MEET THE BIBLE: A PANORAMA OF GOD'S WORD IN 366 DAILY READINGS AND REFLECTIONS, by Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn (Zondervan), 82 pp, $15.99

You've finally admitted it: You've had that Bible on your bookshelf since you were 12, and maybe you've even opened it, closed your eyes, and pointed to a verse in the hope that it would reveal something. Still, all you know about the Bible is that there's a lot in there about God and fornication and shining countenances and faith, hope, and love, which abide, these three.

Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn have just the book for you. "Meet the Bible" isn't just about the Christian Bible; it actually consists--largely--of the Christian Bible, Genesis to Revelation: one reading for each day of the year, accompanied by a brief commentary and a spiritual reflection.

Right away this makes their book superior to most other Bible Introductions out there. Most people who decide to read the Bible start at the beginning and then get bogged down somewhere in the middle of Leviticus. Yancey and Quinn offer an abridged version that preserves all the high points while eliminating genealogies and formulas for ritual. Their book does assume readers are Christian believers-at least judging by its headline fonts, normally found only in wedding invitations and sentimental devotionals. But non-Christians will find much of value here as well. The authors provide helpful hints for pronouncing troublesome biblical words (Pharaoh is "FAIR-oh"), and fit in a remarkable amount of background as well. At the end of a year with Yancey and Quinn, you'll know about Hebrew parallelism, single combat warfare, and the revolutionary undercurrents in Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. More importantly, you'll have something that millions of church-going Christians never acquire-a sense of how the Bible's many authors relate to and build on one another, culminating in the life and teaching of Jesus.

Yancey and Quinn also spend lots of time in the Old Testament, unlike many competitors in the Christian market, building on Yancey's recent book, "The Bible that Jesus Read." You'll also be introduced to some of the Christians (and one or two Jews) who have reflected on the Bible over the centuries, from Julian of Norwich to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Serious Bible scholars will have some quibbles. Perhaps the authors' most egregious lapse is the vastly oversimplified reference to "four hundred years of silence" between the Old and New Testaments--an assertion that would have been vigorously disputed by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, the Jewish warriors of 1 and 2 Maccabees who viewed their battle to restore the Temple in Jerusalem as directly inspired by God. And nowhere do they discuss circumcision, a central issue for both Jews and the early Christians. But their judgment is generally sound, even heartwarming. They spend four whole days on the Song of Songs, an exquisite love poem that is left out of most other Bible abridgements. Yancey and Quinn also display a knack, familiar to Yancey's readers, for finding surprising and unsettling truths about the God revealed in the Bible. "Jesus uses curious techniques to gain recruits for his kingdom," Yancey writes. "His job descriptions include such words as cross and slave--rather like a Marine Corps recruiter displaying photos of war amputees and dead soldiers." Observations like that one, or their simple, repeated claim that "God is not fair-he is good" show that Yancey and Quinn have met the Bible themselves, and make you wish you'd taken the Good Book down off the shelf a long time ago.

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