Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is the result of the intentional gathering of some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars for the purpose of training and equipping the church with expert guidance. This collection includes four introductory books that will provide the reader with everything needed to understand the Bible and apply its teachings to everyday life—Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005), Journey into God’s Word (Zondervan, 2008), Introducing the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2012), and Introducing the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010). Each of these four books are abridgments of larger works that have functioned as standard seminary textbooks for years. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it does present itself as a useful product to be used within in the context of adult education. However, before I speak to the usefulness of the product, I would first like to summarize the four books included.
Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Knowby Wayne A. Grudem (edited by Elliot Grudem) is an abridged version of Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999), which is itself an abridgment of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994). Both earlier editions remain bestselling textbooks for both undergraduate and seminary courses. In essence, Christian Beliefs is a refined collection of the twenty most need-to-know beliefs of the Christian faith. Elliot Grudem has done a fantastic job synthesizing the larger work of his father, making it more accessible for the target audience. The book also includes two helpful appendices. The first includes historic confessions of faith (i.e. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), and the second includes an annotated bibliography of various systematic theologies for further study.
Journey Into God’s Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays is an abridgment of Grasping God’s Word, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005; third edition in 2012). Duvall and Hays are both excellent teachers and their textbook is used at the college and seminary level around the English-speaking world. Journey Into God’s Word is the product of a frequent request of the authors by pastors and leaders for something more accessible to the local church (p. 9). Consequently, Journey Into God’s Word was created with for the adult education setting, and the content therein displays such consistently. It is both accessible and practical for the average reader. Moreover, for the leader or teacher, Duvall and Hays have a suggested 8-week teaching schedule for optimal use.
Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by Tremper Longman III is based on the bestselling textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2006). Longman uniquely and individually covers all the Old Testament books, discussing each book’s content, authorship and date, genre, and connection to the gospel. This last section, connection, creates a helpful and unique reading experience for the reader. Helpful in the sense that Longman guides the reader to the immediate benefits of studying the Old Testament, unique in the sense that few Old Testament introductions provide this information with the precision of Introducing the Old Testament. This makes comprehension and enjoyment an immediate benefit for the reader.
Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo (edited by Andrew David Naselli) is based on the widely used textbook An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005). Similar to the companion volume on the Old Testament, Carson and Moo guide the reader through the New Testament as they individually discuss all of the New Testament books, including, content, authorship, genre, date, place of composition, audience, purpose, and contribution to faith. This last section, contribution, like the volume on the Old Testament, brings immediate application and benefit to the study of the New Testament. Each chapter closes with a helpful bibliography to guide the reader into further study.
As director of adult education at my local church, I was immediately intrigued by Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box. I had previously used Christian Beliefs for a course that I taught but never required the students to purchase the book. It functioned more as a personal guide for gauging the appropriate level of content for the course rather than a textbook. Still, after the course was finished I wished that my students had something that could catapult them in the right direction for further engagement. In other words, I wish that I used the book more immediately in class and had the students purchase a copy for themselves. The other volumes in this collection display an equal level of usefulness, and at approximately 160 pages each is easily digestible in an 8-week course.
More recently, I have taken up the task of developing a sturdier foundation for our adult education program. This has involved writing new course curriculum, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. The goal has been to build out 3-4 foundational course to function as the framework of our adult education effort, and Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box just made that task a whole lot easier. Churches and members will now have the option to purchase the box set, including all four volumes, and the students will have then bought the course material for the foundational classes being offered. This would work extremely well accompanied with a certificate of completion for each course or the entire core program.
Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box includes everything the reader will need to learn the basics of Christian theology, biblical interpretation, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. This collection brings together four introductory books by some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars. Each of the four books is an abridgment of a larger and more technical work, and each of them remains widely used in colleges and seminaries around the world. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it is an ideal collection of core resources for the context of Christian adult education. Still, even if you are not a teacher or pastor looking to bring substance to your adult education program, this collection will provide you a sure foothold for understanding the Bible and applying its teachings to your life.
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.