Bible Reading Resources

By James Henrich
There are many useful resources for reading the Bible. The best are by scholars who are experts in their fields and who believe the Bible is the Word of God. The following resources fit that description. A feature common to all is their accessibility; that is, they are for a popular audience. Though by Bible scholars, you don’t need to be one to benefit.
But before the book reviews, let’s pause to remind ourselves of the goal of Bible reading. The goal is to know God and to become like Him. Thus, reading for knowledge and understanding is a means; it’s not the end. Accurate Bible knowledge is necessary but it’s not enough. Our aim is summed up thusly, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2a).

Reading the Bible is a spiritual exercise. We read in order to know and imitate God. That’s where we’re headed. More could (and should) be said about how we encounter God in His Word and what it means to imitate Him. Suffice it to say for now, we read the Bible for knowledge and understanding but always with the spiritual aim in mind. Ask these questions: What did I learn about God in my Bible reading today? How do I need to change in order to be like Him? What does “walking in love” mean for me in my home, workplace, neighborhood and church? Now, for the reviews.
J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting and Applying the Bible 3rd Ed. (Zondervan, 2012)
Kevin Vanhoozer writes in the foreword, “This is a wonderful user-friendly book for serious readers who desire to journey into the world of the Bible in order to better understand and to live faithfully in today’s world.” Parts 1-3 cover basic principles of reading, the importance of the historical-literary contexts and reading for meaning and application. Parts 4-5 describe and illustrate types of literature (genres) in the Old and New Testaments. There is also a helpful chapter on the role of the Holy Spirit in Bible interpretation. It’s available in paperback and Kindle editions. The authors are Bible professors at Ouachita Baptist University. Their books have grown out of years of teaching experience in the university and church. They are Christian teachers who know how to communicate effectively. This is the reason three of their books are featured.

J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Living God’s Word: Discovering Our Place in the Great Story of Scripture (Zondervan, 2012)
What is the Bible’s overarching storyline? How does the whole Bible fit together? According to the authors, they wrote this book to meet two deficits in their college students: (1) they were “hearing about the parts of the Bible but never really seeing how it all comes together to form a single story” (2) they were “not learning to read the Bible for themselves.” This book follows the Bible’s “meta-narrative” from Creation (Genesis) to Consummation (Revelation) with “a special emphasis on how it all fits together theologically.” It’s a helpful resource for locating and understanding a Bible book’s message in the unfolding progress of God’s redemptive plan.

The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook edited by J. Daniel Hays and J. Scott Duvall (Baker Books, 2011)
A Bible handbook is like a travel guide---it orients you historically, geographically, and culturally to a city or place to help you get the most from your visit. In similar fashion, a Bible handbook provides information to help orient you historically, geographically, and culturally to the world of the Bible. In addition, this handbook provides summaries and themes for each book of the Bible. At the end of each summary is a brief section on ways to apply the book’s message. Charts, graphs and an easy-to-read writing style makes this volume informative and user-friendly. Also, brief articles on theological topics are scattered throughout.
Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Revised and Expanded (Holman Bible Publishers, 2003)
There are many decent Bible dictionaries to choose from. Holman’s is, in my opinion, one of the better. It provides summary definitions of Bible words and articles on theological topics. It also has introductions and outlines for each Bible book along with maps, illustrations and pictures of ancient sites.