"The Book of God: The Bible As a Novel, by Walter Wangerin," Jr. (Zondervan, 864 pp., $27.99, hardcover). Reviewed by John Wilson.

Not another translation, no. To describe what Walter Wangerin has done in "The Book of God" we need to reclaim a word tarred with guilt by association: re-imagining. Hewing closely to the biblical text, but with a license to flesh out setting, character, and dialogue, Wangerin has fashioned a narrative of God's essential dealings with humankind, starting with Abraham and concluding with the risen Christ. Isaac and Rebekah are here, Ezra and Nehemiah, Simon Peter, and Mary Magdalene …

Skeptics are already clearing their throats: We have the Bible itself. What need do we have of this retelling? It's superfluous at best; at worst, an act of terrible hubris. Or this: Bible stories for grown-ups! That's what we deserve. The dumbing-down of evangelicalism continues apace.

Let them grumble. Open this book and start reading. Whether the stories are familiar from childhood or encountered here for the first time, you will be struck by their palpable power. And the sweep of the narrative, like a vast fresco, allows us to see the big picture of God's providence in a way that we rarely do in our fragmented reading of Scripture. We see connections—from story to story, from generation to generation—that we've not noticed before. The effect is not to create a substitute for the Bible, Scripture Lite, but rather to kindle our hearts with passion for the Word. Without re-imagining, the letter lies dead on the page, and the people perish.

The experience is exhilarating, but also disturbing. Consider the headings of the eight parts into which Wangerin's narrative is divided: The Ancestors; The Covenant; The Wars of ...

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