Reviewed by Matthew J. McMains
An integral part of Biblical studies, whether for pastoral purposes, scholarly inquiries, private devotion, or teaching settings, is grasping the structure of the Bible. To aid in this endeavor is precisely the goal of Bashoor’s work, Visual Outline Charts of the New Testament (VOCNT).
In this review I will give a brief summary of the nature of the work, followed by some clear benefits and some possible limitations of the work as a whole.
Bashoor’s VOCNT is exactly what it sounds like, a visual representation of the structure of each book of the New Testament. Each book as a summary page, in which the book is represented as a whole, and larger books, such as the Gospels and Revelation, have other pages which focus on major sections throughout the book. Each page is color coded to provide consistency when working through the charts. The contents of each page include sections on the introduction, main body, and conclusion, and each summary page adds a purpose statement for the book as a whole and some important background information.
Having summarized the work, I’d like to set forth what I view as its primary strengths. First, Bashoor’s efforts have provided the church, as well as anyone interested in Biblical studies, with a unique bird’s eye view of every book of the Bible in one convenient place. The first thing people consider when studying particular books of the Bible is that book’s structure/outline. While this information can be found in commentaries and on websites and various other places, the fact that Bashoor has put it all in one place is helpful. Further, there is consistency in how each book is portrayed, which allows for a quick understanding and utilization of the information.
Another strength is the detail with which each book is handled. For the larger books, not only is there one massive outline, but each is broken up into its major sections which provides a more detailed structure. It is clear that Bashoor has put much thought and study into what has become the VOCNT, and his hard work and thoughtful study are a welcome addition to Biblical studies.
Finally, Bashoor’s work is unique. Let’s be honest, plain outlines, while helpful, can be a bit boring. The way in which the VOCNT is laid out provides an aesthetically pleasing overview of book of the Bible. For many the method used will allow for a more clear grasp of a book’s structure, as well as better recollection in the future. The color coding, horizontal dimension, as well as table format all aid in the visual benefit of the work.
There are some potential limitations with any project of this nature, which were clearly laid out in the preface to this work. The first, and probably most notable, is that of perspective. When utilizing the VOCNT one is getting the perspective of a single individual regarding the structure the books of the New Testament. As noted, there are major disagreements and various perspectives with regard to each book of the New Testament, and so it is important to wade through each perspective and ultimately come to a firm grasp through careful study of one’s own view. That being said, part of studying and understanding Scripture is wading through various other views and benefiting from study of others. Such being the case, this limitation is hardly a reason to avoid Bashoor’s project. Indeed, having access to his own detailed thoughts and conclusions can only help to aid in finding and better grasping one’s own perspective.
I’m thankful for Bashoor’s work and have already utilized it in my own study. It is evident that much work and thought was put into the VOCNT. It has a well defined layout and provides an aid that any pastor/Biblical scholar may benefit from. It is recommended as a welcome addition to many other useful tools in our quest as believers to always be handling the Word of God with care and precision.
Matthew J. McMains is a PhD candidate at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Buy the books
Visual Outline Charts of the New Testament: Color Displays of the Structure and Content of Each New Testament Book