One of the most common errors in Bible study takes place when we parachute in to a certain passage, dig around a bit, secure the asset (a nugget of truth for the day), and then pursue extraction. In other words, we study Bible verses and Bible chapters, but not Bible books. But without a larger context, the passage often doesn’t make sense, and we give up in frustration, wondering whether Bible study is something best left to the experts.
The simplest solution usually lies in a good book overview. When you see the Bible as a collection of books, and you work to understand each book within its historical context (identifying the author, audience, occasion, and purpose for the book), smaller passages within the book come alive. For example, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil 4:4) takes on a new light when you see it’s one step in the reconciliation process between Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-9), which itself is a prime example of the joyful unity Paul seeks for the church (the main point of the letter of Philippians).
Without doubt, the best way to become at home within a Bible book is to read the book over and over. When I preach or teach a book, I usually read the entire book at least 5 times before the first session.
But sometimes we don’t have enough time for that much reading. And sometimes, we gain useful information from other sources gathered by others. So I’m always on the lookout for good articles and resources that present useful Bible book overviews.
I recently began following the blog of Jeffrey Kranz, who has given himself to creating clear and helpful overviews of every book of the Bible. I signed up for Jeffrey’s free course, where he sends a weekly email with an overview of one book of the Bible. The first one was on Psalms, and I must say I was impressed.
I thought, “Surely he’ll ignore the fact that the Psalms are organized into 5 books.” I mused, “I’ll check this out this first article, but if he missed the fact that Psalms 1 and 2 set the tone for the entire book, I’m not sure I can trust that he really understands the book.” I wondered, “Will he realize that the sons of Korah shouldn’t even have existed apart from God’s amazing grace (Num 26:11)?” (Okay, I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve just seen too many “Bible overview” articles that are not really very helpful.) But Jeffrey delightfully crossed my expectations on every count. Not only did he include details I expected (always pleasantly affirming); he also gave much information I hadn’t realized, which inspired me to jump back into the Psalms!
I can’t wait to see what he does with the other 65 books of the Bible. I’m happy to recommend this resource to you. If you’d like to receive Jeffrey’s emails, just sign up on his site here.
Other resources I recommend regarding book overviews:
- The book introductions found in the ESV Study Bible.
- Articles at bible.org by Daniel Wallace on every New Testament book. I’ve found nobody better than Wallace at mapping out the occasion and flow of thought of a Bible book, and I consult him every time I study a NT book.
Check ’em out!