Book Review: Ryken’s Bible Handbook

Ryken's Bible HandbookRyken’s Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, James Wilhoit

This book was provided as a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers. This review has been a long time coming and in the future I don’t ever intend on letting a review go on this long since the time I receive the book. I thank them for their generosity and patience.

This book is for teachers and students of the Bible and I think it would also be good for parents to use with their kids. Even though it’s over 600 pages long, it’s a smaller sized reference book and isn’t comprehensive or meant to be. It’s a concise handbook on how to read and study each book of the Bible. Anyone familiar with studying the Bible will benefit from this book.

Each chapter is devoted to a book of the Bible and includes things such as Author’s Perspective, Audience Perspective or Implied Audience, Special Features, Challenges Facing the Teacher or Reader of the Book, How to Meet the Challenges, Form, Genre, Structure, Outline, Timeline, Characters, How To Apply the Book, Key Verses etc. Don’t let that overwhelm you. Each part is concise and very useful and not every chapter has every one of those.

I especially like The Most Common Misconceptions of the Book since this is one thing I’ve been working on for a few years now whether it’s books, passages, verses, etc. I also like Perspectives which are quotes on the book at the end of each chapter by various authors and scholars and somewhere in each chapter there may be a quote dealing with a subject of the book. I also like various Did You Know? inserts which are short factual items related to the book that are helpfully shaded in gray (see below).

Also sprinkled throughout the book are one page articles on the major genres of the Bible and other topics anywhere from How We Got the Bible at the beginning to Apocalyptic Writing in the end. My one complaint is that these articles don’t look different enough from the rest of the book. It’s easy to keep reading and not always realize it’s the start of the article. The typeface is different but that’s the only thing that sets it apart other than the title. A border or shaded background would be helpful.

The very idea of a “Christless sermon” appalled Charles Spurgeon and in the same vein this handbook always looks for how OT books point to Christ but doesn’t press the point too far if it’s scant.

There has to be some interpretation in a book like this but as far as I can tell it’s very neutral. Since my theological outlook is the same as the authors’, I may not be able to discern that as clearly as others. In any case, I can’t imagine anyone not benefiting from this book.

Part of the reason this review took so long is because I read each chapter before reading each book of the Old Testament this year (in addition to having surgery right in the middle). This was very helpful. It gave me a “heads up” on things to look for without telling me how to interpret it or without it being a commentary that I would want to read after reading that book of the Bible.

This is the only book that I can remember reviewing where I really don’t have anything negative to say other than the formatting issue of the article inserts. I often even try to find something negative so that I don’t sound like a shill for the publishers that provide review copies for me. I like it that much.

Buy it from:

Product Information:

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 19, 2005)
  • ISBN-10: 0842384014
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches

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