Annotated Guide to Deeper Bible Study

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Our church is in a series that focused on Bible Study this week. Our message focused on two dynamics:

  1. The contrast between God determination and self determination. We live in a culture that values self determination, but David reminds us in Psalm 19 that God determination is the pathway to freedom and that we shouldn’t trust self determination. “But who can discern their own errors?” he asks? He writes affectionately about all the ways God’s laws and edicts are for our protection, not for our restriction, yet our tendency is to “keep the law off our back.” The contrast is stark.
  2. Most followers of Christ want to get more out of their Bible reading, but feel stuck for various reasons. We spent the majority of our message on this dynamic and as promised, below is the list of tools I mentioned as pathways to growth.

People grow in their Bible reading when they combine their spiritual hunger with guides who can help them (like scholars or pastors) and time and money. In my own journey, I put a lot of time and money into getting helpful guides and it made a huge difference for me. Of course as a Pastor, it makes sense that I would invest a large amount of time and money into my vocation. Fortunately, we live in a technological age where you really don’t need to enroll in a seminary to get incredible, seminary level guides. So many great scholars now offer online courses, but you can also find them in books, podcasts, iTunes university etc. We live in a golden age of resource, why not spend some time and/or money on some of these resources below. 

Also, the biggest help in my own Bible Study was going from focusing on content to focusing on context. If you find the content confusing, or you’re not sure what it means, I recommend turning your attention to context. Cultural and literary context will help the content come to life for you.

In the list below, I have intentionally given more resources than any one person could explore. Just find the two or three that most hit your interest or point of need and go from there.

Overview of Bible Books, Genres and Themes:

Here are online resources that can offer an overview of the whole Bible. Each of these links help get an overall sense of the whole Bible and/or provide a brief summary of each book of the Bible. There is overlap between many of these resources – just click on a few and see what resonates with you.

  1. Steve Thomason is an old friend of mine and is one of those very rare people who are equal parts fine pastor, scholar and artist. At his site here, he offers a visual, creative approach to understanding more about the Bible. If you’d like a better understanding of what the Bible even is, you can find it on Steve’s site here.
  2. Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales is a fine thinker and of course a very creative communicator. Many adults have found his kids’ video curriculum on the Bible to be helpful. While it is aimed at young children, the content is solid and with his trademark humor and songs, he makes learning a lot of fun. You can buy his DVDs or stream his videos here.
  3. Chuck Swindoll is one of the finest pastor/scholars of the modern era. Here is his site of resources to give you a brief summary of every Bible book.
  4. Here is a link to a paragraph on every book of the New Testament and every book of the Old Testament. 

Good Books for Specific Topics

If you’re looking to connect on a particular topic, try one of these**

  1. Craig Keener and John Walton’s Cultural Background Study Bible is one of the finest and is currently discounted for Kindle at $5.99. If you don’t own a Study Bible, this is your best next step and then once you purchase one, simply reading the extra material in it will help tremendously.
  2. Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet is the best resource I know for those who want to understand better how to study their Bible.
  3. For an Old Testament overview, it is hard to beat Philip Yancey’s The Bible Jesus Read.
  4. For specific Old Testament studies, I recommend Tremper Longman’s How To Read Genesis and while anything by Walter Brueggemann is excellent, I really like Cadences of Home, his treatment of the prophets and Exile.
  5. I love the way Fred Beuchner writes about the Bible. No one writes the way he does and Peculiar Treasures is, itself a peculiar treasure in a world of devotional books. It is not scholarly, but will give you a fresh approach to Bible characters.
  6. For those who want to focus on Jesus, Conrad Gempf’s Mealtime Habits of the Messiah  is both delightfully funny and profound. Will Willimon’s Why Jesus is poignant and convicting.
  7. I’m currently enjoying Spirituality According to Paul by Rodney Reeves. It is one of the most profound treatments of Paul I’ve read.

For those who are watchers or listeners more than readers, here is some good stuff for you:

  1. N.T. Wright, probably the finest New Testament scholar of the last several hundred years, has excellent courses on his website. He also offers a weekly email theological thought. Click here to dig in more and don’t let his ominous gaze on the website intimidate you, he’s a friendly fellow in person with impeccable British manners.
  2. After our 9am church gathering, Chad, one of our members told me about The Bible Project. I confess I’d never heard of it, but I was intrigued by the description and snooped it out today. It is fantastic! Animated, clear and runs on donations. I am going to donate. Click around and enjoy some concise, well crafted summaries of books of the Bible. Thanks Chad!
  3. Johnny Hill tipped me off to Lanier Theological Library and their wealth of online lectures. Check out Michael Card’s 90 minute lecture on the distinctives of all 4 Gospels. Many know Card as a fine singer songwriter, but he is also a first class theologian. If his singing is not to your taste, his lecture starts around 12 minutes or so. The site has much great scholarship by visiting lecturers. These videos are more “scholarly” than other links I’ve provided. Sometimes digging deep with these men and women yields great nuggets.
  4. Simply Jesus is an annual gathering in Vail, Colorado hosting brief talks focused on the person of Jesus. Some really great videos here of past talks.

Keywords to help your search on iTunes, Youtube and other online areas. Not all scholars are created equal. Below is far from an exhaustive list, but here are some names you can simply type into a search box of your favorite media supplier and chase the lectures, interviews and sermons that these men and women offer:

Old Testament: John Walton, Eric Smith, Walter Brueggemann, Tremper Longman, Elizabeth Achtemeier, Fred Craddock.

New Testament: Ben Witherington, Craig Keener, Richard Hayes, Richard Buckham, N.T Wright (also known as Tom Wright.) Craig Blomberg.

There are many, many other great guides and I am chagrined that I may be overlooking others, but the scholars above know how to write for and speak to church people.

Phew. That’s a long list. I trust your sacrifice of time and money will yield good fruit for your efforts!

** Note, that links all go to Amazon and a portion of every purchase goes to Discovery Christian Church through Amazon’s charity support program. I do not receive any personal benefit from these links.

 

 

 

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