Reading the Bible well can be a daunting task for many Christians, seasoned or young. That is why it is important to get the foundations of how the whole Bible fits together, how to read the different genres or kinds of Scripture, and how Jesus relates to it all.
Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well is a short, helpful new book published recently by Crossway that aims to help in this task.
To be sure, this book is a compilation of articles that would help readers in reading and interpreting the Bible. The individual chapter authors are renown biblical scholars.
Thankfully, the editors (Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner) have compiled one very cohesive and concise book to address all the basic kinds of hermeneutical issues. Part 1 of the book is on the Old Testament, part 2 is on the Background to the New Testament, and part 3 is on the New Testament itself.
Helpful Time Lines
I found the last section of the book, Part 4, very helpful. These last few pages of the book contain Time Lines, and it gave me a really insightful look at the chronological history of the forefathers of the Jewish faith, the United Monarchy of the kings of Israel, the Divided Monarchy and exilic times, and the generations returning from exile.
Furthermore, the intertestamental events time line is a great resource for those Bible readers who did not know of the various historical and cultural events that predated the Bible, circumstances that affected the context of the New Testament. Consequently, the included New Testament Time Line is certainly an important chart to learn and be familiar with. When we understand the time of Jesus better, the more we can appreciate the significance of his atoning sacrifice for us and for our salvation.
Similarly, Part 2: Background to the New Testament is the most meaty and dense section of this book, and yet a section the seasoned Christian should consider studying carefully. The time between the testaments and the so-called “four hundred years of silence” is an era of Christian history that needs to be studied.
While in seminary at SBTS, I recall that this content was lectured and discussed in the first week weeks of my introductory New Testament class. I remember being very confused as to who the Sadducees were, and what the Esssenes were all about. Such historical facts were completely foreign to me, cultural artifacts that were never mentioned in my Christian life in the church. This is why every Christian will be aided in their understanding of Biblical history. When we develop greater perspective that the Holy Scriptures of our Christian faith came out of true, historical time periods and cultures, we get a better understanding of how amazing Jesus is. We will in turn discover why God’s redemptive plan for all mankind is so amazing: Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole Scripture.
I heartily recommend this small book to every Christian, young and old. If you are reading the Bible for the first time, or if you are reading through the Bible for the 40th time, you’ll be sure to find that this book is an excellent assistant to your biblical interpretation.