I am a Bible reader. The Book of Books amazes and delights me with its inspiring psalms, challenging prophesies, and historical tales. It is a wonderful anthology of literature. Last year, I bought a One Year Chronological Bible (Tyndale House). It groups Bible books by their historical context and gave me a better understanding of how it all fits together.
Another tool to bring the Bible to life is reading well-researched historical fiction set in Biblical time periods. I read about Christian author Lynn Austin’s most recent novel Return to Me (published in September 2013 by Bethany House) from a literary blog I followed, “By the Book”: http://rbclibrary.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/book-review-return-to-me/
In this first installment of “The Restoration Chronicles”, Austin takes the events of the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah and develops a detailed, authentic story of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after a seventy-year captivity in Babylon (539 B.C.) Iddo is a survivor of the siege of Jerusalem and has terrible nightmares of his ordeal as a young child watching his loved ones die of starvation or by the sword.
After seventy years in Babylon, Iddo takes the opportunity offered by Cyrus the Persian, the new tolerant ruler of the Empire, to return with his wife and grandson, Zechariah to Israel to rebuild the Jewish temple and settle once more in his homeland. What follows is a pilgrimage of faith and restoration for Iddo and his family that is fraught with resistance from within and without.
This is not the first effort to recreate Biblical stories for the eight-time Christy award-winning author. Austin’s twin interests in history and archaeology launched her on a five-book series in 2005 that begins during the reign of Judah’s Kings Ahaz and Hezekiah as the Assyrian Empire is rampaging through the Middle East (732 B.C.). (“Chronicles of the Kings”: Gods and Kings, Strength of His Hands, Song of Redemption, Faith of My Fathers, and Among the Gods). In my opinion, the author’s graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology and her travels to Israel lend authenticity to her novels. For more about the author, explore her website: http://www.lynnaustin.org
My research for this blog post lead me to some new options for biblical historical fiction: Sons of Encouragement by Francine Rivers, 2011, Tyndale House. In this all-in-one collection, Rivers illuminates the lives of Aaron, Caleb, Jonathan, Amos, and Silas—and shows how they acted in the shadow of God’s chosen leaders.” (christianbook.com). Another new novel, When Jesus Wept by Bodie Thoene, 2013, Zondervan Publishing looks at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through the eyes of his friend Lazarus of Bethany.
Through historical fiction, ancient characters take on flesh and blood and move off the pages and into our imagination, all with the result of inspiring us to know God more personally. How has the Bible come alive for you?
The Bible for Children:
Although many authors seek to expose young children to the Bible with wonderful editions complete with illustrations and easily understood prose, my personal favorite is The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor. This book, published in 1995 by David C. Cook Publishers, offers much more than the handful of stories retold in Sunday School of Jonah and the Whale and David and Goliath.