Who Doesn’t Love A Good List?

It is no secret that many people have a pretty dismal level of knowledge about the Bible. This is unfortunate; the Bible records our sacred history, a history that, as Pope Benedict observes in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini is a part of our own lives.

Mary Elizabeth Sperry offers a means of providing some education about the Bible in a fun, entertaining and thought-provoking way in Bible Top Tens: 40 Fun and Intriguing Lists to Inspire and Inform, which was sent to me by the Catholic Company as part of its reviewer program.

Sperry’s book organizes important people, places and events in the Bible into “countdown” lists intended to “serve as a memory aid or provide ideas for further reading and study.”

The section on people includes lists like ten mothers of the Bible who teach about self-sacrificing love, ten sets of siblings ranging from friends to enemies, ten illustrations of friendship and ten love stories. I confess that my favorite in that section was the list of ten “holy women with attitude,” that includes some wonderful women we hear about only rarely, like Deborah and Rahab in the Old Testament.

The section on places and events include lists of resurrection stories, meals, angelic appearances and illustrations of mercy and forgiveness. The section on sayings includes best known passages in the Bible, sayings that challenge, parables, symbols and more.

Each list helpfully includes scripture references and more importantly, the items on the list are written in a way that encourages one to want to look the references up, telling us just enough about each person, place or event to whet our appetites.

Even for people familiar with many of the passages referred to, the organization into lists provides a useful reference. The book strikes me as a useful tool for catechists and youth ministers.

I agree with the author that the most important list in the book is “The Fortieth List,” an invitation to think back on the Bible stories one has read or heard throughout one’s life and list the 10 that have most touched, challenged or comforted you and to write about why each is meaningful. That seems like a good and useful exercise for all of us.