The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs and Symbols

The A to Z Guide to Bible Signs and Symbols: Understanding their Meaning and Significance is a solid reference work.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get when I volunteered to review the book, because “signs and symbols” are often code used to describe intricate reinterpretation of biblical texts to support an odd interpretation of prophesy. Thankfully, this book is not that way by a long shot.

Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor have put together a handsomely illustrated and solidly evangelical help for Christians seeking to enrich their ability to interpret some of the images of Scripture. They point to ways that significant symbols are used and make connections between them. They provide several Scripture references for each and show how the terms are applied.

Among the symbols that were chosen to comprise this book are:

  • Babylon
  • Mariage
  • Canaan
  • Brimstone
  • Twelve
  • Yoke
  • Oil
  • Horse

The list of symbols chosen appears to represent common images in Scripture that have relevance to the text, rather than ones that can be contorted to fit apocalyptic theories and tinfoil hat predictions.

Some of the entries seem to make this more of a Bible atlas or handbook than a guidebook for literary symbols. For example, the article on the Sea of Galilee explains a great deal about the nature of that lake, the commerce on it, and the importance of it to the region. This is a strength of the volume, as the reader is getting more for the money than another format would have provided.

A second strength of this volume is that it takes a traditional view on potentially contentious moral issues. It presents marriage as Scripture presents it, consistent with the understanding of the human authors of Scripture in their time and culture. The authors leave the contemporary interpretations of these things for other venues, making this volume a non-polemic reference.

Since books on signs and symbols tend to draw an odd following, the authors include a helpful introduction which explains the purpose of signs and the best practices for interpreting them in their context and bringing them into ours. This is a necessary stabilizing element, which the authors did well to include. In truth, the little essay on interpretation is a solid guide to hermeneutics which many Christians would benefit from.

In summary, this book will be helpful for believers seeking to grow in their understanding of the Bible, as it does not use jargon and focuses on some of the more significant literary images in Scripture. It avoids pitfalls and presents useful information in an attractive manner. 

Note: A gratis copy of this book was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.