The concept of a book that summarized the plot line of the Bible had never occurred to me until I read Dr. William H. Marty’s book The Whole Bible Story: Everything That Happens in the Bible in Plain English (2017).
It’s an intriguing concept to be sure.
Dr. Marty’s intent is to show how the theme of redemption weaves its way through the entire story of the Bible with “just the facts” (16).
The Whole Bible Story is not just a paraphrase of the Bible’s sixty-six books. It is not a direct translation of the Bible nor is it akin to The Message Bible, which seeks to contemporize the vernacular of God’s Word to appeal to a more modern-day audience. Instead, in each of its chapters – which are organized around major plot developments, e.g., Chapter 1 is “From Creation to Babel”, Chapter 2 is “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s Sons” etc. – the chapter begins with a list of the main characters, themes and locations, it then proceeds to a detailed summary of that episode in the Bible and then concludes with a chapter summary.
Admittedly, in this approach, important information is skipped.
In an effort to synthesize the storyline of the Old and New Testaments, Dr. Marty does not include the law, sermons, prophecies, parables, poetry or epistles. And if that makes you feel skeptical, the author himself admits his own initial skepticism too for such an endeavor. Dr. Marty has served as a Bible Professor at Moody Bible Institute for over 35 years, and when he was first approached about the idea, he had his doubts, stating “I wondered why people wouldn’t prefer to read the actual Bible rather than an abbreviated story of the Bible” (12).
The Promised Land
Birth of Jesus
The Story of the Church
However, the more Dr. Marty thought about the project, the more he became convinced of its value.
He recognizes that many Christians never read through the entire Bible and, often times, the different genres from poetry to prophecy can be difficult to navigate. This problem is further exacerbated for non-believers and nominal Christians, who don’t have a biblical literacy to begin with. Dr. Marty has found that just handing “newbies” a study Bible is intimidating and many don’t know where to start.
For all these reasons and more, he hopes that The Whole Bible Story will serve as a kind of primer. Dr. Marty hopes that people will read this book, and this will excite them to then read the “real” Bible from front to finish as well.
In the end, I was convinced. I could see how this sort of book could be used in a wide variety of contexts, from prison ministry to street evangelism. This book could be given as a gift to non-believing family members or even as a sort of pre-Bible Study rubric for new Christians. It’s simple, clear and concise, and readers will undoubtedly walk away with a clearer vision of God’s plans for redemptions from start to finish.