Have you ever felt intimidated by the Bible – by its length, its language, its antiquity, its message? I sure have! The Bible is not a simple book. It is not quickly read or easily understood.
I was very young when I first heard stories from the Bible. They had happy endings where the good guys win with the help of God (David and Goliath, Gideon and the Midianites, Joshua and the battle of Jericho). I learned songs like “Jesus Loves Me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” and “The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God The B-I-B-L-E.” When I got older and started reading Scripture myself, I found it pretty daunting. I would resolve to start on the first page of Genesis and read it every day. Genesis and Exodus held my attention if I got through the genealogies and the description of the Tabernacle, but I would never make it through Leviticus – too weird and seemingly irrelevant.
Even though I have now loved and studied the Bible for decades, I sometimes pick it up and sigh as I consider how lengthy it is and how little I really know about it. During the past fifteen years, I’ve had the opportunity to not only be in Bible study classes, but to lead other women into the Bible’s many pages and topics.
Two years ago, I found Max Anders’ book, 30 Days to Understanding The Bible.
Anders admits that he used to be frustrated with the Bible, seeing it as “a series of unrelated stories put together in random order.” In his desire to understand it, he divided the sixty-six books of the Bible into kinds and placed them on a timeline. He then divided the history/story-line contained in the Bible into twelve eras. A key figure and relevant location were attached to each era (Creation-Adam-Eden).
I was so excited about what I learned from 30 Days to Understanding The Bible that I led a group of women through what Anders calls the Arc of Bible History and will repeat the nine-week class this fall. Women who are near East Richland Evangelical Friends Church, St. Clairsville, Ohio are welcome to join me on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. beginning September 6, 2017. We will come away with a clearer picture of what the Bible is about, how it fits together, and how it relates to us. Since learning Anders’ key to the Bible story-line, I can place events from Scripture into the appropriate era, adding context and understanding. Placing geographical locations on a mental map helps me visualize movement of people through the Middle East and know which bodies of water play into the accounts. The history of God’s people comes to life.
I’m aware that many struggle with Old Testament biblical accounts of massacres and slavery, as well as the lists of quirky laws in Leviticus. The second book I’m recommending is an Ollie’s Bargain Outlet find. Author Paul Copan addresses the ethical questions of the Old Testament in Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Copan contends that we should not gloss over the difficult portions of Scripture and he is thorough in addressing the criticisms of skeptics. With an understanding of the cultures of the time periods, he explains common Middle Eastern war language of the day and God’s progression from calling Abraham and later giving his law through Moses to completing his plan of salvation through his son Jesus Christ.
Not unlike Anders, Copan has identified the bigger picture of God’s dealings with people over the course of history. 30 Days to Understanding The Bible provides a chronological framework for putting people, places, and events in order. Is God a Moral Monster? recognizes that creator God has met men and women where they are in each time period to show them how to improve morally, how to be reconciled to himself through Jesus, and ultimately to be part of the coming Kingdom where “no social or racial discrimination will exist; swords will be beaten into plowshares; and Peace will reign.”
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105