from the "Gospel of Thomas" is given.
Jesus' last words are stated from Matthew 27:46 (I quote this verse from the ESV), "Eli, Eli lema sabachthani? that is, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The author defines this statement from Jesus as "-a well-known Jewish cry of anguish from the Book of Psalms. He then 'gave a loud cry' and breathed his last."
For me the Bible is God's Word, the primary way God speak to me. His Word is "alive," it is not mere indifferent perfunctory words on thin paper.
The most important Bible character is Jesus Christ---"the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2, ESV.
I would love to give this book 5 stars, if the photographs and organization were my only factors in the review it would be a 5. The liberal content without giving other scholar information, I rate it a 3. Over-all I rate this book a 4.
Link @ National Geographic:
|National Geographic Who's Who in the Bible: Unforgettable People and Timeless Stories from Genesis to Revelation|
By Jean-Pierre Isbouts / Random House, Inc
With 400 splendid color photos of art and artifacts, Isbouts's reference illuminates Bible people in chronological order, rehearsing each one's story and significance. The informative sidebars; the genealogical trees; indeed, the whole graphically appealing format make this an ideal reference or coffee-table item. 384 pages, hardcover.