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The Book of Genesis: In the Beginning Study Guide Review by Jennifer Harrision

By Kevin Swanson
Generations with Vision
10431 South Parker Road
Parker, CO 80134

The book of Genesis represents the beginning of all history. It is a rich, exciting book that lays the foundation of the history of all empires and all people. In his Family Bible Study Series, Kevin Swanson has written The Book of Genesis: In the Beginning to be used as a study help during family worship time. Kevin Swanson writes these studies to be used with his own children. They are not watered down versions of Bible stories; instead, it is intended that families will read each Bible chapter and then read the corresponding study guide chapter together.

This guide takes families from Genesis chapter 1 to chapter 50, covering 3,000 years of world history. Each lesson discusses one Bible chapter and shares an easy two-word theme to memorize for each chapter so that, by the end, children can recite what each chapter is about. For example, Chapter one is "The Creation," Chapter two is "Man Created," Chapter three is "Man's Fall," and so forth through all the chapters. The guide book shares a summary and exposition of each chapter as well as applications for family life. Questions follow each chapter, one section of questions to cover content and two or three questions to stimulate family discussion.

Families might want to consider breaking up these chapters for weekly use rather than daily use. After the Bible reading, the study guide adds another five pages to family devotion time as well as time for family discussions and any prayer, worship, or memory work families wish to incorporate. If completed daily, these lessons could average an hour per day.

Many family Bible studies are written at a young, elementary level and are not as accessible to older siblings. This study definitely does not fit that profile. In fact, it is written at an adult level with the understanding that children under the age of eight may have a hard time understanding the material. The author strongly believes that we should aim high in our family worship to encourage a maturity in the knowledge of our children. There is a balance though between encouraging maturity and fostering frustration. Some children will listen contentedly and pick up pieces of understanding here and there. Others will strive to understand each word spoken and might wear themselves out in their effort to understand. My seven-year-old was quickly frustrated with this series. She is inquisitive and dislikes pretending to understand something that she does not. We had to stop for every sentence to explain a new word or concept. I am a huge fan of vocabulary expansion, but this series was taking the joy out of Bible study for my younger children. The author states that each exposition is given in simple terms, but I didn't find this to be so at all. An example of the writing, which is a fair representation of the book, says this:

That Jacob was a man of high achievement, clarity of purpose, and indefatigable persistence there should be no doubt. His passion, his energy, and his intense persistence is persuasive with God. But how does a man influence God when God is the first cause, the chief influencer of all things?

It is certainly an interesting topic to explore, but I don't think it can honestly be described as using "simple terms." Another example from an earlier exposition states, "The desire for children is hard-wired into a woman's frame, and the denial of this fact by the modern feminist, abortion culture has produced tremendous misery for millions of women across western nations." The terms used here are closer to fitting the description of "simple", but the content is not.

As for the Family Discussion Questions, we did not find these to be stimulating conversation starters. One example from the beginning asks, "What are some of the ways our family engages the dominion mandate? Does our family have a vision for multiplying and filling the earth?"

Right now, someone is reading this discussion question and thinking "This is exactly what I'm looking for!" But I suspect I am not alone in wondering what on earth I'm supposed to do with a question like this. It would not generate discussion in my family, only furrowed brows. My seven-year-old would say, "What does 'engages' mean? What does 'dominion' mean? What does 'mandate' mean?" while my thirteen-year-old would respectfully ask to be excused from any discussions that involved my sex life.

This is an interesting study, full of meaty content that could be enriching for families with older children. There is a need on bookstore shelves for just such a book. Many family studies begin with preschoolers, progress up to fourth grade, and then separate into independent teenager studies. Many families with older children will appreciate having these deeper studies and conversations. However, I think families with younger children will want to pass on this particular guide.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2010