The Story of Joseph and Judah by Warren Austin Gage and Christopher Barber
This volume is the first in a planned series entitled “The Masterpiece Study Series.” When completed, the ten volumes will cover a number of other major Old Testament characters, as well as the four Gospels and their human authors.
These books are not commentaries as such, but more like guided tours through biblical literature. Each chapter includes helpful background and theological information, numerous study questions, plus suggested application and reflection. Concerned that too often students of Scripture get lost in the details, the authors want their readers to dig deeply but at the same time stand back and enjoy the big picture. “Our goal in this study,” they write, “is to help recover something that has largely been lost, by learning to read the Bible not only as a scientist, but also as an act of love” (p. 6).
The Story of Joseph and Judah is intended to guide the student through the Genesis narrative which depicts the lives and times of these two patriarchs. In each chapter the authors ask their readers to read the appropriate scriptural passage, give helpful commentary, ask penetrating study questions (complete with space to write in answers), all designed to lead the reader deeper into the text. Each chapter is then concluded with application, suggestions and questions. Anyone traveling the full prescribed journey mapped by the authors will certainly be enriched in the knowledge of the Word of God.
The only weakness I can see in this series lies not with the information but with human nature. When I am working a crossword puzzle (a rare event) which has the answers available at the bottom of the page, I tend to make quick guesses then check my answers. As a study for individuals, I fear this will be the norm. Most people will let the authors do their work for them.
Another use for this series may actually prove more profitable—as material for group Bible studies. Just as I was finishing The Story of Joseph and Judah, one of the adult Sunday school teachers at our church indicated to me his desire to teach a class on the life of Joseph. Ordinarily all I could recommend to him would be the best commentaries. But in addition to those I can say, “Have I got a book for you!”
This series will be an invaluable resource for individuals, but I see its principle use as helpful material for teachers of all ages. All I can say is, “Hurry up, guys, and get some more of this series completed!”