Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible

For Christians who believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, Peter Atkinson's The Lion Encyclopedia of the Bible is too flawed to recommend, even though it has many fine qualities.

This beautifully illustrated volume walks readers through every chapter of the Bible, while also explaining such things as how we got the Bible, how it was preserved over the years, how the Bible fits in with other historical sources and archeological finds, and similar information. Throughout, color photographs of locales, artifacts, and artwork, alongside modern color illustrations and maps, make a feast for the eyes. An illustrated timeline completes the guide.

But the trouble for many Christians will begin in the first few pages of the book, when Atkinson writes: "In the Bible, Christians believe they discover the truth about God..." (emphasis mine).

From this moment on, many Christians will find this book not an account written for believers - especially those who think the Bible is accurate. While the book takes a respectful tone, it seems to be written by someone who isn't a Christian or who prefers to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe.

For example, Atkinson states that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 tell different creation stories. While this isn't an uncommon view outside of Christianity, most Christians believe the two chapters just focus on different aspects of creation. He questions whether God wiped out the earth in a world-wide flood. "It is likely," Atkinson writes, "that it was the memory of such [regional] floods that gave rise to the story of the great flood." He tells us the idea of Jonah being swallowed and spat out by a fish wasn't meant to be literal, but just a way to make us laugh.

All through the Old and New Testaments, Atkinson continues with these thoughts, until we reach Revelation and he writes that the book isn't really about the end of the world as we know it, but about encouraging Christians to "stand firm in their face pf persecution."

What I Like: The book is beautiful to look at, and I appreciate the attempts to not only walk us through the Bible, but to put it into historical context.

What I Dislike: Unfortunately, for me there are just too many instances of the author not accepting the Bible as accurate.

Overall Rating: Poor.

Age Appeal: 9 - 12

Publishing Info: Lion, 2010; ISBN: 978-0745960104; hard back, $19.99

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