The book is mostly about the canonization of both testaments and only the final chapter is dedicated to the history of the English Bible. I was hoping to hear a more conservative argument, but was given liberal assumptions.
The first and most obvious problem with the book is the authors clear rejection of Mosaic authorship. The authors suggest that Deuteronomy was the first book of the Bible written and was penned centuries after Moses had died. They write, [Deuteronomy] was written, as best we know, by someone - an unknown prophet, perhaps, or a priest or sage - who lived during the reign of King Mannesseh (11) Any student of biblical criticism will recognize this argument for it is an old one. They then suggest that the rest of the Pentateuch was composed two hundred years after Deuteronomy. Again none of this is new, but I am disappointed how the authors presumed its accuracy without dealing honestly with the debate. There are good reasons to reject this theory and embrace Mosaic authorship.
Regarding the Apocrypha, the authors suggests that maybe we Protestants should reconsider our rejection of it. Though this is not stated clearly, that is the tone. They argue that the Catholic Church has embraced most of the extra writings as did the early Protestants including Martin Luther and the translators of the King James Bible. Furthermore, The apostles and evangelists of the early Christian church thought (27) the books were Scripture. I don't think this is accurate. Certainly they were aware of the extra writings and utilized the Septuagint, but I have a hard time believing that Jesus, Paul, and the other contributors of the New Testament felt this strongly about the Apocrypha.
There are countless reasons why orthodox Protestants should reject the Apocrypha. One reason is provided by the authors. After quoting 2 Esdras 6:42, they write:
Christopher Columbus read this and figured that if only one-seventh of the earth is water, then it couldn't be much of a trip from the west coast of Europe to the east coast of Asia. In act, he used this verse as part of his petition to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella for the financing of his voyage. The Apocrypha, in other words, played some part in Europeans' discovery of America. (29)The authors unwittingly undermine their own argument. Christopher Columbus was wrong in believing the author of 2 Esdras. The earth isn't one-seventh water and it is God's grace that he made it to America. The Apocrypha contradicts other Scriptures, teaches false doctrines, and should not be considered divine. Such arguments, however, are ignored by the authors. Finally, the authors suggest that the doctrines of resurrection and original sin have strong roots in the Apocrypha (30). Perhaps, but the first generation of Christians didn't need the Apocrypha to develop them. The Old Testament revealed both quite well.
We meet more problems when the conversation turns to the New Testament. They argue that Paul did not consider his writings to be scriptural (43) even though he said otherwise in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and Peter suggested Paul's writings were inspired in 2 Peter 3:15-16. We are given clear hints of canonization in the New Testament itself. All of this, again, is ignored.
Furthermore, the authors reject Pauline authorship of the pastoral epistles. They disingenuously suggest that No New Testament scholars, whether of the conservative disposition or otherwise, believe that [the pastoral epistles] as we now have them come from Paul's pen (50). No New Testament scholars? I am not sure they have done their research.
The list of troubles continue into the early church. They question the sincerity of Constantine's conversion (65-66) and fail to offer a more thorough explanation of how the canon was formed. Yes Marcion and other heretics played an important role, but let us not act as if the early church was caught off guard by the idea of a New Testament canon. The New Testament is clear enough about that.
I read this little book initially to gain new insight into the process of canonization and the history of the English Bible. What I got was frustration. What concerns me most is not the unwillingness of the authors to deal honestly with the issues raised above, but that this is a book targeted to Christians who have never studied the issue. I am concerned that members at my church will pick up a book like this and be led astray on more than how we got the Bible, but also its inerrancy, inspiration, and its lack of inclusion of the Apocrypha. They fail to reveal that Scripture is about Christ, not about morals, lessons, and history.
So, obviously, if your wanting a good introduction on canonization, please look elsewhere for the only good thing I can say about it is that at least it only cost me a dollar.
"God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 1
"God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 2
"God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 3
"God's Word in Human Words": A Detailed Critique - Part 4
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus
Is the Original NT Lost?: Ehrman vs. Wallace
"Has God Spoken?" by Hank Hanegraaf