Reading the Bible can be challenging; it is a complex collection of books written thousands of years ago in different cultures. The Bible Unwrapped has easy-to-read explanations for inexperienced readers to get a handle on how to make sense of it all. The author is a teaching pastor at a Mennonite church in Arizona and she gears her writing style toward younger readers, using modern-day images and expressions.
Meghan Good points out that the Bible is not really a manual or a rule book, it is more of a collection of narratives that invite us to see how God has worked with people in the past. We can participate in a conversation and, like the story of Jacob wrestling with the stranger, we need to wrestle with Scripture. It cannot be mastered or labelled, she says, but Scripture has power to show us a world beyond our experience. She also compares the Bible to a telescope; it needs to be used to make it effective, not taken apart to scrutinize each piece.
Among the many short chapters in The Bible Unwrapped are those that explain how the various books of the Bible came to be considered authoritative. The Old Testament grew out of an oral tradition that was eventually written down, but the details of how that happened are a mystery. She declares that there was no conspiracy that decided which books were part of the New Testament. Over hundreds of years the church simply recognized which books were already functioning authoritatively.
In the second section, she points out the various genres, explaining that the Bible is like a bookstore compressed into one book. Because we are like eavesdroppers, hearing various details of stories from another time, we need to understand some of the historical and literary context of what we hear. She describes the different kinds of Scripture; for example, pointing out that the epistles are like journals of early explorers. She also gives some concrete examples of how particular passages might be understood.
In the third section, she explores how the Bible has been interpreted, pointing out that often there is disagreement. She suggests that, just as the consequences of decisions are often only revealed over time, so we should be aware that our discernment of what the Bible means might look different from interpretations in another time and place. The Bible gives few clear and definitive answers, says Good, pointing out that the enemy of biblical faith is not uncertainty, but fear.
The Bible Unwrapped is not suitable for biblical scholars, but it provides lots of helpful information for someone with limited experience in studying the Bible. This would be a good resource for a youth study group.
A nine-week study guide is available online from Herald Press here.