Thursday, February 10, 2011

NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible

I had enrolled in the Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger program and received a free review copy of the book discussed in this blog entry back in 2010. The original draft of this review is quite literally a year old.  .

Title: NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible

Author: Thomas Nelson Publishing

Copyright:  2009, Thomas Nelson, Nashville (ISBN: 978-1418541668)

Length: 624 pages (including index)

Summary: Those who publish Bibles are frequently challenged in finding new ways to present the content in ways that are both practically useful and attractive to the market.. For some publishers, the easy approach is to slap a new cover on the Biblical canon with some few study aids such as maps and glossary and ship the product.

Other publishers spend time and resources on considering the various purposes that readers have for selecting a Bible. The volume may be used for purposes of devotion, for purposes of education, for purposes of cultural reference. This particular volume, The Greatest Stories of the Bible, is not in fact a Bible in the traditional sense, as the front matter makes clear. While the actual text is taken literally from the New King James translation of material, the volume is made up of editorially-selected extracts from the Biblical canon with an eye to building a narrative thread through both the Old and New Testament. Rather than presenting a more fluid storyline, Nelson's Greatest Stories of the Bible has focused on ordering a string of  various stories and plot lines  (each not more than three or four pages in length). [For why this is currently considered to be a good approach, read this article, Why Johnny Can't Read the Bible]

This treatment works for some Books of the Bible (such as the Book of Jonah, a minor prophet) but not for others (such as the Book of Job).  The Book of Jonah is broken into four relatively equal segments (Rebellious Prophet, Repentant Prophet, Successful Prophet and Pouting Prophet). Given the length of the original and its flow of its storyline, this makes sense. Contrast that with the treatment given to Job, a fairly lengthy poetic treatment of Everyman's reaction to the decisions made by a seemingly capricious Deity. In this volume, Job has been reduced to three chapters (specifically 1,2, and 42) which reduces the message of Job down to the overly simplistic message (and this is my statement of the takeaway from those segments) of “God is God, so mind your manners and don't whine”. Hardly inspiring. Some of the more awkward incidents in the lives of patriarch Jacob as well as King David have been eliminated entirely.

It was heartening to see that certain stories of women were still deemed important to the overall message of the Bible.. We see somewhat less familiar figures such as the Judge Deborah, Jael, and well as the better-known Ruth, Sarah, Esther and Mary Magdalene.

Overall, however, this treatment is largely respectful of both the content and the reader's intelligence. Each of the 250 “stories” is manageable in length for purposes of reading aloud or instruction. For example, in introducing great works of classical art, a book such as this would be quite useful in presenting the literary reference for a painting of Jacob meeting Rachel at her father's well for the first time. Production values are pleasing (cream pages with a light brown type, good quality paper and deckle-edged, a ribbon bookmark sewn into the binding); the cover design uses the conceit of a tattered old volume and debossing of the trim at the edges adds a pleasing tactile touch.