Bible surveys can be difficult to teach. There’s certainly value to gaining a big picture overview of Scripture. Over the years, I’ve taught surveys of one or both Testaments at both the high school and college levels as well as in church settings. Sometimes it seems like I’m offering something very helpful, but other times it feels “a mile wide and an inch deep” as the saying goes.
The same kind of sentiment can be said for written surveys of the Bible. Finding a good one-volume introductory survey of the Bible can be quite challenging. There’s a fine balance between offering enough depth to make such a work meaningful without making it so difficult that it’s no longer introductory in nature. Such was the dilemma faced by the faculty of Seattle Pacific University. Their sophomores were required to take a survey course on the Bible. Not satisfied with already-published Bible surveys, the faculty decided to write their own. Releasing today for the Accordance Bible Software Library, A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible: Learning to Read Scripture’s Story is the result of this project. But this biblical introduction is intended not just for classroom use, but use in the church as well.
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Edited by Robert W. Hall and David R. Nienhuis, with chapters written by additional faculty members, A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible from Baker Academic has been designed as “a short ‘guide’ […] that would provide just enough information to prepare the students to begin reading the Bible itself. Such a guide seems to us central to the educational mission of religiously related universities and Christian congregations” (preface).
A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible begins with introductory sections designed to help the reader understand a Christian perspective on the Bible as well as how to read it in relation to its varied literary genres and historical contexts. Then, rather than presenting each book of the Bible by itself as with many similar introductions, chapters treat various sections of the Bible, focusing on the Bible’s metanarrative (defined as “A grand, overarching story that takes a group of smaller, different stories and provides a framework for understanding how they all fit together”). The goal for this approach is to read the bible as story rather than in isolated passages separate from the whole.
Each chapter covers a portion of Scripture, such as “The Beginning of the Story” for Genesis through Deuteronomy or “The Story of Jesus” covering the four Gospels. The structure of each of these chapters follows the same outline:
The Story: Contribution to the Metanarrative
The Shape of the Story: Arrangement and Placement
The Style of the Story: Literary Features
The Specifics: What to Watch For
What Do We Learn about God?
What Do We Learn about Being God’s People?
What Do We Learn about God’s World?
This approach to Scripture as story becomes the overall motif for the entire book. The authors even include an epilogue, as opposed to an afterword–which might appear in other, more traditional, reference works.
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In their wish to make this introduction accessible to all, the reader is not required to have any knowledge of biblical languages, and any reference to Greek or Hebrew words use transliteration. For the most part, the authors use their own translations when quoting Scripture, but occasionally refer to the CEB or NRSV. Page numbers are included in the Accordance version of A Compact Guide to the Bible for use in mixed-format group settings.
Even those long familiar with the Bible may benefit from this fresh approach with its emphasis on reading the Bible as story, an idea that has become increasingly popular in recent years, as evidenced by publishers releasing print versions of the Bible without traditional chapter and verse numbering. Students and other interested readers alike will especially benefit from reading A Compact Guide to the Bible wherever they are using an iPad or iPhone.
A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible
Regular Price $17.90