In my role as a pastor, I often get asked, “Can you recommend books on how to study the Bible?” In this post, I give you three books I recommend time and time again.
Yet, before I give you the three books, let me provide a preface.
I believe the Bible is the God-breathed message to you and me. In light of this truth, the Bible is infallible, authoritative, sufficient, and effective. You can know God and hear from God through the pages of Scripture. You should read the Bible regularly and systematically for the purpose of transformation.
Do you NEED books to help you read the Bible? No.
Are some books helpful in reading the Bible? Yes.
Here are my three recommendations.
This is a great primer on how to read the Bible. It’s focus is upon the various genres contained in the Bible. It provides chapters on the epistles (fancy word for letters), Old Testament narratives, Acts, the gospels, the parables, the law, the prophets, the psalms, wisdom literature, and Revelation. These various genres impact how specific books should be read, understood, and interpreted. Fee and Stuart provide a great roadmap.
This volume covers the entirety of the Bible by devoting a handful of pages to each of the 66 books. Each book receives an overview through the following sections: orienting data, overview of particular book (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc), specific advice for reading particular book, and a walk through particular book. This is helpful for both the big and small books of the Bible. Genesis is large and filled with multiple storylines and themes. One can can get lost somewhere between the garden of Eden and the wonderful stories of Joseph. Amos is short but highly contextual. One can get lost in the woes and names of specific tribes and cities. Fee and Stuart offer a helpful way to focus the reader’s attention.
Telling God’s Story gives you a tremendous outlook of the Bible by approaching it as one purposefully flowing narrative. With tremendous effectiveness it shows how each specific book fits into the larger story. It does have a textbook feel to it ~ glossy pages, color photographs, maps, charts, and each chapter ends with questions and assignments. Yet, the textbook feel does not takeaway from the book but rather adds to its effectiveness. Vang and Carter provide a helpful narrative reading of the Bible without oversimplification or playing fast and loose with the Biblical text. Rather, they provided an engaging and faithful tool for grasping the specificity of Biblical passages while fitting them into the grand story.