Really Useful Guides: Psalms; Colossians and Philemon
BRF's Really Useful Guides series follows the trend towards smaller and shorter books - and are genuinely useful
Psalms - Really Useful Guides series
By Simon P. Stocks
Colossians and Philemon - Really Useful Guides series
By Derek Tidball
Reviewer: Pieter J. Lalleman
With its new series of Really Useful Guides, the Bible Reading Fellowship follows the trend towards smaller and shorter books. So far in this series the volumes on the Psalms and on Colossians have appeared, written by the series’ editors, Stocks and Tidball, respectively. The books are tiny (4 by 6 inches) but sturdy and the contents are fine, so they should not for that reason be looked down on. If you are uncertain what to give to a Christian friend, books like these make nice little presents.
Stocks does indeed offer a 'very useful guide' of over 100 pages. Writing with obvious love for the Psalms, he explains many aspects briefly yet clearly, and in a personal style. Whereas he is aware of the gap which separates us from these old songs, he points to many bridges across it. After a brief introduction, the second chapter covers introductory issues such as composition and authorship. Chapter 3 gives a brief theology of the Psalms (what they say about God) and chapter 4 focuses on how they say it (the style and the imagery).
The very brief chapter 5 surveys the relevant part of the history of Israel and chapter 6 gives suggestions for reading psalms today. Chapters 7 and 8 look at some unknown psalms in more detail. The final page contains questions for discussion but there are no suggestions for further reading.
Our fellow Baptist Derek Tidball takes some 70 pages to introduce us to Colossians, but less than 15 for Philemon. Yet in these few pages he manages to get across key elements of Philemon and its lasting value.
The treatment of Colossians is more traditional than that of the Psalms: it largely consists of Tidball making his way through the letter, commenting on backgrounds and contents along the way. Like Stocks, he uses bullet points and he prints the key Scripture verses in his text.
A separate chapter compares Colossians to other parts of the New Testament. In addition to some questions, suggestions for further reading are included. My one query is that slightly divergent outlines of Colossians are presented on pages 27, 28-29, and in what follows.
The Revd. Dr Pieter J. Lalleman teaches the Bible at Spurgeon's College