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Some suggestions?

I am working along with another leader in my church in developing a course which will provide an introduction to the Bible, and some devotional tools for diving deeper. There will be a separate basic theology class as followup, so I don’t need a theological primer. Are you aware of any resources/books that talk about the themes, contexts, and purpose of the Bible within the Christian faith from a level at which there is no prior knowledge of Christianity or the Bible needed? Is there a book that would provide this entry level of understanding but also provides greater level of depth as they mature?
I appreciate your input.

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Jeff Borden

posted October 3, 2008 at 3:34 am

Regarding devotional material for diving deeper, I might recommend the following.
Devotional Classics: Revised Edition: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups by Richard Foster. This is arranged in 52 readings and serves as a great introduction to classic Christian reading. Each reading is followed by reflective questions and meditative thoughts as well as a bibliography if the reader decides to dig deeper and more exhaustively.
Walking With God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This is a daily devotional with collected excerpts from the sermons and books of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who served as the minister of Westminster Chapel in London for 30 years. This little devotional follows many of the great doctrines of the Bible in reflective daily morsals.

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Joel Frederick

posted October 3, 2008 at 5:32 am

You might check out “How to read the Bible for all It’s worth” and companion “How to read the Bible Book by Book” by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart.
The Book by Book gives a great summary of history, authorship, purpose and outline of each book of the Bible.
The “… all It’s worth” is a good primer in technics of Bible reading and study.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 5:42 am

?How to read the Bible Book by Book? was my first thought as well. Especially if the group is led by someone that can articulate the major themes and remind people where the story has been and where it is going.

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Greg Laughery

posted October 3, 2008 at 6:45 am

I have read an advance reader copy of Scot’s The Blue Parakeet and will blog on it soon. I would highly recommend the book as an excellent resource for anyone who wants to know more about how to read and live the Bible.

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Brad Boydston

posted October 3, 2008 at 7:46 am

I’ve used Ryken’s Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and James Wilhot (Tyndale, 2005). While I don’t always agree with their articles I do find that they are well done and usable. This book assumes no prior biblical knowledge. The layout is great — very visual with charts and diagrams. It is not a “devotional book” but this book is written with devotion running in the background and there is an emphasis on application. Reading level is high school but it is not specifically designed for the youth market.
I’m also quite impressed with the NLT Study Bible released in August. The introductory articles and resources are quite clear — and while as accessible as the NLT they are not fluff. There is enough in there that someone without prior knowledge of the Bible could get a great start. It’s a good wedding — the dynamic equivalent translation with the easy but mildly technical notation and articles. The work done on the gospel of Matthew is particularly well done. :-)

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John Frye

posted October 3, 2008 at 8:03 am

Why not get each member of the group an unmarked Bible without notes and encourage the group to read each Bible book (or groups of books) and discuss what each book is about and how it is arranged? Bring in introductory issues as the questions arise–author, date, etc. This way you engage the group in the biblical text and bring in the ancillary matters. Your leaders would have to assume that the (English) Bible is understandable to the average reader.

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Michael DeFazio

posted October 3, 2008 at 9:34 am

Another helpful resource would be Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays. It was very helpful to me when I was first learning about how to really read the Bible. There are some philosophical and even theological questions I’d ask of this book, but as an introduction it is very good. I might follow it up with some articles from Brueggemann or from Hauerwas’ Unleashing Scripture to talk about the necessary ecclesial context for faithful hearings of Scripture.

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Peter Carino

posted October 3, 2008 at 9:40 am

AS stated earlier – How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. I’ve used it to teach and intro class to bible college students. It is very approachable.
Also, Zondervan’s Handbook of the Bible does a decent job of intro for each book.
IVP’s Bible Background Commentaries are great at getting into the cultural background stuff. Keeps westerners from reading soley from their own perspective.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 9:40 am

While I really do appreciate Fee and Stuart’s wonderful “How to read the Bible…” duo, and love teaching them, I do not consider them a good place for folks with no Bible background to start.
And as wonderful as it would be to just have folks start with the Bible, that is a little difficult to tackle without any context, either.
Both these approaches (and countless others) have and will continue to be used–and the Holy Spirit will continue to meet those looking for God’s truth in any and all places the invitation is made from hungry hearts….
But I have found two books particularly helpful with those who fit the criteria: no background with Christianity and no experience reading the Bible. Now stay with me before you decide to string me up, here….
The first is a little book I ran across a few years ago: The Everyday Guide to the Bible, by Carol Smith (2002).
Pretty jargon-free and straight-forward. Full of great things to prompt questions for discussion and personal study.
The second (and this is the one you need to think about before you flame me) one is The Reader’s Digest Bible. Here is the link to my blog explanation and challenge:
It is currently out of print, but there are 173 used copies available:
…and if you can get one of the illustrated copies, oh my goodness, it is worth it just for the art! Really….

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posted October 3, 2008 at 10:29 am

I would start with a short book that gives the people the “big picture” of the biblical storyline. This would help establish a loose framework that you could build other things on. Suggestion: C. Wright–Salvation Belongs to God. Grame Goldswrothy–According to Plan.
Second, I would phase one of the Bible reading type books mentioned above. I would also add to consideration, Reading the Bible with your Heart and Mind by Tremper Longman. Best wishes!

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Dana Ames

posted October 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

I’m a loyal listener of Dr. Eugenia Constantinou’s podcast on Ancient Faith Radio. She is a Greek-speaking patristics scholar and has taught at seminary level. She now teaches at the University of San Diego, and the podcasts from June 7 on are her Introduction to the Bible course she offers at USD- college level, assuming no prior knowledge, but full of honest and scholarly information. This may not be exactly the content you want to offer in your class, as she is likely freer with her remarks in the podcast coming from an EO pov than she can be in the college classroom. But it would surely be a great resource for you in terms of background from which to gather your content, or to point to for those who are more mature.

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Frank Viola

posted October 3, 2008 at 11:04 am

I’d suggest “The Analyzed Bible” by G. Campbell Morgan and “Scroggies Bible Handbook” by W. Graham Scroggie.
Two little known gems.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

Love 8) G. Campbell Morgan … his “The Unfolding Message of the Bible: The Harmony and Unity of the Scriptures” is masterful … but his language / writing style might be a bit challenging for uninitiated folks to understand.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm

I talk about this some on an article on my website, but I’ve used the “How to Read” books by Fee & Stuart for a few years and have found them to be the best. I will admit, however, that it may take some time for people who have no background knowledge of the Bible (they should definitely start with the overview of the Bible in How to Read the Bible Book by Book, I thought it was excellent). Going through these books in a group setting will require a teacher who is familiar with the subject matter, too. But, I’ve been using them for 3 years and everyone from longtime Christians to new believers have found them beneficial.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Hard one to answer, as it depends a lot on the age range in the class and their desire for intensity of study.
My first suggestion, as with some above, would be to explore using ?How to read the Bible for all It?s worth? and companion ?How to read the Bible Book by Book? by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart. A similar book, which you might consider is
“The IVP Introduction to the Bible,” edited by Philip S. Johnson
A shorter overview piece which I’d add to the mix is
Vaughan Roberts’ “God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible”
As for the integration of devotions/quiet time and walking through the Scriptures, 2 excellent pieces are:
“Quiet Time Bible Guide,” edited by Cindy Bunch
“Search the Scriptures,” edited by Alan M. Stibbs

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D C Cramer

posted October 3, 2008 at 3:43 pm

John (#6),
Is there such thing as a completely unmarked Bible (no chapter, verse, etc, markings)? I’ve been searching for just such a Bible for a while. Any idea where to find one?

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Frank Viola

posted October 3, 2008 at 3:47 pm

“The Books of the Bible” put out by the International Bible Society does that and more.

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posted October 3, 2008 at 7:21 pm

It would seem so far that Fee and Stuart have the win. Those two would be my first two picks. A sort of next step up (a sort of ‘further reading’ suggestion) might be the “Cambridge Companion to the Bible”

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posted October 4, 2008 at 12:06 am

I would suggest you check out God’s Epic Adventure by Dr. Winn Griffin (web-link/address follows:

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Mike Hayes

posted October 4, 2008 at 7:09 am

Our current favorite here is San Francisco is Lesslie Newbigin, A Walk Through the Bible

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William Guice

posted October 4, 2008 at 8:32 am

I agree with the others on “How to Read The Bible For All It’s Worth”. I have also used “The Drama of Scripture” with a couple of mentoring groups that I have been in and I really like Glasser’s “Announcing the Kingdom”. It’s like “The Drama of Scripture” on steroids.
Love your blog man. Thanks for all of your thoughtful posts and discussions.
Peace ~

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posted October 4, 2008 at 9:40 am

“How to Read…” by Fee already mentioned..good start. Also, for a real non-academic level entry into the biblical narrative, I would suggest “The Drama of Scripture” by Bartholomew and Goheen.

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Erik Leafblad

posted October 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I’d like to second Newbigin’s “A Walk Through the Bible.” A little more than 100 pages (or not even) it accessibly and simply (but not simplistically) carries the reader through the Biblical narrative. Besides his classic, “A Gospel in a Pluralistic Society” I rank this as his best (and probably least appreciated) work.

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posted October 5, 2008 at 8:06 am

A Newcomer’ Guide to the Bible, by Michael Armour, is great for newcomers and lifelong church-goers. It’s written chronologically with themes and maps. There is an accompanying workbook. It also comes in Spanish. I highly recommend it.

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posted October 7, 2008 at 9:10 am

Tim Chester’s book “From Creation to New Creation” traces key themes through the Bible, and is written in a very accessible way. It has a chapter for each theme, so by the end of the book you have skimmed through the Bible five times. The themes are: the promise of salvation, the promise of a people who know God, the promise of a place, a King, and God’s promise to bless all nations.

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