Gavin Childress is a prolific author, and evidently one who is dedicated to Scripture exposition. His first book, published as long ago as 1969, was entitled "Reading Your Bible: a Starter's Guide". What is distinctive about these new publications?

First, that the pages are not numbered. This must be deliberate, emphasising that each Biblical book is going to be treated on its own. Second, that each book is given the same treatment – four pages each, whether it is Isaiah or 3 John. The layout is: a title page, with a box inset containing a few facts about the book; exposition of its subject matter (one or two pages); a short outline of its content; and a set of questions, with spaces for answers. It is suggested that we first read the Childress material; then read the Biblical book; then answer the questions.

The format is certainly novel. Childress does not explain or defend it, but perhaps he is implying that the traditional Bible handbooks (eg those published by Lion and IVP) are too detailed and academic, and discourage readers from getting down to the text itself. His own style of introduction surely sets minimal barriers to engagement with the text: but it gives no guidance as to the order in which the Biblical books should be read, the connections between them, or the structure of "salvation-history" which underlies them. As regards books like Isaiah, the Psalms, or 2 Corinthians, the exposition of the text and the questions seem ludicrously inadequate.

However, in some of the shorter Biblical books (eg. the minor prophets and epistles), Childress is on surer ground, and his books might be used as the starting point for group Bible study.

Donald Mackay, Knox Church, Perth