Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible,by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 159 pp., paper $14.99

This little volume, containing thirteen essays by twelve different evangelical scholars, attempts to provide a helpful overview of Scripture, including the events between the Testaments. It identifies unifying themes and follows threads woven throughout the Bible in order to offer the reader a working framework for understanding the texts. Vern Poythress opens with an overview of the Bible storyline, followed by five chapters, by various authors, dealing with the Old Testament. Covered in this first part are the theology of the Old Testament and individual essays on each of the major types of Old Testament literature: the Pentateuch, historical books, poetic and wisdom literature and prophetic books. Part two is devoted to the background of the New Testament, primarily a study of the intertestamental period. Part three provides four chapters on the New Testament, beginning with its theology and offers a chapter each on the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation. The final part of the book gives helpful time lines for Old Testament, intertestamental and New Testament history.

Throughout the book helpful insights can be found but the volume suffers from trying to do too much with too little. A short work of barely 150 pages can hardly hope to provide even the most rudimentary overview of Scripture and, when the attempt is made by the joint efforts of twelve men, the problem is exaggerated. I was hoping for a careful guide that would aid in teaching a basic Bible survey course but this is not that guide. Concerning the authors, strangely there was no biography supplied and no mention of their theological persuasions. A covenantal bent could be occasionally recognized in the oft-mentioned “already, not yet” concept of the kingdom (pp. 110-112, 117, 121), and once the reader was assured that the church is restored Israel (p. 131), but most of the positions taken would be those agreed upon by all evangelicals.

For me the most beneficial aspect of Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible was the very concise, informative charts and time lines. It would be difficult to piece all this information together from other sources. These serve as a handy reference.