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Book Reviews > Bible, general > The Symphony of Scripture: Making Sense of the Bible’s Many Themes

Ray VanNeste

Ray VanNeste
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies

The Symphony of Scripture: Making Sense of the Bible’s Many Themes
Mark Strom
Details: 2001, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishers, Amazon.comISBN: 0875521924
Posted: July 3, 2002

In a day when fewer and fewer people in our churches know their Bibles, especially how it all fits together, it is encouraging to see a number of books coming out which seek to provide more than simply a synopsis (though that is valuable as well) but an understanding of how the whole Bible works together as one great story centered in Jesus Christ. Truly, we only fully appreciate the parts when we see them in light of the whole. Therefore, I was excited to get a copy of this book from P&R, though the author was unknown to me.

The book provides some preliminary background information on Israel at the beginning and a closing appendix with an overview of the history of Israel from the time of the kings. Between these items the bulk of the book walks through the Bible in roughly canonical order divided into a section apiece for each testament. The book is written clearly and is aimed at church members (not academics). The chapters were usually about 10 pages long. Each chapter also begins with a chapter summary so you are sure to get the main point and ends with a list of discussion questions (often provocative) and exercises.

The OT section was honestly of most interest to me since it is here that people most often find it difficult to see the connections. This section was also the better of the two. In each chapter Strom summarized the key events and then drew the connections to other parts of the Bible, in both testaments, pointing both forward and backward. For example, in the prophets he shows how they are rooted in the Pentateuch and point forward to Christ and His triumph. Space and time do not permit examples, but overall I was very pleased with the way the Old Testament was handled. The unity of the story and ideas for application were made clear. The space given to application varied extensively but that did not detract from the value in my mind. I found the chapter on wisdom literature particularly good. After reading the OT section I was ready to use this book for my OT Survey classes.

The NT section shared many of the strengths of the OT section. However, while much of it was good, I think Strom’s views of the church have been too heavily influenced by Robert Banks. This comes out especially in chapter 21, ‘Communities of the Kingdom,’ where he challenges the practice of church membership, confessional statements, etc. This is one of a few places where Strom becomes a bit strident. This was the primary blemish in my mind, since one thing many of us are trying to accomplish at this time is to lead our churches to a higher view of church membership. Thus, this blemish might disqualify this book from use in a church class at this time, though if one can adequately answer these issues for one’s church members much good can come from study of the OT section especially.