This is a review of a book The Bible is Beautiful which you can get from Amazon by clicking the title over there. Before I begin, I should note a few things, in the interest of transparency:
1) I know Brett Davis (the author) personally and we went to Beeson Divinity School Together
2) This is not an academic book. If that’s what you’re looking for, ask in the comments and I may have some more “academic” oriented works
3) I was provided a free electronic copy of the book for the purposes of review.
With that said:
Brett Davis’s book The Bible is Beautiful sets out to demonstrate just that; it seeks to help the reader recapture, or grasp for the first time, the wonder and joy of reading the bible anew. At its root, the book is primarily what you might call a general “biblical theology,” though to read it only as that would be a mistake.
Admittedly, at the beginning, the writing style has a certain level of inexperience (not that I’m one to talk) and unfamiliarity with these type of writing projects, a fact that he readily acknowledges in the introduction and that one would expect from a first book. It does take him a few pages to “get his footing” so to speak. Despite that, though, his self-aware inexperience brings a certain humility and approachability to his writing. You don’t feel like he is talking at you, but going on this journey with you. He is enamored with the bible, and it comes through in his writing. And then, once he seems to feel a bit more comfortable with his writing, things really take off, and in a very good way.
I think the book is worth a look if only for the introduction. In it, Davis makes some really good points about how we have approached the bible, and how we should. Seriously, this is not one to skip past. The rest of the book goes through the story of the bible, following the traditional Western Church’s ordering of books.
The pace is both blistering, yet easy to follow. Davis’s writing is remarkably readable and relatable. The scope is the entire bible, no easy task, yet at no point did I feel especially rushed. Also, to his credit, while he could have easily skipped some of the more difficult passages of the bible, he doesn’t. He dives right in. Rather than explaining them away or giving trite answers, Davis acknowledges the problems and embraces them. The bible is messy at times. Its story is messy. As well it should be. Because it is our story and God’s story. And we are messy and God continually comes into our messy story to inject his beauty. The way Brett Davis handles these portions is some of the best work in biblical theology I’ve seen in a while.
There is a certain pastoral sense to reading as well that really comes across. As a reader you can sense that Davis isn’t concerned with the finer theological debates that have split and divided denominations for centuries. He’s concerned with the story of the bible, and what it says then and says to us now. That’s a very good thing.
One of the key values in the book is its versatility. While it will not likely bring any earth shattering revelations to the seasoned academic, the way in which Davis tells the story nevertheless should make anyone who wants to be obsessed with the bible rediscover some of that passion. The new Christian, or even someone whose never been to a church, need not feel intimidated either. In fact, I’d recommend it most especially for those who have no background with the bible as he does a wonderful job of setting the various biblical passages within the framework of the greater story being told. Although a quick read through is done easily enough, I’d encourage readers to use the footnotes. While they occasionally act primarily as references, the scripture references can help to be jumping off points for more in depth studies, and his humor does show up occasionally in them.
I’d certainly recommend this book for anyone wanting a better grasp of the bible and especially for those wanting to see the bible from a different perspective and see it, as Davis puts it, as the beautiful story it is. As my final recommendation for those a bit more advanced, let me put it this way. When I taught Biblical Perspectives (a rather sweeping survey course), I would recommend for those interested in a biblical theology the work of Graham Goldsworthy. I still think I’d do that today, but I’d probably also add this book to the list, and be sure to tell students that if Goldsworthy seems a bit too intimidating, The Bible is Beautiful, is a much more accessible starting point for seeing how a linear biblical theology is done, and a good introduction to reading it through.
Well done Brett, and thanks for a truly enjoyable read.
Again to buy it (or if you are on Amazon Prime, get it for free) go here.
If you want to go to the author’s blog, it’s here, though it’s been stale since October (but I wouldn’t know what that’s like)