A comprehensive introduction to Scripture paired with reflections on its principal ideas.
On the basis of an informal survey, debut author Verduci determined that “well over 97 percent” of respondents had never read the Bible in its entirety and that few had an adequate understanding of its teachings. He decided to remedy this widespread ignorance with an introductory volume that summarizes the whole of the Bible and clarifies some of its central concepts. The book-by-book synopsis, “The Gist of the Bible Books,” is a comprehensive but brief sketch that gives each book about a paragraph of description. Then the author supplies surprisingly unconventional interpretations of hell, heaven, the soul, and the kingdom of God, as well as some philosophical reflections on God’s existence, the relationship between science and faith, and the ultimate meaning of life. In the interpretive passages, Verduci argues that technically everyone goes to hell, that there are three distinct heavens, and that there is no immortal soul that’s separable from the body. The philosophical sections are significantly less rigorous, though, and marred by awkward, cloudy prose: “If we cannot perceive or imagine nothingness and God is nothing, then God as defined as the notion of nothing infers a priori that God simply cannot not exist, hence noting the double negative.” The arguments for the existence of God provided are either well-known (such as the notion of intelligent design) or less than compelling, such as the idea that the continued influence of the Law of Moses over time in itself necessitates God’s reality. Still, the primary failing of the book as a whole is its dogmatic tenor; for instance, although Verduci concedes that the Bible is notoriously difficult to understand, he presents his own conclusions as self-evident. Also, he displays little patience for even a whiff of disagreement, calling atheistic scientists “fools.” Despite some memorable insights, the indefatigable peremptoriness of this book’s prose makes it a slog.
A textually rigorous summary of the Bible undermined by philosophical vagueness and rhetorical condescension.