Author: Pamela J. Nielsen
Publisher: Concordia Publishing House
I got this book sometime last year during one of the CPH sales. I had heard it was a good book, and I’d been wanting to read more about symbols in the Church for a project I was working on, so I got it. While Behold The Lamb wasn’t all that I was expecting it to be, this is a nice book that illustrates verbally and visually some of the symbols that a person will usually see in Church.
The book begins with two very nice things: “On My Heart Imprint Your Image” and a brief introduction to what symbols are. It was nice, but I found it incomplete. For example, the author writes, “From the beginning, God has used language, which forms pictures in our minds when He talks to us. The Christian Church, too, has used the language of pictures or symbols to point people to God, who is our only salvation from sin, death, and the devil. Today, when God’s people see an image of a lamb with a victory flag, they understand this is a symbol of Jesus…” (4-5). This is nice, and I found it to be a good start, but it is incomplete. Yes, that is how God and His Church use symbols: To teach and confess. But the author assumes that both the reader and the average Christian knows that is what these symbols mean, or that such and such symbol represents this or that. I had hoped this book would be more explanatory in nature. I hoped it would provide more answers to the following questions: What are they? How are they used? When did they come about? Sometimes the author gave examples and briefly explained them, but I expected much more history and explanation than what the author provided.
Still, Behold the Lamb offered a good bit of introductory information to Christian symbols that I found helpful. The author pointed out that symbols and creeds help us conceptualize and remember what we cannot see or understand, such as the Apostles Creed and an interwoven triangle. The author also sometimes provided multiple illustrations of symbols representing the same idea or person. Going hand in hand with this, the author would couple symbols with parts of the creed, Scripture, or even portions of hymns to show how our confessions and liturgy work together to teach and confess visually and verbally for the Christian in the sanctuary.
Overall, I would say this is a decent introductory book on symbols in the Church, though far from complete. I would like to see a more comprehensive book, both visually and historically. But I could see this being a good book for grade school or elementary-aged children or a church worker looking to incorporate symbols seen in Church into their lessons. The author focused on the salvation story woven into these symbols, and such phrasing can be a great aid to any Church worker trying to teach young children or new converts. Finally, the watercolor illustrations are quite pretty, and the short nature of the book makes it more engaging for the young reader or someone looking for cursory explanations of symbols for a lesson.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig