Page 1


A n Impr int of B ar bour P ublishing, Inc.


© 2012 by Stephen M. Miller. Previously released under the title Stephen M. Miller’s Bible Snapshots. The author is represented by The Steve Laube Agency LLC, Phoenix, Arizona. Print ISBN 978-1-63058-460-3 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher. Churches and other noncommercial interests may reproduce portions of this book without the express written permission of Barbour Publishing, provided that the text does not exceed 500 words and that the text is not material quoted from another publisher. When reproducing text from this book, include the following credit line: “From The Complete Bible Handbook by Stephen M. Miller, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.” Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked msg are from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Scripture quotations marked nirv are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Reader’s Version®.Copyright © 1996, 1998 Biblica. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of Biblica. Scripture quotations marked cev are from the Contemporary English Version, Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked ncv are taken from the New Century Version of the Bible, copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked esv are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked niv are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. niv®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked nkjv are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked kjv are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Scripture quotations marked tniv are taken from the Holy Bible, Today’s New International Version®. Copyright © 2001, 2005 by Biblica®. Used by permission of Biblica®. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked tlb are taken from The Living Bible © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked nrsv are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked the voice are taken from The Voice New Testament, copyright © 2008 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., © 2006, 2007, 2008 Ecclesia Bible Society. All rights reserved. Quotes from ancient sources other than the Bible have been paraphrased by the author. Published by Barbour Books, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683 www.barbourbooks.com Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses. Member of the

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association

Printed in the United States of America.


CONTENTS ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

INTRODUCTION

.. ................................ 8

B I B L E : FA S T PA S S ........................ 10 Bible library: 66 books.. .................................................11 How did we get the Bible?.. ............................................14 Shopping for the perfect Bible.......................................17

Big events in Christian history .................................... 32 What it takes to be a Christian..................................... 34

10 T O U G H Q U E ST I O N S . AT H E I S T S A S K .. .................................. 38 1

:: I f there is a God, why doesn’t he show .

2

:: I f God is so good, why doesn’t he do .

3

:: W hy is God such a jerk in .

4

:: W hy treat the Bible as God’s .

5

:: I f the Bible is God’s Word, why is it .

6

:: W hy would any intelligent, rational person .

Two great ways to study the Bible. .............................. 20 Illustrated Bible history timeline................................. 24

C H R I S T I A N I T Y: . FA S T PA S S . ........................................ 2 6 Christianity, the specs.................................................. 27

himself—or at least say hello? .. ........................... 39

anything when we’re suffering? ........................... 40

the Old Testament? . .............................................. 42

message when no one has a clue . who wrote most of it? .. ......................................... 43

full of blatant contradictions and . obvious mistakes? . ............................................... 44

believe Bible stories about a talking snake, . the sun stopping in the sky, the Virgin Birth, . and dead people coming back to life? .................... 45


7

:: T he Bible says there’s just one God, but .

8

:: I sn’t it possible that the reason Jesus seemed .

9

:: W hy believe in an afterlife when there’s no .

Jesus says he’s divine, too; how could . anyone believe both? . ........................................... 46

to fulfill so many prophecies is because New Testament writers made it look that way . since they wrote about Jesus several hundred . years after the prophecies? . ................................. 47

10

reliable record of any dead soul coming back . to confirm it? . ....................................................... 48

:: S ince religion has caused so much war and .

suffering, often spawned by intolerance, . wouldn’t the world be better off without it?....... 50

W H AT T H E B I B L E . S AY S A B O U T. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 From abortion to zealots

B I B L E S U R V I VA L G U I D E .. ........ 5 2 People problems. .......................................................... 53 Money woes................................................................. 56 Career concerns.. ........................................................... 58 Health troubles.. ........................................................... 60 Spiritual troubles......................................................... 62

BIBLE SNAPSHOTS: GENESIS T O R E V E L AT I O N .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .241 Genesis....................................................................... 242 Exodus........................................................................ 254 Leviticus..................................................................... 262 Numbers . ................................................................... 266 Deuteronomy.............................................................. 272 Joshua.........................................................................276 Judges........................................................................ 282 Ruth.. .......................................................................... 286 1, 2 Samuel.. ................................................................ 288 1, 2 Kings.................................................................... 298 1, 2 Chronicles.. ........................................................... 306


Ezra.. ............................................................................ 310

Titus........................................................................... 468

Nehemiah.. ................................................................... 312

Philemon.. ................................................................... 470

Esther.......................................................................... 314

Hebrews.. .................................................................... 472

Job............................................................................... 318

James.. .........................................................................476

Psalms........................................................................ 322

1, 2 Peter.. ................................................................... 480

Proverbs..................................................................... 326

1–3 John.. ................................................................... 484

Ecclesiastes................................................................ 332

Jude............................................................................ 488

Song of Songs............................................................. 336

Revelation.................................................................. 490

Isaiah.. ........................................................................ 338 Jeremiah..................................................................... 344 Lamentations.. ............................................................ 350 Ezekiel........................................................................ 352 Daniel......................................................................... 356 Hosea.. ........................................................................ 362 Joel............................................................................. 364 Amos.. ......................................................................... 366 Obadiah...................................................................... 368 Jonah.......................................................................... 370 Micah.. ........................................................................ 372 Nahum. ........................................................................ 374 Habakkuk.. ...................................................................376 Zephaniah................................................................... 378 Haggai. ....................................................................... 380 Zechariah.. .................................................................. 382 Malachi.. ..................................................................... 384 Matthew.. ................................................................... 386 Mark.. ......................................................................... 402 Luke............................................................................. 412 John............................................................................ 422 Acts............................................................................ 430 Romans.. ..................................................................... 438 1, 2 Corinthians.. ......................................................... 442 Galatians.................................................................... 448 Ephesians.. .................................................................. 450 Philippians.. ................................................................ 454 Colossians.................................................................. 456 1, 2 Thessalonians...................................................... 458 1, 2 Timothy................................................................ 462

I N D E X . .......................................................... 500 A R T C R E D I T S ........................................ 510


INTRODUCTION ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

T H I N K O F T H I S A S A G I F T certificate from Star-

bucks. That’s where the story begins. It’ll end at Pizza Hut, far as I can tell. Starbucks sits in the corner of the grocery store closest to our home. My wife, Linda, stopped by there a few weeks ago to get a free cup of coffee for her birthday. Think “one-stop sip and shop.” Linda does. It’s Friday, almost a week after Valentine’s Day. Up to the counter walks a boy of middleschool age, around 12. He asks the lone Starbucks employee, Carol, if he can use his Walmart gift certificate at the grocery store. Carol says she’s sorry, but he’ll need to use it at

8

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK

Walmart—the closest one is across town. The boy walks away. Head down. He lingers by the flowers. “Something’s wrong,” Carol says to my wife, handing her the coffee. “I may go and buy that certificate from him.” Carol excuses herself and goes over to the boy. A few moments later, she’s reaching for the wrapping paper that customers use to bundle up flowers. Linda knows she has five dollars in her purse, so she starts walking over there. Discovering she has eight dollars, she slips it to Carol and asks her to use it to help the boy. Linda wheels her cart off to shop. A few minutes later, a voice over the store intercom calls Linda back to Starbucks. The boy is standing there, cradling a dozen yellow roses. He wants to talk to Linda. “My parents are celebrating Valentine’s Day today,” he tells her. “They couldn’t afford to do it on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to buy them some flowers.” He asks, “Do I need to pay you for these?” “No,” Linda says. “Just tell your mom you love her.” Before Linda leaves, Carol slips her a Starbucks gift certificate with a note penciled on it: “God bless.” The next day, Linda’s driving home from visiting her mom in a neighboring town. She calls me on the hands-free phone system she has in the car. We agree to order pizza at one of our favorite shops. I’ll call it in, and she’ll pick it up on


her way home. That’s the plan. Oddly, the pizza shop’s phone line is busy. I’ve never had that happen there before. The line stays busy for several attempted calls over several minutes. I phone Linda back. We agree to Pizza Hut, another favorite. They have a super special: two medium pizzas for $10. I place the order online. They never get it. Maybe I sent it to the wrong store. Who knows? Linda ends up waiting in the lobby while they quickly cook up our pizzas. While she’s standing there, in walks the Starbucks boy and his mom. “She’s the lady who helped me,” Linda hears the boy whisper. “Are you Carol?” the mother asks my wife. “No,” Linda answers. “Carol is the one who works at Starbucks.” “She’s the other lady who helped me,” the boy says. The mom thanks Linda and offers to pay her back. “No,” Linda says. “You’ve got a special boy. I did that for him.”

common with the Starbucks boy. They’re searching. Maybe they’re just curious, pure and simple. They want to know more about the Bible and Christianity—and they don’t need a sermon in the process. Maybe they’re feeling a bit bummed in spirit, and they’re looking for a little insight that might somehow help them. Maybe they feel beyond help, and they’re walking with their heads hung down. I’m not sure this book will do for a reader what my wife’s eight dollars helped do for that boy. But I can hope.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: In the pages that follow, you’ll see a few snapshots of what the Bible teaches and what Christians try to practice. But if you’ve got that Starbucks story down, you’re well on the way. In the meantime, to quote a Starbucks gift certificate, “God bless.”

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: I don’t know if this was a series of coincidences— or Jesus conducting an orchestra. But if Jesus made music, that’s the kind of song I’d expect to hear.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: When I write books about the Bible—books like this one—I’m trying to make a little music, too. What’s surprising to some folks is who I’m writing this music for. It’s not for Christians. There are lots of books out there for them. I’m writing for people who have one thing in

STEPHEN M. MILLER StephenMillerBooks.com

P.S.: Everybody reads a P.S., so here’s where I’ll say thanks to all the pros who helped bring this book to life. To name a few who invested a hunk of time: Paul K. Muckley, editor; Steve Laube, agent; Faceout Studio, designers; Donna Maltese, copy editor and fact checker; along with the Barbour publishing team of Annie Tipton, Ashley Casteel, and Ashley Schrock.

INTRODUCTION

>

9


B I B LE : FAST PASS


BI BLE LI BRARY: 6 6 BOO KS :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

HISTORY OF BE G I NNI NG S

JUDGES

Heroes rescue Jews from oppressors RUTH

Arab woman becomes mother of King David’s family 1, 2 S A M U E L GENESIS

Saul becomes Israel’s first king, followed by David

Beginning of universe, humanity, Jewish race

1, 2 K I N G S

Israel splits in two; both nations fall within 400 years

L AWS

1, 2 CH RO N I C L E S

Jewish history, tailored to show God at work EZRA

Jews return home from exile in Iraq NEHEMIAH

Jews rebuild Jerusalem’s walls ESTHER EXODUS

Jew becomes Iranian queen, saves Jews from genocide

Moses frees Jews from Egyptian slavery LEVITICUS

Jews organize as a nation NUMBERS

PO E T RY

Jews spend 40 years in the badlands DEUTERONOMY

Moses reviews Jewish laws and dies

HISTORY OF JE WS

JOB

Loses his wealth, health, children; blames God PSALMS

Jewish songs of worship PROVERBS

Practical advice for young men ECCLESIASTES JOSHUA

One man’s search for the meaning of life

Jews invade and retake homeland

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

11


SONG OF SONGS

NAHUM

Intimate, erotic love song

Predicts the end of the Iraqi-based Assyrian Empire HABAKKUK

PROPHECY ABOU T J EWS A ND THEIR E NE M IES

Vows to trust God no matter what ZEPHANIAH

Predicts the end of humanity HAGGAI

Convinces Jews to rebuild their Temple ZECHARIAH

Predicts the coming of a savior MAL ACHI ISAIAH

Accuses rehab Jews suffering a spiritual relapse

Warns Jews to stop sinning JEREMIAH

Lives to see predictions come true: Jewish nation falls

G O S PE L S AB O U T J E S U S

L A M E N TAT I O N S

Eyewitness to Jerusalem’s fall describes the horrors EZEKIEL

Predicts end of Jewish nation, followed by its rebirth

M AT T H E W

DANIEL

Jesus’ story, emphasizing prophecies he fulfills

Exiled Jew advises Babylonians (Iraq) and Persians (Iran)

MARK

HOSEA

LUKE

Marries a hooker to illustrate Jewish nation’s unfaithfulness

A doctor’s take on Jesus’ life and ministry

JOEL

Jesus’ story, emphasizing his teachings

Most action-packed account of Jesus’ life

JOHN

Warns of a locust-like invasion of warriors AMOS

Defends the poor and accuses exploitive, rich Jews OBADIAH

HI ST O RY: B I RT H O F T HE CHU RCH

Condemns nation of Edom for murdering Jewish refugees JONAH

Reluctant prophet convinces people of Nineveh (in Iraq) to repent

ACTS

MICAH

Jesus’ disciples jumpstart the Christian movement

Predicts the Messiah will come from Bethlehem

12

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK


PAUL’S LETTERS TO CHURCHES

L E T T E R S T O T HE CHU RCH AT L ARG E

ROMANS

What Christians believe about Jesus and eternal life

HEBREWS

1, 2 C O R I N T H I A N S

Essay arguing that Jesus made the Jewish religion obsolete

Paul tries to solve problems in the Corinthian church

JAMES

G A L AT I A N S

Christian do’s and don’ts

Christianity is about a bunch of grace, not a bunch of rules

1, 2 P E T E R

EPHESIANS

1, 2 , 3 J O H N

Tips for how to live the Christian life PHILIPPIANS

Warning against “antichrists” who say Jesus only pretended to die

Paul’s thank-you letter to a generous congregation

JUDE

COLOSSIANS

Fighting the heresy that it’s okay to sin because God forgives

Dealing with heretics in the church

Advice for persecuted Christians

1, 2 T H E S S A L O N I A N S

Jesus is coming back, but in the meantime don’t get lazy

PRO PHE C Y AB O U T E N D T I M E S

PAUL’S LETTERS TO INDIVIDUALS R E V E L AT I O N

Visions of disaster on earth and of Jesus coming back for his followers 1, 2 T I M O T H Y

Advice about how to pastor a church TITUS

Advice about how to pastor a tough congregation PHILEMON

Letter of recommendation for a runaway slave turning himself in

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

13


HOW DID WE GET THE BIBLE? ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

SHORT ANSWER: NO ONE KNOWS.

The process was gradual. Bible experts agree on that much. To settle the Jewish Bible, which most Christians call the Old Testament, no committee of rabbis toed up to a table, debated weeks on end, and eventually reached a compromise on which Jewish books were kosher enough to get a stamp of approval: Inspired by God. Ditto for the Christian add-on called the New Testament. There were committees of Jewish and Christian scholars. But Bible historians generally agree that these scholars simply confirmed what the scattered community of faith had grown to believe over the previous centuries: that this collection of books had already become sacred.

OL D T E STAM E NT: WH O W RO T E IT A ND PUT IT TO G ET H ER? G O D . God is first on record to write anything

reported in the Bible. He etched the 10 Commandments onto stone tablets; “the words on them were written by God himself ” (Exodus 32:16). M O S E S . Moses wrote, too. He’s credited with writing the hundreds of laws God gave him— laws scattered throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. “Moses wrote this entire body of instruction in a book and gave it to the priests” (Deuteronomy 31:9). Ancient tradition also credits him with Genesis. W O R D O F M O U T H . Scholars guess that Jews

14

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK

passed along most of the oldest stories in the Bible by word of mouth from one generation to the next, since few could read or write. PA L A C E O F F I C I A L S . Some scholars guess that, once Israel organized into a nation under King David, palace officials began writing down these stories to preserve the history of their nation. P R O P H E T S , P O E T S , A N D K I N G S . There’s no byline on most Bible books. But there are on some. “Jeremiah dictated all the prophecies that the Lord had given him, Baruch [a professional scribe] wrote them on a scroll” (Jeremiah 36:4). “David composed a funeral song for Saul and Jonathan” (2 Samuel 1:17). King David is also credited with writing or at least inspiring nearly half the psalms. E X I L E D J E W S . Jews probably began pulling together all these writings, scholars speculate, after Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq dismantled the Jewish nation and exiled Jewish survivors to Babylon. Without a temple, Jews gradually became “people of the book.” They met in small groups that became known as synagogues. And there they read the writings of their people: laws, history, poetry, and prophecies. Jewish scholars say that the first books their ancestors embraced as God-sent were the first five books of the Bible—known as the Law: Genesis through Deuteronomy. A summary of the laws, Deuteronomy may have been the lost “Book of the Law” (2 Kings 22:8) found in the temple in the 600s BC, a few decades before Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 BC. In time, Jews also embraced the books of the


prophets, and then finally the collection of other writings such as Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. R O M A N J E W S . After Rome destroyed the last Jewish temple in AD 70, Jews once again found themselves without a worship center. No longer could they offer animal sacrifices—a main way they expressed their faith. As they had done when Babylonians leveled their temple 600 years earlier, the Jews again turned to their sacred writings. Scholar councils met to debate whether or not some books belonged in their Bible—books like Esther and the Song of Songs, which don’t even mention God. But by this time they couldn’t do anything but argue. For Jews throughout the world had already embraced the Old Testament books that Jews and Christians alike still revere as holy.

N E W T E S TA M E N T : W H O W R O T E IT AND PUT IT TOGETHER? P A U L . Before anyone wrote the four Gospels about Jesus, a traveling missionary named Paul was writing letters to churches he had started. He also wrote a few to colleagues in ministry—church leaders Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Churches kept the letters, copied them, and passed them around for others to read. Almost from the beginning, many scholars say, Christians treated Paul’s letters as authoritative. In time, these letters would make up nearly half the books of the New Testament: 13 of 27. P E T E R . Leader of the original dozen disciples

S TA M P O F A P P R O VA L . Church leaders in AD 397 gather in the North African coastal town of Carthage, in what is now Tunisia. There, they agree that the Christian Bible should include the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) along with the 27 New Testament books that most Christians today still consider sacred.

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

15


of Jesus, he’s credited with writing two letters named after him. J A M E S , B R O T H E R O F J E S U S . Leader of the church in Jerusalem, he’s usually the James credited with writing the short book named after him—a practical book about how to live the Christian life. Another contender: the apostle James. A P O S T L E S A N D C O L L E A G U E S . No one knows who wrote the stories of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The writers never identify themselves. But the books earned their names because of who the early church leaders in the AD 100s said wrote them: disciples of Jesus, Matthew and John, along with associates of the disciples, John Mark and a physician named Luke, both of whom traveled with Paul. The apostle John is also credited with writing the three short letters named after him. Some credit him with Revelation, though many others say another John wrote this book of prophecy. All of these Gospels and letters circulated, along

16

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK

with other Christian writings. Over the centuries that followed, individual church leaders argued over which writings were God-sent. But in time, the church at large seemed to decide. It decided by using the writings in worship. The list of 27 books that Christians revere shows up for the first time in an Easter letter that Bishop Athanasius wrote in AD 367 to churches he supervised. These are the fountains of salvation, and they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain.

Thirty years later, a council of church leaders agreed, and acknowledged that the 27 books were: :: written by apostles or their close associate :: widely recognized in local churches as messages from God :: in line with traditional Christian teachings.


SHOPPING FOR THE PERFECT BIBLE ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

THINK ICE CREAM.

That’s the best way to select a Bible. You gotta sample it. Bible experts love dipping into the New American Standard Bible. The New Revised Standard Version, too. That’s because scholars say those versions most accurately reflect the original text. Trouble is, they’re tougher to read than most other Bibles. They sound like a scholar lecturing, while most folks prefer a Bible that sounds like a friend chatting. That’s why one popular tip for choosing a Bible is to go with a version that’s easy to understand.

If you love Shakespeare, knock yourself out with the King James Version. Shakespeare was still writing plays when scholars translated that Bible. As a general rule, the more recent the translation, the closer it is to the way we talk. That’s because language flows like a river, always changing. On the next page is a “Top 10” sampling of popular Bible translations—starting with the easiest to read. To compare other Bibles and more Bible verses, jump on the Internet and check out a free Bible comparison site, such as BibleGateway.com.

HOW TO MAKE A NEW BIBLE T R A N S L AT I O N : Think sausage. That’s how one Bible translator described the process of creating modern translations of the Bible. His name: Daniel Taylor, a communications specialist for the New Living Translation. Like sausage, he explained, it’s a process no one wants to see. Scholars meet around a table and grind out the words they think best reflect the ancient originals—or at least their understanding of the ancient originals. Taylor says that word choices shot down by group consensus at nine in the morning sometimes rise from the dead late in the day, when scholars are tired and hungry. This humanity-flawed process is one reason most Bible translations keep getting revised. Another reason: language, fluid like a stream, is constantly changing.

B I B L E T R A N S L AT O R S AT W O R K . Father Stephen

J. Hartdegen, seated, and Jesuit Father Francis T. Gignac work on a revised edition of the New American Bible, an English translation for Catholics. Hartdegen coordinated the 1970 original and the 1986 revision of the New Testament. Gignac chaired the board of editors for the 1986 revision.

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

17


Holy Bible

New International Reader’s Version

NIV

TNIV 18

>

BIBLE VERSION

READING LEVEL

YEAR RELEASED

NEW INTERNATIONAL READER’S VERSION

Grade 2.9* (8-year-old child)

1998 revised edition

CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION

5.4 (10-year-old)

1995

NEW CENTURY VERSION

5.6 (11-year-old)

1991 revised

NEW LIVING TRANSLATION

6.3 (11-year-old)

2007 revised

ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION

7.4 (12-year-old)

2001

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION

7.8 (13-year-old)

2011 revised

NEW KING JAMES VERSION

8 (13-year-old)

1982

THE MESSAGE

Varies wildly—often grades 5-10; 2 Timothy 3 reads at grade 10 (15-year-old).

2002

KING JAMES VERSION

12 (17-year-old)

1611

TODAY’S NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION

Not available; 2 Timothy 3 reads at grade 13 (18-year-old).

2005

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK


2 TIMO TH Y 3:16 God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again and for doing what is right.

PROVERBS 3:5–6 Trust in the L ord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways remember him. Then he will make your paths smooth and straight.

Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful

With all your heart you must trust the L ord and not your

for teaching and helping people and for correcting them

own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear

and showing them how to live.

the road for you to follow.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching,

Trust the L ord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your

for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for

own understanding. Remember the L ord in all you do, and

correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right.

he will give you success.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

Trust in the L ord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for

Trust in the L ord with all your heart, and do not lean on your

teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in

own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and

righteousness.

he will make straight your paths.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Trust in the L ord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable

Trust in the L ord with all your heart, and lean not on your

for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in

own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and

righteousness.

He shall direct your paths.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable

Trust in the L ord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine

for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in

own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and

righteousness.

he shall direct thy paths.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Trust in the L ord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

*By comparison, many newspapers try to maintain reading levels of no higher than grade 8, meaning a 13-year-old eighth grader could understand it.

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

19


T W O G R E AT WAYS TO STU DY TH E B I B L E

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

WAY 1 : Pick a book that snags your interest.

Maybe it’s the action-packed Gospel of Mark. Or maybe James, a short letter brimming with advice about how to live the Christian life. WAY 2 : Pick a topic on your mind. Money worries, perhaps. Or temptation. N O T A WAY: If you’re a Bible newbie, don’t even think about starting at Genesis and expecting to plow through all 66 books of the Bible. Most readers bail by the time they hit the long census report in Numbers. And that’s if they make it through the hundreds of obsolete laws in Leviticus. Especially for Bible newcomers, many ministers

say, it’s best to start with a book or a topic that interests you.

BY T HE B O O K If you’re interested in knowing more about Jesus, any one of the four Gospels would do: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. For folks new to the Bible, Mark might be a good choice because it’s the shortest and fastest-paced Gospel. John is the most cerebral; it focuses on Jesus’ teaching more than his travels and his miracles.

S U P E R - S I Z E D B I B L E . A visitor to the Royal Ontario Museum studies an enlarged picture from one of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. The ancient library of about 800 scrolls (mostly in fingernail-size pieces) was discovered near the Dead Sea in 1947–1956. They include books of the Old Testament written in Jesus’ century and 200 years earlier. These scrolls are 1,000 years older than the copies used to translate the King James Version of the Bible.

20

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK


ESV Study Bible excerpt, courtesy of Crossway

Someone eager to know how Christians should behave might read Paul’s letter of advice to the church at Ephesus (see the book of Ephesians) or at Philippi (see the book of Philippians). S T U D Y B I B L E . If you’re going to study the Bible this way, one book at a time, consider getting a study Bible. These Bibles feature notes in the margin, along with maps, charts, and short articles. All these extras add insightful background. They also address some of the questions you’ll be asking as you read through the Bible. O N E - V O L U M E B I B L E C O M M E N TA R Y. For more inquisitive readers, there are one-book commentaries on the Bible. These are a bit like beefed-up study Bibles, with just the notes. So you’ll need to BYOB (bring your own Bible). A S E T O F B I B L E C O M M E N TA R I E S . For the brainiacs, there are books that offer detailed

verse-by-verse comments about individual books of the Bible—an entire commentary book on just the Gospel of John, for example. Some of these are easy to read. Others should be prescribed as a sedative for normal human beings because they read like they’re written from one scholar to another. So look before you leap to the checkout counter. Other helpful study tools: a Bible dictionary, a Bible atlas, and a concordance that gives you every verse in the Bible where a particular word appears, such as sacrifice. Many Bible study software packages offer all of these, a library of resources in one digital package. Notables of the moment: Logos/Libronix, WORDSearch, PC Study Bible, BibleWorks, Glo.

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

21


BY THE TOPIC Sometimes, you might want to know what the Bible says about one particular topic: abortion, homosexuality, divorce, drinking alcohol, or forgiveness. That’s why so much of The Complete Bible Handbook points out those passages, in the section called “What the Bible Says About. . .” Books that help us study topics like these are called topical concordances. The Complete Bible Handbook contains just a condensed version, focusing only on some of the more popular topics, which are accompanied by some of the most crucial Bible passages dealing with those topics. Other concordances are exhaustive, covering every word in the Bible. We can even look up every verse that includes the word the, though it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to. Most Bible software allows us to do the same thing. But a topical concordance includes Bible passages that wouldn’t turn up in a word search. If we want to know what the Bible says about gambling, for example, we should probably look at the bet Samson made with his wedding guests in Judges 14. But the word gamble or gambling doesn’t show up in that story. So a topical concordance does what a word search can’t. WA R N I N G : There’s one big problem with studying the Bible by topic. It’s easy to take a statement out of context—to read one sentence and skip the rest of the passage. It’s even easier to warp the context if we already have our mind made up, and we’re just looking for a verse to rubber-stamp our brain. Let’s say you’re a deadbeat Christian who thinks you’re saved by faith alone and that you don’t need to lend a hand to anyone else. You’d love something Paul says:

22

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK

DON’T READ POETRY LIKE IT’S RO CKET SCIENCE. When trying to figure out what a writer is saying, consider the style of writing: the genre. That’s what scholars recommend. The Bible library of 66 books serves up a short stack of genres: Jewish laws, history, poetry, wisdom sayings, prophecy, eyewitness stories about Jesus, open letters to the church at large, and private letters to individuals. If we’re reading poetry, scholars say, we should read as though the writer is driving with a poetic license. There’s probably no astrophysics, many scholars say, in the story of Joshua ordering the sun and moon to “stand still” (Joshua 10:12). His prayer is a poem. He may simply have been asking God to let his men fight in the shade, since they were already weary from an allnight march up into the hills. “Stand still” can also mean “stop,” as in “stop shining.” If that’s what Joshua was asking, he got his wish. A storm rolled in and hail killed more of the enemy than Joshua’s army did.

D O N ’ T TA K E P R O P H E C Y L I T E R A L L Y. Most prophecy is written as poetry, and many scholars say we should read it that way. We can take the main point literally, they say, but often not the details. In one vision, for example, Daniel sees bizarre animals fighting each other. The angel Gabriel says they aren’t really animals. They represent the battling empires of Persia (Iran) and Greece (Daniel 8:20–21). Without Gabriel’s help, Daniel didn’t have a clue how to interpret his own vision. Scholars say that should caution us to keep an open mind when we’re reading passages written in the same genre—apocalyptic poetry, famous for its over-the-top symbolism. The genre also shows up in Revelation and Ezekiel.


WHY BOTHER READING A 2 , 0 0 0 -Y E A R - O L D B O O K ? Christians say it’s one of the ways God talks to us. God once talked to his people through prophets, apostles, and his Son. Today God still talks through the words of ancients, preserved in the Bible. Some of what they had to say is merely history—which doesn’t apply to life today. But some is considered great advice that works in any century: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” (Matthew 7:1–2 msg).

PA S T T E N S E . Four-year-old Nathaniel, an Amish boy in Pennsylvania, pauses for a picture during his day of chores, which include hauling firewood. Amish folks seek the simple life—in a way that seems time-locked in a lost century. Yet the Amish see benefits in their link to the past, including stronger family bonds. In a similar way, Christians embrace the Bible as an ancient book with timeless insights.

We are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16

msg

But if you’d like to argue the opposite, here’s a line that reads like a punch in the mouth: Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17

Here’s the trouble. When you look at the context—the verses surrounding those noted above—Paul and James agree with each other. These particular quotes simply address different problems. Paul is arguing against Jewish Christians who are trying to convince his non-Jewish

converts that they need to obey all the ancient Jewish rules, such as circumcision and eating only kosher food. Paul says non-Jews don’t need to do that. James, pastor of the Jerusalem church, faces a different problem. He’s trying to motivate donothing Christians to do something—to act like Good Samaritans and help people in need. Paul agreed with that: “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone” (Galatians 6:10). Don’t read just one sentence and think you understand it. Look for context clues.

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

23


I L L U STR ATE D B I B L E H I STO RY TI M E L I N E ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

BIBLE EVENTS BEFORE 4,000 BC

God creates world

BEFORE 2500 BC

Noah and family survive Flood

START

4.5 BILLION BC

2500 BC

Earth, solar system emerge

Giza Pyramids built

WORLD EVENTS BIBLE EVENTS 10 0 0 B C

King David names Jerusalem Jewish capital

930 BC

Israel splits: Israel in north, Judah south

722 BC

Assyria (Iraq) conquers Israel

>> 12 7 9 B C

Rameses the Great rules Egypt

900 BC

Mayan culture mysteriously disappears

7 76 B C

First known Olympic Games has one event: footrace

WORLD EVENTS BIBLE EVENTS 33 (OR 30) Jesus dies

46

Paul starts churches during mission trips

64

Romans execute Peter, Paul

>> 64

Most of Rome burns; Nero blames Christians

WORLD EVENTS 24

>

THE COMPLETE BIBLE HANDBOOK


M O S T D AT E S A R E A P P R O X I M AT E

210 0 B C

Abraham moves from Iraq to Israel

14 4 0 ( O R 12 7 5 ) B C Moses leads Jews out of Egyptian slavery

2000 BC

12 7 9 B C

Stonehenge built in England

Rameses the Great rules Egypt

(continued>>)

(continued>>)

6 BC (BETWEEN 7-4)

586 BC

Babylon (Iraq) conquers Judah, exiles Jews

Jesus is born

200 BC

Scribes start library of Dead Sea Scrolls

30 AD (OR 28)

Jesus begins ministry

26 AD

Pontius Pilate starts 10 years as governor of Judea

95

John records his visions in Revelation END

70

Romans crush Jewish revolt, destroy Jerusalem

90

Roman Emperor Domitian goes by title “Master and God”

BI BLE : FAST PASS

>

25

Complete Bible Handbook Paperback  

Here’s an easy, interesting, fun way to get to know your Bible: Read The Complete Bible Handbook, a beautifully illustrated guide to the hig...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you