Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recommendation: The Big Picture Story Bible

David Helm, The Big Picture Story Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004). Illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker.

reviewed by Doug Smith

Many of us have read children’s Bible stories that focus on individual stories in the Bible in a disconnected and disjointed way. However, not all such resources approach the Bible in that way! Having just read The Big Picture Story Bible to our family over the last several weeks (thanks to being a winner in a contest Tony Kummer hosted), I can heartily recommend it to you as one that helps you see the forest of the Bible, not just individual trees. Comprised of 26 chapters (11 cover the Old Testament, 15 cover the New), the 456 pages of this hardcover book go by fast. One can easily read one or two chapters in a brief time of family devotions. Although the book is written simply, it is substantive and edifying for adults as well as children.

The chief strength of the book is that it is a mini-biblical theology. Graeme Goldsworthy (Gospel and Kingdom; According to Plan) has contended that the Bible is all about the Kingdom of God, which he defines as God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. David Helm acknowledges Goldsworthy’s influence and does an excellent job showing the unfolding of this theme throughout the Bible. It is exciting to see the story unfold. You learn that neither David nor Solomon is God’s perfect King, and continually wait for Him until you are presented with Jesus Christ, who is the centerpiece of Scripture and fulfills all the promises about the Kingdom of God. The book makes the Gospel and its implications plain (something that many story Bibles overlook!). It helps us see God's sovereignty and holiness, our sin, and the Savior who suffered in the place of those who believe in Him, that He might make them into God's people, in God's place, under God's rule.

Because of the “big picture” perspective, many favorite Bible stories are overlooked. You won’t find anything about King Saul or the feeding of the 5,000. But The Big Picture Story Bible is not meant to be exhaustive – it is meant to be an overview. As a resource that helps us see “the forest,” it must be selective, especially if it is to be of a suitable length to fulfill its purpose. The bird’s eye view of the book gives readers/listeners a good foundation to see the individual stories within the context of the whole Bible. It’s a great place for children to start and was quite profitable for this adult to read as well!

The only caution I would give about the book regards the illustrations. My children (all under 4) love the colorful cartoonish pictures. But some potential readers may have a problem with any pictures of Jesus and whether this violates the second commandment. I’m not necessarily convinced that this is always true (I believe it can be), and it is certainly not an issue to dismiss lightly. So, if this is a matter of conviction for you, be advised that there are pictorial representations of Jesus in the book.

The Big Picture Story Bible is a great resource to have for your child’s bookshelf as well as for family devotions. It would also be great for young children in a Sunday school, pre-school or Christian school context. Its short chapters make it easy to finish in a month. Its substance makes it easy to want to read it again and again. I hope to read it at least two or three times a year to my family to make sure we don’t miss the forest for the trees when learning the small units of the Bible. It reminds us that the whole Bible is about God's Kingdom, being His people, in His place, under His rule, which is only possible through what our Lord Jesus Christ has done by His perfect life, death, and resurrection for all who trust Him.

Learn more and check it out:

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