The Glorious History of Redemption: A Compact Survey of the Old and New Testaments, is, as the name implies, a small book, only 128 pages. It’s not a difficult read, and has some good things to recommend it. The amazon description says “This is the perfect book to give to a new believer.” It’s pretty good, but I don’t think I’d go that far.
In essence, it’s a very compact summary of the entire Bible story. In general, the lessons from the Old Testament would be a great way for a new believer to learn the vast sweep of history covered and see how it all fits together. The New Testament lessons give historical and chronological context to the books of the New Testament.
For the mature believer who is familiar with the Bible, this book would prove to be a good refresher and would help connect the dots of how some things fit together. For a new believer, it could prove a valuable asset in understanding the Bible, which is a large, complicated book to master. But I think they’ll need to read it in tandem, the new believer with a more mature believer, to get the most out of it. Here’s why.
There are two lessons in the book, one in the Old Testament and one in the New, that I found rather odd and, I feel, warrant some explanation.
Natural or Glorious?
OT lesson #3, Egyptian Bondage and Deliverance, suffers from an attempt to naturalize the plagues and the exodus.
…the “plagues” can be shown to be largely natural to that land where they occurred. And the supreme event of the deliverance, the passage of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground, was due, according to the narrative itself, to a persistent wind, Ex. 14:21, such as often lays bare the shallows of a bay, only to release the waters again when its force is spent.[p.14]
Nevertheless, it is not possible to remove the “hand of God” from the account by thus pointing out some of the means God used to accomplish his special purposes. It was the time, in the way, and in the order, in which Moses announced to Pharaoh the arrival of the plagues, that they actually appeared. [p.14]
The author thus suggests that there was nothing really out of the ordinary with the exodus other than the order and timing of the events. Just consider the one event of the crossing of the Red Sea. He attributes it to the East wind, as something ordinary and rather commonplace, other than the timing of it happening just when they needed it. He even references scripture! But let’s read that with just a bit of context.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. [Exodus 14:21, 22]
Now I’ve never seen the East wind “lay bare the shallows of a bay”, but walls of water on the right and left doesn’t sound normal to me. And how shallow would the bay need to be, to be dried up in one night by a natural wind? Certainly not deep enough to drown the entire Egyptian army. So just using the text of the next verse after the one he referenced we’ve already run into trouble with his “natural” theory.
Who saw who when?
NT lesson #13, The Resurrection, includes an inexplicable error. The author presents the order of events and persons involved in the discovery of the empty tomb and risen Lord. He asserts,
Then the women arrived at the tomb, and found it empty. Matt 28:1, and parallels. One of them, Mary Magdalene, went back to tell Peter and John. John 20:2. The others remained at the tomb, and there saw two angels who announced to them that Jesus was risen from the dead. On their way back to the city Jesus himself met them, and they fell down, grasped his feet, and worshipped him. Matt 28:5-10, and parallels. [p.94]
However, you’ll notice the testimony of Luke and Mark is ignored while unfounded assumptions are made on the basis of John and Matthew. There is not enough information in John’s account to make the assumption that only Mary went. Luke 24:9, 10 says the women went together. Luke 24:4 says Mary was there when the two angels announced the resurrection. And Mark 16:9 says Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene”.
I truly find myself at a loss to explain this ignoring of Luke and Mark when assembling the chronology of the events. There is no apparent doctrinal or worldview basis for the misrepresentation of the biblical narratives. It could be a mistake resulting from a reliance on faulty memory when writing and no theological fact checking or proofreading.
Discussing the lessons
Each lesson ends with a handful of questions for discussion. The problem is, the discussion questions are largely reliant on a thorough reading, or familiarity, with the bible generally. They often ask things that could in no way be answered by use of the lesson alone. Yet, the lessons often, especially in the OT portion, cover such large portions of scripture that reading the biblical text would be unrealistic for a weekly class or study.
For this reason, I feel the book would best be read by two or three people, at least one a mature believer who can guide the discussion wisely.
The glorious history of redemption
The history of redemption is indeed glorious. This book may serve as a guide for a quick overview. It is not without its problems, but it is compact and, with the exception of the two lessons noted, is a faithful summary of the biblical narratives. It will prove very helpful in connecting the work of the prophets to the timeline of kings and nations in the Old Testament, and the letters of the New Testament with the timeline of the church.
For a believer who is already familiar with the biblical storyline and has read their bible but would like help connecting the dots, this book will prove useful and easy to read.
For the new believer, the book will still be a valuable asset, but I strongly suggest reading this with an older Christian who can help guide you through a discussion of what you’re reading and help answer any questions.