Sunday, December 23, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes Book Review

I selected this book called Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur to review from Booksneeze.  On it's cover it says "How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You."  This captured my attention and I wondered who he would be writing about.  I discovered that they were either well known people from the bible or lesser known that were chosen by God for a specific task.  All of them could be categorized as "unlikely" since they were not kings or prominent people of their time.  Once they accepted God's plan for them, they did become well known.  Mr. MacArthur explores the lives of Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon, Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James and Mark and Onesimus.

I had mixed feelings about his book.  It started out fine with his biographies of the heroes of the Old Testament.  It's an easy read since he generalizes the unlikely heroes into modern day language. One can quite easily picture them in their time with his style of writing.  On the back cover the reader is informed that Mr. MacArthur is a pastor with  "a deep knowledge of the bible and history".  I agree with the basics of what he said for each hero, but I found myself wondering how much was conjecture or was truly based on his knowledge?  Where I had a problem was near the end of his book when he discussed St. James and asserted that "he was a younger brother to Jesus". Additionally, that Mary is not what the Roman Catholic Church claims, that she was a perpetual virgin, but that "she had a normal sexual relationship with Joseph that led to her giving birth to at least six more children."  He included scripture that lists the names of his brothers (Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3) but noted that these passages do not give the names of his sisters.  He goes on to suggest that it may have been difficult for his siblings for Jesus was completely sinless.  That Mary may have reprimanded her "other children" to be behave more like Jesus which would have instilled competitiveness and jealousy.

Being Roman Catholic, my belief is what my church teaches.  Mary was a perpetual virgin and the references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus, were either step siblings or close relations.  There is a document from the second century called the "Protoevangelium of James" or the "Infancy Gospel of James" or the "Gospel of James" which deals with the early life of the Virgin Mary.  It says that Joachim and St. Anne consecrated Mary to the temple to remain a virgin.  When she grew up, Mary needed a guardian and Joseph was a widow who needed a wife to help raise his children.  Of course, this document is not included in the bible but it does give important information about Mary, the Mother of God which was written within 100 years of the birth and ministry of Jesus.

What I don't like about this book is that after the chapter on St. James, which is one of the last chapters, I now question the reliability of his information on all the other heroes.  Based on this chapter, Mr. MacArthur's literal interpretation of scripture left out Sacred Tradition which means hundreds of years of belief.  Even the leaders of the Protestant Reformation believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary so somewhere along the many schisms did this idea of Mary having more children arose.  Does it take away the true message of the Gospel?  No, it doesn't mean much that he differs on this point.  My problem is that I now suspect he selected what worked for his view of these unlikely heroes and ignored the rest. He might be spot on accurate but I feel distrust.  His validity is now tarnished for me.  Would I recommend his book?  To be honest, no.  It left a sour taste in my mouth.  I do believe he is a gifted writer, has a love for Jesus and a desire to share the message of the Gospel.  But in my opinion, it's incomplete.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



  1. Noreen, great book review. I'm glad you shared it honestly. I won't read the book now based on your review, but I am glad that I will be familiar with the book should anyone ask me about it. I hope you have a Merry Christmas! : )

  2. Best wishes for a Blessed Christmas and New Year.

    God bless.