The Illustrated Guide to Biblical History

By Kendall H. Easley
Nashville, Tenn. : Holman (2003). xiii + 306 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
15.1 (Spring 2004) : 113-114

Since the publication of the Encountering series from Baker Books, publishers seemingly have been tripping over themselves to produce high quality color, graphic, and visually oriented Bible surveys and helps. This present volume represents a new series from Holman Publishers into that genre.

The work, as noted in its preface, uses the new Holman Christian Standard Bible (Holman, 2000) for biblical text references and draws on the considerable graphic resources from the archives of The Biblical Illustrator, a regular periodical production of the Southern Baptist Convention. The work presents a sweeping overview of biblical history in the Old and New Testament eras, what the author calls “metanarrative” (2). It also has an adequate overview of the inter-testamental period. He notes that “building the Kingdom” is the theme of the entire Bible (3).

The clear strength of the volume is its highly detailed maps and charts (all in full color) and the excellent pictures throughout. It uses high quality paper, and is remarkably low-priced. Frequent “sidebars” give a paragraph or two of additional information on specific issues, individuals, or groups. The text is brief, often too brief even for metanarrative. A prologue of only seven pages (covering Genesis 1–11), seven chapters, and an epilogue (dealing with Revelation 21–22 as a summation of biblical history) cover the totality of biblical history.

The text itself is broadly evangelical and conservative in nature and generally avoids controversial issues. The author mentions creation options of “old earth” and “young earth” only in passing (4) and rather cavalierly gives the impression that it is an unimportant subject to the totality of what he calls the “Kingdom Story” (ibid.). He does present an early dating for the Exodus (24) but without any conviction or explanation as to why this might be an important interpretative issue. He presents an A.D. 30 crucifixion, but again without any mention of additional options (199ff.) or the issues involved. The author presents a section on Revelation 20 and the millennial kingdom, but rather oddly consigns both the amillennial and premillennial views as taking the passage (esp. 20:4-6, as he ignores entirely vs. 1-3 and the binding of Satan) as figurative (280). He presents a solution for the passage that he calls “promillenialism,” in which no real chronological significance can be derived and which is intended to present comfort for the readers because of God’s victory (ibid.).

In the introduction the author does not mention his intended audience or a specific need this work is designed to fill. It certainly can be recommended, despite the above-mentioned flaws, as a general overview of the Bible. Its best use would perhaps be in a Sunday School setting. It is much too brief and anemic for a college-level text and certainly of no particular value at the seminary level.