In our review of Visual Theology a few years ago, it was mentioned of the great content it offered. But there was also a lot more to be desired. I remember saying it could have been at least 200 pages. But there was also the hope that more volumes like this would come. Well Tim Challies and Josh Byers deliver on both fronts with their follow up A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible. Their newest volume has over 200 pages and three times the info-graphics.
You may have seen a third name for this project by the name of Joey Schwartz. That is because in the acknowledgments section, there is mention of Challies not able to write portions of this book due to medical issues. What are those medical issues? Well a December 2017 post by Challies on his website shares that it may likely be due to Cubital Tunnel Syndrome. This is a sort of nerve damage with no quick or easy cure. This appears to be the case 15 months later when this book was published on March 26, 2019. Joey Schwartz stepped in to carry some of the load of writing when Challies could not. Schwartz did well with this task as I did not notice any difference in the writing style. It still felt like all the writing belonged to Challies.
A Visual Theology Guide to The Bible shares how the entire Bible fits together in one grand story. It shares Gods redemptive plan of salvation for the world and how Jesus is the central figure. But there is so much more this volume shares about the greatest selling book of all time. The colourful detailed graphics prove to be a vital approach. They help younger generations understand why the Bible is trustworthy. It answers common criticisms of the Bible we struggle to make sense of.
After reading this, I do not understand how anyone would not want to further research about the Bible. The evidence is staggering of how trustworthy and powerful the Bible is. The infographics, research, and statistics are so compelling, they invite the reader to discover more of how active and alive Gods word is. I would have almost preferred to read this before the release of Visual Theology. This is because once readers actually understand what the Bible is, they can then have a better understanding of who God is.
Challies continues to write in a simple and easy to understand way. But dont let the writing of this book fool you into thinking there is nothing to learn. There is some great insight and information here. I learned a few new things about the Bible that I did not know before. One of those things was about the chapter and verse divisions being developed. The Hebrew Bible at first did not have chapters or verses. Stephen Langton, an archbishop of Canterbury put chapters into place around AD 1227. A Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan divided the Old Testament chapters into verses in AD 1448. One hundred and seven years later, Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus) divided the New Testament in AD 1555. I also learned about the overwhelming amount of copies of the New Testament manuscripts. It was impressive how soon copies were made from its earliest source. When compared to the writings of Tacitus, Herodotus, Plato, Caesar, and Homer, The reliability of the New Testament blows those writings out of the water. I even learned about the important distinction between the books of the Bible being chosen versus recognized. They were not man-made books chosen by the church, but rather recognized as books written by God. Big difference.
Whether it is all the Messianic Prophecies fulfilled, all the miracles Jesus did, a detailed timeline of Passover week, or even investigating the resurrection of Jesus. You cannot help but want to dive into reading the Bible further by seeing these graphics. I would even argue that the graphics Byers created are more compelling than its previous volume.
Challies walks the readers through the entire Bible in a short amount of pages which is no easy task. While he mentions most of the important moments of the Bible, other important ones are missing. For example, the birth of Jesus is an obvious important moment Challies mentions. But it would have been helpful to mention the importance of Jesus' protection from King Herod. How Jesus escaped Herod's order to slaughter any child in Bethlehem under two years of age.
There also can be some minor oversights that may need more clarity. For example, when it comes to Kings of Israel, Challies lists the kings as good, bad, or evil. King Menehem has the classification of a bad king. That is true. He was a bad king. But what determines bad or evil? Because it was King Menehem who assassinated the previous king to gain power. He also destroyed the city of Tappuah, and ripped open all the pregnant women. Would that not constitute him as an evil king? A proper definition of what is bad or evil would have been helpful.
There is also Matthews account of the lineage of Jesus. Challies correctly lists the kings in order on page 143. But when it comes to Matthews list on page 170, three kings are missing which were the kings of Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. Even Queen Athaliah is missing. One explanation is because it was to remove the disgrace of the pagan family which began with Ahab. To ensure that the offspring of Ahab would not rule Judah, four generations were removed. This is not the only possible explanation. But this is where Challies could have provided some clarification and insight about these omissions.
A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible is not perfect. But Challies and Byers without question did their research and handled this project with great care. This was an absolute pleasure to read and to immerse myself in these well crafted visuals. Readers will have a difficult time not wanting to pick up a Bible to test out everything. Even all the promises God made. The only promise I found that has not been fulfilled, is the return of Jesus. But given Gods perfect track record of hundreds of fulfilled promises, I wouldnt bet against Him. Jesus is sure to come...and he will.
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