Through the Bible as it happened
Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge
Have you read it? The Bible, I mean — the whole thing, beginning to end, or, as CWR like to say, from Cover to Cover?
The Cover to Cover project was launched several years ago out of concern that many — perhaps even most — Christians only ever read snippets of the Bible: very few, it seems, have read the entire book and consequently have no grasp of the big picture and only a vague idea of the historical and cultural context their faith emerges from.
This book, which incorporates the full biblical text from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, offers you the chance to do just that, within the space of a single year. The book is divided into 366 sections for daily reading, arranged chronologically according to a timeline based on The Reese Chronological Bible. Whilst there is certainly room for debate over the details of the timeline (a point that CWR acknowledges), as a rough guide it works well enough.
Alongside the biblical text CWR bring us devotional notes, charts, diagrams, maps and illustrations that help bring the Bible to life: in short, pretty well "everything you need to complete your journey of discovery" — except, that is, the more critical perspective that is always needed in approaching any ancient text. CWR's approach treats the Bible as a 'harmonious whole' rather than as the somewhat disparate collection of writings that it actually is, accepting the text rather than questioning it. The biblical text is remixed in a way that effectively denies the individual human authors their own voices, with CWR's own conservative evangelical theological framework imposed upon it rather than allowing their theology to emerge from it. Taking the first day's readings as an example, extracts from John's Gospel, Genesis, Psalm 90, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Exodus are ripped out of their literary context and given subheadings such as 'The Fall of Satan' that attempt to lever them into that framework.
I also find myself puzzled by the choice of the Holman Christian Standard Bible rather than one of the more well known English language translations such as the NIV, TNIV or NRSV. No doubt using the Holman version will help boost sales in the USA where it originates, but basing the book on what is, for UK readers, an obscure and unknown Bible version, will do little to enhance sales here (a pdf Introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible is available for download from CWR for anyone who wants to know more about it).
These criticisms aside, however, CWR are to be applauded for this initiative: any movement that helps people to discover the Bible in its entirety is a step in the right direction. Readers need to be aware, however, that the presuppositions CWR bring to the text would not necessarily be accepted by the biblical writers themselves and are by no means universally accepted even amongst other Christians.
The project is supported by a dedicated section on the CWR website to help readers get the most from the book (this is not the site advertised in the book, www.cover2cover.org, which at the time of writing is not under CWR's control). Churches wishing to encourage their members to follow the Cover to Cover Bible reading plan can register on the site and will be allocated their own subsite where members can share their thoughts and reflections.
Phil Groom, October 2007
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.CWR | Order from www.christianbookshops.org