Reader Appeal: Students, Small Group Leaders, Sunday School Teachers
Genre: Bible Reference
FBSN Rating: A
Full disclosure first: I’m a total fan of Stephen Miller. I own several of his Bible reference books because I always find his work intriguing, well-researched, and accessible to just about anyone. So when I saw he’d published a Complete Bible Handbook, it was a no-brainer for me to get a copy.
Miller didn’t disappoint. Going book by book through the Scriptures, he provides background and insight to introduce the Bible to just about anyone—even someone who’s never read the Bible before. In fact, the Complete Bible Handbook seems designed for you or me to place it into the waiting hands of a new Christian, or into the backpack of a student who is just curious what this Bible thing is all about.
Each Bible book is covered, highlight-style, in just a few digestible pages. Chapters are broken into bite-sized bits as well: a quick description of the Bible book “In one sentence”; a “Sound Bite” theme verse from the book; “On Location” info about the time and place; and a “Newsmakers” section that spotlights the main people in that book. Additionally, each chapter offers nugget-style summaries of the contents of that Bible book. Loads of full-color photographs and illustrations are also packed into every page; sometimes it almost feels like reading a graphic novel about the Bible.
If that were all that was in this book, it’d be worthwhile…but this is Stephen Miller we’re talking about. He’s not interested in just helping people read the Bible—he wants people to understand what they’re reading. That’s why he’s included over 200 pages of introductory materials to help readers get familiar with the Bible—how’s it’s organized, what’s in it, what it means for us today.
Many will admire the A-to-Z topical index, “What the Bible Says About…” This highlights Scriptures that discuss hundreds of subjects relevant to us today—and that section is helpful, But what I thought was great was the “Bible Fast Pass” that opens the book. In here, Miller takes time to explain how the Bible was formed, the different literary styles that make up Scripture, a Bible history timeline, and even offers advice for how to shop for a Bible just right for you. The “10 Tough Questions Atheists Ask” section is also priceless, especially in light of the aggressive “new atheism” that often shows up on high school and college campuses.
While it’s true that most of the information in the Complete Bible Handbook may seem a bit basic for a typical Bible Study Nerd, I still found it interesting and very well done. It makes me want to teach a Bible class or small group study using this as the textbook—and maybe that’s what you should do too. I don’t think Stephen Miller would mind, do you?
Complete Bible Handbook by Stephen M. Miller
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