Dr. William H. Marty takes an interesting approach to telling the story of the Bible in his book, The Whole Bible Story: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English. The author cast a large net over the Bible without drudging through some of the more difficult portions of Scripture that can confuse new readers of God’s Word. The three major omissions are the prophets, books of poetry, and the epistles, all of which consume a fair amount of biblical material. His aim is not theological, although he tosses a few deep thoughts in from time to time for reflection. Rather, he seeks to present a very “user friendly” method of simply keeping the reader engaged as he zooms from Genesis to Revelation in three hundred pages. Also not added are the many building blocks used, especially in the Old Testament, to develop a sense of progressive revelation for creating biblical themes, dispensations, and distinctions of various people groups. But again, that is not Marty’s intention. In fact, he has craftily avoided such things, while still presenting some key essentials. He does masterfully implement the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants in a manner that makes them understandable, creating a sense of their importance while bypassing the less important.
Marty does not clutter his book with scriptural references but does place books and chapters he pulls his stories from in the Contents. Certainly, a useful guide for the person who wants to see what book he is writing from. It may also serve in getting the reader to explore more on his or her own. I know that when reading a highly referenced book I will value the word of the author to a greater extent. Marty does not list any references from the Gospels he writes from but blends them into telling the story of the Messiah.
Sometimes with books like this not intended to dive too deep, authors leave out certain events that can sound offensive to those seeking a God portrayed as only loving, and without justice. Marty doesn’t hold back on relating David’s sin with Bathsheba and uses simple, current terminology throughout his book. Another story that he includes, he could have omitted, was “the Lord killing Uzzah for touching the ark to keep it from falling.” (p.102) Though I would probably have left that one out of a book of this nature, Marty wants the reader to see the reality of the Bible and how God deals with human beings honestly and openly. He presents God for who he is, a holy God who cannot tolerate the touch of sin. But the reader must determine that truth without Marty explaining it. Hopefully, they can see a deeper picture than what Marty presents.
I loved several amusing stories he included. Who doesn’t enjoy Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel. We can’t help but laugh when the god of Baal and Asherah does not consume the sacrifice being made, and then read how Elijah shouts out, “Perhaps Baal is daydreaming or relieving himself!” (p.120) I bet a few people got their Bibles out and looked that story up!
I confess, sometimes we do too much thinking for the reader instead of just letting the Word of God speak simply and honestly. Marty allows his audience to just receive the Story of the Bible as one big picture. Making connections and applications can sometimes be easier when we approach the Scriptures in this way. Along the way we pick up those consistent patterns that teach us truth.
Enjoyable book, creative, and well-formulated!