Monday, September 17, 2012

frameworks by Eric Larson

book cover
How to Navigate the New Testament
by Eric Larson

ISBN-13: 978-0615633121
Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Frameworks Resources LLC
Released: June 23, 2012

Source: Review copy through a publicist.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
frameworks is a Survey of the New Testament that combines entertaining stories, full-color pictures, and simple illustrations (maps, charts) to guide you through the New Testament. Using lots of white space, this book will help you become more familiar with the New Testament through an overview of its books.

My Review:
frameworks is a New Testament survey intended for use by new Christians who want an overview of what the New Testament contains. Overall, it achieves that goal, though it's a bit expensive ($27) for what you're likely to get out of it.

For example, you do get line-maps with arrows pointing where a person traveled, but those travels often backtracked and overlapped. All I could really make out from most of the maps was the general area the traveling occurred in unless it was described in detail in the nearby text. So you get maps, but you don't necessarily get much from the maps.

The tone of the book was casual and geared toward getting laughs. This included re-written or made up New Testament scenes where the people used modern slang and were described in ways that invited a laugh.

The book started with an overview of Jesus' life (a birth-to-death summary) and brief descriptions of who wrote the New Testament books, when they were written, why they were chosen, and why they're in the order they're currently in. The dates used for Jesus' life were those pretty typically given (3.5 years for his ministry, birth in 4 BC, and death in 30 AD). The dates for the writing of the various books of the New Testament were presented on two different, nice charts and ranged from 50 to 95 AD.

Next, each book of the New Testament was described with about 8 pages worth of text. The first page of text was the Intro which intended to give a memorable metaphor for what that New Testament book is like. We're given the history of things like the first magnetic compass, how the word "restaurant" first came about, and so on with a short explanation of how this is a good metaphor for that New Testament book. Unfortunately, I quickly lost track of which "intro metaphor" went with which book since the connections seemed slight at best. By starting with an unrelated history lesson, it was actually more difficult for me to remember the Bible-related information that followed.

The next page of text was for Theme. We're told who wrote the book, when, where, who it was intended for, and the one verse that best summarized the theme of the whole book in the author's opinion. The next page or so of text was about why the book or letter was written--more on who wrote the book, to whom, and why.

The next page was mostly two charts providing an "outline" for that book. One chart was of the main focus (as the author sees it) of each group of chapters. The second chart illustrated how many pages were spent on each main focus. The next page was a list of verses from that book, usually relating to its theme verse.

The next page gave some things to look for when reading that book. The next page had a picture and a list of some "did you know" things about that book. The next page gave a quick recap and how long it takes to read that book at a casual pace. He also suggested three study/discussion questions referring mainly to the information just learned. The last page contained a picture, a Bible verse, an a mini-sermon based on that verse.

Occasionally, there was some wording used that could easily be misunderstood by those not familiar with the New Testament, especially regarding the Jews and the Old Testament law. The author referred to the Old Testament Laws as now being valueless and to Jewish believers as having a "former religion" and needing to "abandon their old religious practices."

Yet the New Testament is all about the coming of the Jewish Messiah who fulfilled the Old Testament Laws and even raised the standard on them (not just don't murder but don't even get angry!). The New Testament speaks against man-made legalism and of the debate about did Gentile need to become Jews before they could claim the Jewish Messiah, but it never says that Jews had to stop being Jews.

The author also stated that the "Jewish religion was born" when the Law was given to Moses, which isn't true. That certainly added a lot of specifics to their existing religion, but their beliefs about God didn't start at that moment. So either I don't share the author's theology on a few points, or I could wish that he had been a little bit more careful in his wording in a few places.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Ben said...

My post on this, if interested.

Genre Reviewer said...

Ben, yes, I found your review of this book interesting, and I agreed with your points. Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and comment. :)