Jun 27, 2013 David Lang

Accordance to Keynote, Part 1

In the probably-bit-off-more-than-I-can-chew department, I've recently begun teaching a Sunday School class on "Understanding the Old Testament." My intention in this class is to give folks a birds' eye view of the Old Testament, exposing them to parts of the Bible they rarely visit and often struggle to understand. To do this effectively, I can't afford to spend a lot of time going into depth on individual passages. So naturally, I've spent the last six weeks or so going through Genesis 1 and 2! At this rate, I may finish when I'm sixty!

My inability to skim the surface aside, I've been preparing a Keynote slide show each week to help focus my class's attention on the main points I want to get across. And since I tend to procrastinate, I'm thankful for great Accordance resources and a few simple tricks that make preparing this slide show a snap!

Keynote1

First, let me talk about some of the resources I'm using.

Bibles: As readers of this blog are probably aware by now, my preferred translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). It offers a good mix of readability and fidelity to the original languages, and is generally unafraid to offer a fresh translation of those well-known passages most translations are unwilling to modify (John 3:16, Psalm 23, Matthew 5-7, etc.). Of course, when I want to bring out an aspect of the text which is made clearer in another translation, I won't hesitate to use it. For example, when I want to bring out the structure of the underlying Hebrew text, I'll generally turn to the English Standard Version (ESV). When I wanted to discuss whether Genesis 1:1 should be translated "In the beginning God created" or "When God began to create", I used the Jewish Publication Society translation (JPS) as an example of the latter rendering.

Keynote2

Finally, while I don't show the underlying Hebrew text to my class, I do use the tagged Hebrew text in my own preparation to teach.

Commentaries: While I'm going into the first three chapters of Genesis in some depth, I am not doing a lot of verse-by-verse exposition. Rather, I'm focusing on bringing out the literary structure of these texts and the way they would have been understood by their original audience. Consequently, I don't often turn to expositional and critical commentaries when preparing for my class. Instead, I tend to go to background commentaries like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament (ZIBBCOT) and the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament. I once read a review by a New Testament scholar I admire who panned the use of background commentaries because any more traditional commentary worth its salt will usually provide the relevant historical background information. While that's certainly true, the challenge is often finding those nuggets amid all the verse-by-verse exposition. I love these background commentaries because they're focused on the kind of information I most want to bring out.

For much the same reason, I often find myself turning to Study Bible notes before full-blown commentaries. Study Bibles like the ESV Study Bible often have concise but highly relevant information, as well as helpful charts and images that can easily be incorporated into a Keynote presentation.

Graphic Resources: Some of the commentaries and study Bibles already mentioned are a great source for visuals that can be dragged into Keynote slides. ZIBBCOT had a great illustration of the three-tiered cosmology which most ancient peoples assumed to exist, and it made such concepts as water above the sky much easier to explain.

Keynote3

The ESV Study Bible offered a concise chart of the days of forming and filling in Genesis 1 that helped me think through how to structure that particular slide of my presentation.

Another graphic resource I use heavily is The Accordance Gallery of Bible Art. Filled with great classic artistic depictions of various Biblical episodes, I tend to use the images in this tool to illustrate broad concepts and to add visual punch to title slides. While I'm still a little early in the Old Testament to make much use of the Bible Lands PhotoGuide, I did use the view of Israel from atop Mount Nebo to illustrate my slide that talked about the Old Testament being "The Story of a Land."

Keynote4

I likewise used an image of the high priest offering incense from Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the slide on the Old Testament as "The Story of Redemption."

Keynote5

While I will turn to other Accordance resources from time to time, this combination of Bibles, background commentaries, study Bibles, and visual resources has served me well in quickly putting together my Keynote presentation each week. In my next post, I'll show you some of the tricks I use to get the information out of Accordance and into Keynote as quickly and painlessly as possible.


 

May 18, 2012 David Lang

A Few Study Bible Anecdotes

All this week I've been pontificating about study Bibles, examining their history from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century to the last few decades. After that I asked if the advent of Bible software had made the study Bible obsolete, and concluded that quite the opposite is true: Bible software is actually opening up new possibilities for the study Bible. In today's post, I want to close out this series by offering a few anecdotes about my own experiences with study Bibles and their authors. Basically, this post is meant to offer a little light-hearted Friday entertainment.

A multi-purpose resource. Before heading to college, I invested a decent amount of cash in a good quality leather-bound NIV Study Bible. It remained my primary Bible for many years, and I still have it on my shelf. This study Bible was very helpful to me both in my classes and in the campus ministry I became involved with, and I have fond memories of reading it while lounging on Landis Green. I also remember that it doubled as a very comfortable pillow. When I was finished reading, I would lay back on the grass, place it under my head, and doze in the sunshine. Some might excoriate me for putting my Bible to such practical use, but it did make me appreciate that Bible all the more. That's the one function of a print study Bible even Accordance can't duplicate!

RyrieSignature Note to self: Ask Dr. Ryrie for the NASB! Some years ago I visited Dr. Charles Ryrie in his home and helped him with his installation of Accordance. Before I left, he was kind enough to show me some of his rare book collection, including a first English edition of Calvin's Institutes and a Luther hymnal signed by no less than Philip Melanchthon. Then he offered me a signed copy of his study Bible in my choice of translation. Up to that point, I think he had been somewhat impressed with my knowledge of Accordance and my enthusiasm for church history, but I apparently blew it when I chose a translation other than the NASB. He gave me the translation I asked for and signed it for me, but not before I saw a look of mild disapproval cloud his features. Oops!

How Important is the Choice of Translation? Dr. Ryrie wasn't the only professor who had strong feelings about which translation is best. When I was in seminary, several of my professors were writing the notes for a new study Bible which was originally slated to be published with one of the latest translations. As I understand it, contractual issues eventually led to its being published with a different translation—one some of the professors contributing to the project were not particularly excited about. I imagine it would be frustrating to help create a study Bible and then have to use it with a translation you would not normally choose. Thankfully, Accordance users can pair any study Bible with any translation they like, so those professors don't have to be frustrated any more.

Well, those are all the study Bible-related anecdotes I have to offer. I hope you've enjoyed this series about the genre.


 

May 17, 2012 David Lang

Are Study Bibles Obsolete?

This week we've been looking at the history of the study Bible format and some of the reasons for its popularity. Those reasons include (1) a desire on the part of readers for easily understandable interpretive guidance (especially during periods of religious controversy), (2) a desire on the part of religious leaders to popularize a particular understanding of the Bible, (3) a desire on the part of publishers to promote a particular translation, and (4) a desire on the part of some readers for ready help with a particular aspect of Bible study (application, apologetics, etc.). Because the study Bible combines study helps with the text of the Bible in a single print volume, the reader can consult it with far less effort than is required by a separate dictionary or commentary.

That explains why print study Bibles have sold well, but isn't that advantage of convenience nullified by the advent of Bible study programs like Accordance? In Accordance, an in depth commentary or encyclopedic dictionary is just a triple-click away, so one might expect study Bibles to lose much of their appeal. When someone can get reams of information so quickly, why would he want a study Bible which can only provide a concise treatment of any given passage? If we assume that more is always better, we might expect study Bibles to sell poorly in electronic form.

Contrary to this assumption, study Bibles are just as popular as Bible software add-ons as they are in print. It would seem the study Bible has other advantages than its convenient one-volume format. In fact, far from making study Bibles obsolete, Bible software has actually set them free from the limitations of print.

As we saw in yesterday's post, many study Bible notes have been explicitly paired with a particular translation. This means that if I really like the helps in a study Bible paired with a particular translation, but happen to prefer a different translation, I'm forced to choose between the study Bible notes I want or the translation I want. Some study Bibles, such as Ryrie, have tried to get around this by printing a different edition for each major translation. Others have engaged in a kind of serial monogamy with respect to translation, switching over time from one translation to another.

In Accordance, of course, you can display the notes from any study Bible with any translation you want; or, for that matter, with a whole bunch of translations displayed in parallel. This liberates the study Bible from its association with a particular translation.

4 translations and 3 study Bibles in parallel

Accordance also makes it easy to access the study Bible best suited to a particular task. A college student may prefer the ESV Study Bible notes for general study, but when debating with a professor, he might want quick access to the Apologetics Study Bible. While leading a Bible study on campus, he might rely heavily on the Life Application Study Bible. With Accordance, he can load these three hefty volumes on his iPhone and access the one he needs at any given moment.

While Accordance makes the study Bible more useful and flexible than it could possibly be in print, the question still remains as to why people would want to use a study Bible when they have instant access to larger, more comprehensive resources. The answer is simple: sometimes a concise treatment of a subject is preferable to an exhaustive one. Although Accordance can quickly show you what a dozen commentaries have to say about a given verse, you still have to read all that information to benefit from it. Looking up the note on a verse from a favorite study Bible may be all you really need at a given moment, and it requires far less time and effort to sift through.

For these reasons, the study Bible has successfully made the transition to the digital age. I think we can all agree study Bibles are in no danger of becoming obsolete any time soon.


 

May 16, 2012 David Lang

Why Are Study Bibles So Popular? Part 3

In this series of posts, I've been giving a brief sketch of the history of the study Bible. We began with the first English study Bible, the Geneva Bible of 1560, and considered the fact that it met needs that were keenly felt at that point in history. It was highly successful, but the sectarian nature of its marginal notes made it as unpopular as it was popular, and there was a bit of backlash against printing Bibles with explanatory notes. We next looked at the Scofield and Thompson Chain Reference Bibles, both of which were published near the turn of the twentieth century. These two study Bibles which are still published today forever demonstrated the effectiveness of the study Bible format. Today we look at the latter decades of the twentieth century to the present, when a dizzying array of study Bibles have been introduced.

ryrie study bible It started as a trickle and eventually became a flood. The Oxford Annotated Bible, based on the text of the RSV and written for an ecumenical audience, was introduced in 1962 and quickly became a standard text in many university religious studies programs. The Dake Study Bible appeared in 1963, with marginal notes written from a Pentecostal perspective and based on the text of the KJV. The Ryrie Study Bible, written by dispensational theologian Charles Ryrie, used the text of the NASB and became something of an heir-apparent to the venerable Scofield Bible. Then, in 1986, Zondervan released the NIV Study Bible, and everything changed.

The NIV Study Bible was the first study Bible (with the exception of the original Geneva Bible) which was explicitly branded as belonging to a particular translation. Now, much of the impetus behind some of the other study Bibles I've mentioned was to offer a study Bible for those who favored a modern translation over the KJV, but the NIV Study Bible actually made the translation central to its brand identity. This created a kind of synergy in which the growing popularity of the NIV drove adoption of the study Bible, and the study Bible gave buyers another reason to choose the NIV translation.niv study bible

The notes in the NIV Study Bible were written from a broadly evangelical viewpoint, which meant it could be used by Protestants from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds. Again, that helped validate and strengthen the broad appeal of the translation itself.

The NIV Study Bible became a runaway success, and it didn't take long for other publishers (and Zondervan itself) to try to duplicate that success. Some have tried to do so by appealing to a broad market, others have focused on a specific audience, and still others have experimented with study Bibles aimed at specific tasks or interests.

First, there are the translation-branded study Bibles which seek to do for those translations what the NIV Study Bible did for the NIV. These include the ESV Study Bible, the NLT Study Bible, and the HCSB Study Bible. While each has its own distinctives, they all are written from a broadly evangelical point of view.

jsbThen there are study Bibles geared toward specific religious groups, such as the Catholic Study Bible, Jewish Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible (Calvinistic/Reformed), Fire Bible (Pentecostal/Charismatic), and others aimed at Lutherans, Wesleyans, etc. These study Bibles are typically printed with the translations most favored by the groups they target, but the translation itself is not the basis on which these study Bibles are marketed.

Finally, there are study Bibles which focus on specific Bible study tasks or interests. For example, the Life Application Study Bible has notes aimed at helping readers apply each passage to their own lives. The Apologetics Study Bible is focused on providing answers to difficult questions and challenges which may arise from a given passage. The Archaeological Study Bible offers information about the historical background of a given passage and includes appropriate images and illustrations. Where most study Bibles offer general explanatory information about a passage, these task-oriented study Bibles are more specialized tools.ASB

Not too long ago, the market seemed to be glutted with study Bibles aimed at surprisingly narrow groups of people. There were study Bibles aimed at people with certain occupations or hobbies, people of specific genders and age groups, etc. I think this ever-increasing specialization of the study Bible has died down some in recent years, and that's probably a good thing. Still, the effectiveness of the study Bible format is demonstrated by the fact that publishers have tried to use it to get very narrow demographics to become more engaged in reading the Bible. I imagine we'll continue to see publishers release new variations of the study Bible from time to time in order to see what sticks.


 

May 15, 2012 David Lang

Why Are Study Bibles So Popular? Part 2

Before there was Bible software, there were study Bibles—printed Bibles with brief commentary in the form of marginal notes. In this series of posts, we're looking at the history of study Bibles and the reasons for their ongoing popularity. In part 1 of this series, we looked at The Geneva Bible, which was almost certainly the first printed study Bible in English. Its explanatory marginal notes offered guidance in how to interpret the Bible at a time when many people were first beginning to read the Bible for themselves, and it became a powerful means of disseminating the Reformed/Calvinistic viewpoint. As we saw, the Geneva Bible eventually became a victim of its own success. Objections to its sectarian nature led the King James Bible to be published without explanatory notes, and the study Bible format was not revived for several centuries.

scofield study bible

Interestingly, the historical circumstances which led to the resurrection of the study Bible format were strikingly similar to those in which the Geneva Bible appeared. At the beginning of the twentieth century, theological liberalism was gaining influence in many large denominations and their flagship seminaries, challenging long-standing understandings of the Bible and sparking a conservative backlash. Many pastors and laypeople felt inadequate to respond to those challenges and were looking for some help. They found it in the Scofield Reference Bible, a study Bible by American minister C. I. Scofield which articulated a fundamentalist, inerrantist, and dispensationalist understanding of the Bible. The Scofield Reference Bible quickly became popular among theological conservatives.

thompson chain Another study Bible published in the early twentieth century was the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Where the Geneva Bible and Scofield Reference Bible offered brief commentary from a particular doctrinal perspective, the Thompson Chain's marginal notes listed topics or themes articulated by a given verse, along with a cross-reference to the next verse that speaks to each theme. By following each "link" in these topical "chains," the reader could see the development of these themes throughout the Bible.

The success of these study Bibles, both of which have been repeatedly revised and remain popular more than a century after their initial publication, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the study Bible format. But the real heyday of the study Bible didn't come until the latter decades of the twentieth century, which saw a proliferation of study Bibles in a variety of formats and emphases. We'll look at some of those in my next post.


 

May 14, 2012 David Lang

Why Are Study Bibles So Popular? Part 1

RSBcover-sm Before there was Bible software, there were study Bibles—printed Bibles with brief commentary in the form of marginal notes. Before Bible software put a whole library of material at your fingertips, study Bibles were the most convenient way to get concise help in reading the Bible. Yet even with the advent of Bible software, study Bibles remain hugely popular. Study Bibles are consistently some of the top-selling Accordance modules, and we just added a new one: The Reformation Study Bible. It's clear that the study Bible is here to stay, so I want to spend the next few posts looking at the history of the study Bible, surveying the different kinds of study Bibles available, and examining why they're so popular.

Let's start with a little history. The first English study Bible was probably the Geneva Bible of 1560, a Protestant translation with notes written from a Reformed/Calvinistic perspective.

GenevaBible

Now, marginal notes were hardly a groundbreaking innovation. Readers and copyists had been scribbling notes in the margins of hand-written manuscripts for centuries. But the Geneva Bible offered a relatively comprehensive set of notes on the entire Protestant canon, and those notes met the deeply felt needs of people at a pivotal moment in history.

Prior to the invention of the printing press, books were incredibly expensive to produce, so only the wealthiest of individuals—or entire communities—could afford to own them. Consequently, personal reading of the Bible was rare. Most people heard the Bible read in liturgical settings, where it was also immediately interpreted for them. With the advent of the printing press, individuals (or families) could suddenly afford to own a copy of the Bible and to read it for themselves. That, of course, meant that all sorts of people were now able to interpret the Bible for themselves.

Imagine yourself as a literate merchant able to bring home your first Bible. Churches are dividing and wars are being fought over differing interpretations of the Bible, and those differing interpretations are swirling around inside your head. You determine to read the Bible for yourself and try to sort out which interpretation is right. But you're not a trained theologian, and even though you now have a translation you can read, much of what you're reading still seems hard to understand. Where can you turn for help?

Now imagine yourself as a church leader trying to win the hearts and minds of the people in a community still wrestling with its own religious identity. Many of them don't understand the sometimes subtle differences among the various churches, and their own personal reading of the Bible often only adds to their confusion. You want to guide them in their reading of the Bible, but you only have so much influence from the pulpit. What can you do to help them read the Bible "correctly"?

When the Geneva Bible was published, it offered an interpretive guide to individuals trying to read the Bible for themselves, and it offered Protestant leaders a powerful vehicle for disseminating their views. This first English study Bible therefore became very popular, so much so that even the crown-backed King James Bible took quite a while to supplant it.

The Geneva Bible's sectarian marginal notes earned it both ardent admirers and passionate detractors. The King James' lack of such notes eventually helped make it the universal choice among English-speaking Protestants, and few, if any, study Bibles were published over the next several centuries. It was not until the early twentieth century that the study Bible really came into its own. We'll look at that stage in the history of the study Bible in my next post.


 

Mar 28, 2012 David Lang

Fire Bible and Acts Commentary

Fire Bible Last week saw a spate of new Accordance module releases. Among them were the notes to the Fire Bible: Global Study Edition. Originally titled The Full Life Study Bible, it began in the early 1980s as a missionary project by the late Don Stamps (1938-1991). While Rev. Stamps was serving in Brazil, he recognized a great need among pastors and lay workers for a study Bible written from a Pentecostal perspective. Later published as the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, it was first called the Fire Bible by believers in mainland China after they received Bibles in their own languages. Often referred to as a one-book Pentecostal library, the Fire Bible contains 77 theme articles, 45 maps and charts, introductions to each book of the Bible, and Pentecostal study notes.

acts-horton-cover-sm In addition to the Fire Bible notes, we also released a commentary on the book of Acts by Pentecostal scholar Stanley Horton. This commentary is very readable and features study questions after each major section, so it is suitable for personal and group study. It is also copiously footnoted, and just skimming the footnotes gives the impression that Horton has read and interacted with every commentary on Acts ever written. Since many of the distinctives of the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition are derived from the book of Acts, this commentary will prove extremely helpful both to those who belong to that tradition and those who wish to understand it better.

Both the Fire Bible Notes and Horton's Commentary on Acts are on sale through March 31.


 

Jun 25, 2011 Darin Allen

Life Application Study Bible At-A-Glance

As we continue profiling the Study Bibles from this month's sale, today we will take an at-a-glance look at the Life Application Study Bible.


Life App SB

Title: Life Application Study Bible

Area of Focus: Practical Application of Scripture in Today's Context

Contributors: Almost 100 contributors, including biblical scholars from multiple denominations.

Description: The Life Application Study Bible is similar to many Study Bibles in the way that it seeks to explain difficult passages. However, it then goes beyond this as it seeks to instruct and advise ways in which readers can apply these passages to modern life. Other features include book introductions, book themes, and profiles of biblical figures.

Sample Book Introduction from Judges

Real heroes are hard to find these days. Modern research and the media have made the foibles and weaknesses of our leaders very apparent; we search in vain for men and women to emulate. The music, movie, and sports industries produce a steady stream of “stars” who shoot to the top and then quickly fade from view. Judges is a book about heroes—12 men and women who delivered Israel from its oppressors. These judges were not perfect; in fact, they included an assassin, a sexually promiscuous man, and a person who broke all the laws of hospitality. But they were submissive to God, and God used them.

Judges is also a book about sin and its consequences. Like a minor cut or abrasion that becomes infected when left untreated, sin grows and soon poisons the whole body. The book of Joshua ends with the nation taking a stand for God, ready to experience all the blessings of the Promised Land. After settling in Canaan, however, the Israelites lost their spiritual commitment and motivation. When Joshua and the elders died, the nation experienced a leadership vacuum, leaving them without a strong central government. Instead of enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promised Land, Israel entered the dark ages of her history.

Simply stated, the reason for this rapid decline was sin—individual and corporate. The first step away from God was incomplete obedience (1:11-2:5); the Israelites refused to eliminate the enemy completely from the land. This led to intermarriage and idolatry (2:6-3:7) and everyone doing “whatever seemed right” (17:6). Before long the Israelites became captives. Out of their desperation they begged God to rescue them. In faithfulness to his promise and out of his loving-kindness, God would raise up a judge to deliver his people, and for a time there would be peace. Then complacency and disobedience would set in, and the cycle would begin again.

The book of Judges spans a period of over 325 years, recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance, and the careers of 12 deliverers. Their captors included the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, and Ammonites. God used a variety of deliverers—from Othniel to Samson—to lead his people to freedom and true worship. God’s deliverance through the judges is a powerful demonstration of his love and mercy toward his people.

As you read the book of Judges, take a good look at these heroes from Jewish history. Note their dependence on God and obedience to his commands. Observe Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from history and living only for the moment. But most of all, stand in awe of God’s mercy as he delivers his people over and over again.


 

Jun 22, 2011 Darin Allen

Jewish Study Bible At-A-Glance

As we continue profiling the Study Bibles from this month's sale, today we will take an at-a-glance look at the Jewish Study Bible.


jsb

Title: The Jewish Study Bible

Area of Focus: Jewish Studies

Contributors: Edited by Adele Berlin and Mard Zvi Brettler

Description: The Jewish Study Bible is designed to meet the needs of those seeking to study the Hebrew Bible from the Jewish perspective. The JSB draws from various schools of Jewish traditions of biblical exegesis (rabbinic, medieval, mystical, etc.) and is based out of the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. Features include book introductions, running commentary, essays that address Judaism's use and interpretation of the Bible, and more.

Sample Essay: The Bible in the Synagogue

During the period of the Second Temple (from the return to Zion [538 BCE] until the destruction of the Temple [70 CE]), and in particular after the conquest of the entire Near East by the armies of Alexander the Great (ca. 330 BCE), numerous upheavals occurred in the religious–spiritual world of the Jewish people. Two of the fundamental changes caused by these upheavals are important for our discussion, having left their mark on Judaism, in all places, in every era, and upon the various forms of Jewish expression, up to the present day: the growth and establishment of the synagogue, and the central role played by the Bible in the religious and spiritual existence of the Jewish people. Since then, a Jewish community without a synagogue at its center is unimaginable, nor could one conceive of a synagogue in which a central place was not reserved, both physically and in terms of its activities, for the three sections of the Tanakh: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.

During the era of the First Temple (until its destruction in 586 BCE), and to some extent during the ensuing two or three centuries, the word of God was perceived to be revealed to humanity in numerous ways. First and foremost, it came through the prophet through whom God revealed His will or His plans. God also answered the people’s questions, both by way of the priests, using the Urim and Thummim, as well as through dreams (see 1 Sam. 28:6: “But the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets”). Thus the prophet, the priest, and the interpreter of dreams served as intermediaries between God and human beings. In this respect, a major upheaval occurred when it was believed that prophecy had departed from Israel after the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (b. B. Bat. 14b), that the Urim and Thummim had disappeared (y. Mak. 5:2), and that dreams are not divine messages from heaven but a result of human self–reflection (b. Ber. 55b). All of these methods of discovering the divine will were then replaced by texts, the Holy Scriptures. The nation of Israel became what was later termed the “People of the Book.” The intermediary between God and humanity was henceforth the Rabbi, the wise man who knew how to read Scriptures and to hear through them God’s voice. Instead of one–time divine revelations through dreams or prophets or priests, the Jewish people were given a book which was understood to contain God’s revelation for all time. The era of revelation to individuals at appointed times came to a close, and was replaced by a new era with continuous revelation for all, by way of the Holy Scriptures. From this point on, the religion and culture of Israel developed around the twenty–four books of the Tanakh: in Houses of Study and in schools, at particular events such as eulogies or festive religious celebrations, but first and foremost in the synagogues...



 

Jun 19, 2011 Darin Allen

Halley's Bible Handbook At-A-Glance

As we continue profiling the Study Bibles from this month's sale, today we will take an at-a-glance look at Halley's Bible Handbook.


Halley Cover

Title: Halley's Bible Handbook

Area of Focus: Historical Context

Contributors: Henry H. Halley

Description: Halley's Bible Handbook was written from the conviction that everyone should be a daily reader of the Bible. According to Dr. Halley himself, it was designed as a handy brief manual, of a popular nature, to assist the average reader in their Bible study. The handbook was written to be as readable as the average newspaper in order to make it more accessible to a popular audience. This makes Halley's Bible Handbook a good choice for those who are interested in a guide that uses a conversational tone and seeks to avoid jargon. Historical facts and archaeological notes are contained throughout the handbook, and many facts have been organized into helpful lists and charts.

Sample Article: Religious Parties in the New Testament

The Pharisees

The two main parties within the Judaism of Jesus’s day were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. As Hellenism began to encroach on the religious life of the Jews, the unavoidable question was how the Law of God should be applied in the new circumstances. The Pharisees took the Scriptures and believed that it was their responsibility to determine how the Law should be applied to new conditions and how it should, if necessary, be reinterpreted. This led to the prominence of the teachers of the Law (or scribes) during the time between the Testaments. The Pharisees accepted both the Torah (Law) and tradition (the applications of the Law as taught by earlier teachers of the Law). The Sadducees, by contrast, made no such effort. They did not try to adapt God’s Law to the new situation but limited themselves to the five books of Moses; they did not even accept the authority of the prophets and other Scriptures.

The Pharisees and Jesus often clashed—yet they had much in common theologically, and Jesus had many nonadversarial contacts with Pharisees (Luke 7:36ff.; 11:37; 13:31–33; 14:1; Mark 12:28–34; Matthew 23:1–2). At the same time, Jesus rejected the validity of the oral laws of the Pharisees (see Teachers of the Law (Scribes)) and also their emphasis on ritual purity that made the Pharisees refuse any contact with “sinners.” Jesus came with the invitation to all people to enter the kingdom of God (including the Pharisees), while the Pharisees in effect disinvited all who did not live by the same standards as they—which was most people. It was especially this exclusivism that Jesus objected to in the Pharisees; by using only standards of external behavior to measure people’s relationship with God, they failed to realize that it is what is inside a person that counts, and that they therefore needed God’s grace as much as the worst sinner. And it was this external religion that made it very difficult for them to believe in Jesus (who did not do all the things the Pharisees felt a religious person should do).

The Sadducees

The party of the Sadducees consisted of wealthy priests and their friends in the aristocracy. They were religiously conservative in that they accepted the authority of the five books of Moses but not of the prophets and other later writings. Thus, when they question Jesus about the resurrection (Matthew 22:23–33), Jesus uses a quote from Exodus 3:6, since a quote from the prophets would not have carried weight with them. At the same time, they were the group who wielded political power, which led them to endorse—for pragmatic purposes—some aspects of Hellenism. When Palestine became part of the Roman Empire, the Sadducees collaborated with the Romans and tried to maintain the status quo, lest they lose their position of leadership.

The Sadducees had more power than the Pharisees (although the common people sided with the Pharisees) until A.D. 70. With the destruction of the temple—the focus of their power—the Sadducees simply ceased to have any role and disappeared. The Pharisees, on the other hand, became the true leaders of the Jewish people after A.D. 70 by providing them with a religious life apart from the temple. After the failed revolution of Bar Kochba the Romans recognized the Pharisees as the governing body for Jewish life.