Thursday, March 01, 2012

Gospel Story Bible

I was very pleased to receive a review copy of The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski (New Growth Press, Greensboro NC, 2011).

The author is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills PA, and is a long-time staff member at that church. He has compiled 156 stories, based on the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible, into an illustrated Bible storybook aimed at families.

I have a number of these storybooks, and The Gospel Story Bible covers the hit parade of Biblical stories I would expect, with the major characters of the Old Testament and the key stories of Jesus and the apostles from the New. Two things set this volume apart. My other storybook Bibles have nice pictures on white pages; The Gospel Story Bible has richly coloured pages and vibrant illustrations by A.E. Macha, in a style somewhat like Gustav Klimt paintings. The pictures are not in a realistic style, but are recognizable: I showed the book to 10 year olds and they quickly identified the subject of illustrations of events in the life of Jesus, while admiring the colours and the artist's approach.

The other unique aspect of this storybook is its theme. Machowski writes a conclusion to each story that connects each one to the overall narrative of God's redemption of humanity through Jesus Christ. This is typical of the early church which saw such Old Testament stories as Noah's ark, Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Israel's flight through the Red Sea as types pointing to Christ. However, there is more emphasis now on the Old Testament narrative of Israel as deserving treatment in its Jewish context and understanding, not just as a series of types. This is not to say that Machowski's perspective, with the whole Bible as one story with one hero in Jesus Christ, is problematic in itself, and it has a long historical pedigree in Christianity.

The Gospel Story Bible is written for children from preschool to high school, although I would expose high schoolers to other treatments of the Old Testament as well as this view of Israel's salvation history as a sign of Christ. There are discussion questions with each story, suitable for family conversations as the book is read, although these are aimed more at younger children.

When it seems that many children (and adults) do not know the characters and events of either Testament, The Gospel Story Bible is a good supplement to the Biblical text as families seek to learn the Biblical stories and discern what they mean for their lives.

As a minister, I need to add that, with its short stories, lovely illustrations, and discussion questions, this is a great resource for pastors and Sunday school teachers - it's ideal for children's time in worship.

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