Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: "YHWH"

TITLE: YHWH (The Flood, the Fish and the Giant - ancient stories retold)
AUTHOR: G. P. Taylor & Paula K. Parker
Published: London: Authentic Media, 2010.
Reviewed by: Conrade Yap

YHWH The Flood, the Fish and the Giant: Ancient Mysteries RetoldA) WHO SAYS OLD STORIES CANNOT BE REFRESHING?
This book is a refreshing re-telling of the biblical stories in the Old Testament. From the creation story at the Garden of Eden, to the amazing experience of Isaiah the prophet, Taylor and Parker masterfully crafts modern story-telling skills with vivid imaginations that could instill attentive listening for jaded ears. In twenty short chapters, the authors capture the essence of the story by heightening the effects through conversations, and makes the scene comes alive with props and scenes that reflect a modern Hollywood drama.

In fact, the book can be used directly as a Sunday School play. With very little editing, the fast movement in the story line can bring a fresh understanding to these ancient stories, retold from a contemporary mindset. I am impressed by the way the authors communicated their belief in timeless principles by drawing a lot of meaning for our time-based culture. One example is the chapter on Noah's Ark and the Great Flood. Faith being the timeless principle, Noah explains his decision to his children as follows:

"The ways of the Creator are not our ways. Our minds cannot understand. In faith I take all that is said as the truth and in that I put my trust." (25)

One thing that modern readers of ancient Scriptures struggle with is the effect of how the Israelites of old feels when they hear the spoken words. Thus, sometimes we tend to read Scriptures without feeling the actual effect. The authors of the book fills in this gap with a livid imagery, to reinforce the scary effect of the size of the descendents of Anak. A few times, there were statements of how scary these Canaanites are.

"... these giants eat children who do not do their work." (150)

With repetition and clever play of emotional effects, Taylor and Parker makes the biblical stories virtually come alive. Below are what I feel are the strengths of the book:

  • It gives a very fresh look at the biblical stories without seriously compromising on the original content;
  • It keeps people awake from otherwise a very monotonous reading;
  • It communicates strongly the emotional impact of the narratives;
  • It makes the stories fun to listen to;
  • The stories are very suitable for ready-made plays in Sunday School performance, Church Camp Fun nights, acting out the biblical scene, as well as communicating biblical truths clearly.
  • It is a powerful preacher's and teacher's tool for giving a wide repertoire of telling the stories.
  • It communicates without becoming 'preachy.'
Here are some cautions to take note of.
  • There are some parts which are not recorded in the Bible, but added in to increase/decrease impact.
  • Certain names and characters are invented.
  • Some of the conversations made are entirely fictional. 
  • If we were to read the book by itself, we may even be mistake to think that the Bible contains all these material. 
In order to maximize benefit from reading the book, and to minimize wrong perceptions, I will strongly encourage readers to read the book with the Bible next to it. The authors give us a helpful text note at the end of the book (p306) to tell readers where the stories are taken from. If you read the Bible together with this book, not only will your reading be richer, you will feel motivated to read more of the Bible, and perhaps, do your own retelling in your own unique manner. I strongly recommend this book to preachers, teachers, Sunday School classes, Bible teachers and those who work a lot with youths and children.


"Book has been provided courtesy of Authentic Media and Graf-Martin Communications, IncAvailable now at your favourite bookseller." 

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