The Story of Halley's Bible Handbook
Over the past couple weeks, I've been writing about the importance of reading biblical passages as unified literary works rather than as collections of atomistic Proverbs. I've argued that biblical exposition begins with reading and that exegetical sermons ought to derive their outlines from the literary structure of the passages they exegete. It is therefore timely that we've just released Halley's Bible Handbook, a Christian classic born out of one man's passion for exposing people to the text of the Bible.
Henry Hampton Halley was a pastor in the early twentieth century whose health forced him to leave the ministry and turn to more physically active work. To occupy his mind during his travels and labors, he began memorizing large portions of Scripture and reciting them to himself over and over. The more Halley memorized, the more he pushed himself to commit as much of the Bible as possible to memory. Over time, he eventually memorized large portions of every book of the Bible.
What began as a personal discipline turned into a ministry when he was asked to preach at a nearby church. When he discovered that he had misplaced his sermon notes and outline, he simply began to recite some of the passages he had memorized. The response was remarkable. He soon began to receive calls from other churches to recite Scripture, and he used this as an opportunity to encourage biblical literacy and Bible memorization. He soon began offering brief introductions to each biblical book from which he would recite, and these too were very well received. Halley's audiences would leave with a clearer sense of the historical context in which the Bible was written, as well as the inspiration to begin reading the Bible for themselves.
Eventually, Halley created a 16-page pamphlet containing his introductions to each book, and he spent the rest of his life expanding this into what eventually became his "Bible Handbook." Today, Halley's Bible Handbook is a thick volume which includes a concise Bible commentary, important discoveries in archaeology, related historical data, church history, maps, and more.
The Accordance edition of Halley's Bible Handbook integrates seamlessly with all your other Accordance modules and is fully searchable. It includes hundreds of high-resolution color photographs and dozens of helpful maps and charts. As a reference tool, it can be scrolled in parallel with the text of the Bible so that you can use it like a study Bible.
The brief biography of Halley included at the end of the Handbook is a testament to how hungry people are to hear and understand the message of the Bible. So many people see the Bible as an atomistic series of Proverbs and proof-texts, or as an arcane book of secrets which can only be "unlocked" by experts. Consequently, something as simple as reciting whole passages of the Bible without commentary was received with great enthusiasm and eagerness. And that was in the early part of the twentieth century when I imagine general Biblical literacy was significantly higher than it is today.