Not long ago I was fortunate enough to receive a free advance copy of a new book that has just been released, and which I feel is worth your attention.

12 New Testament Passages That Changed the World by Joseph Bentz may well be the best book of its kind since Joseph Campbell’s The Power Of Myth. While writing from a deliberately Christian point of view, Bentz - like Campbell - delves into the deeper meaning behind these stories so many of us learned in Sunday school, and ably demonstrates how they have transcended their ecclesiastical origins to become part and parcel of our popular culture.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I feel obligated to point out that - in additional to being a talented writer - Bentz is also one of America’s finest educators. I should know; he was my advisor and my professor for several classes when I attended Olivet Nazarene University, where I also worked closely with him at the campus newspaper, the Glimmerglass.) 

Bentz clearly states his thesis in the opening chapter: “It is hard to think of an area of life—art, music, law, film, literature, medicine, and many others—that has not been deeply influenced by the Bible.” 

Starting with the familiar tale of the Prodigal Son - the parable at the heart of one of Bentz’s earlier books, his 1999 novel A Son Comes Home - the author time and again proves the veracity of that thesis, showing how these stories have influenced everything from books and movies to political discussions and sports reporting.

Along the way Bentz explains - in concise but easy-to-understand language - exactly why these stories have become such an important component of our modern society, why they are worth such scrutiny in the first place, and why we should take the lessons they provide to heart. 

Scriptural notations go hand-in-hand with cultural references to everything from Star Wars, The Godfather and the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Wall Street, car commercials and the world of WWE wrestling. (And yes, that last one surprised me, too.) 

The end result is a book that is both entertaining and educational - one part devotional, one part pop culture treatise - and proves the point that even the most vocal of non-believers know more about the Bible than they themselves realize. 

As such, 12 New Testament Passages That Changed the World is a book that I believe can be enjoyed and appreciated by readers of any faith - or, I suspect, even by those who claim no faith at all but are willing to join Bentz for the ride. 

Consider it strongly recommended.

(Review copyright © 2019 by John A. Small)