Updated: Jun 29
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I’d like to recommend a great reference book.
Before you read a book of the Bible it is quite helpful to get a little background of that book. This is especially a great idea for the Old Testament prophesy books (to give you an idea which historical era the prophet was writing to) and for the 21 epistles (letters) in the New Testament (since they are written to various audiences and for various reasons.) Reading an introduction to a book of the Bible before you read that book will greatly enhance your reading of the Bible.
If you have a study Bible, there will be an introduction to each book of the Bible which will tell you things like the author, when that book was written, the audience, Key Scriptures, Key Themes, and an outline of the book. I have 3 study Bibles and the introductions are informative, but somewhat dry and boring.
There are reference books that have information about each book of the Bible. These books give you the big picture of each book – themes, cultural background, historical background, maps, pictures,… I have 3 of the most popular ones and I like each of them.
1. The Essential Bible Companion by John H. Walton, Mark L. Strauss, and Ted Cooper Jr., copyright 2006 , published by Zondervan. In this book you get the essentials of each book of the Bible. The format is 2 pages per book which gives you a summary overview, key themes, author, recipients, a timeline, pictures and maps, interesting facts and the purpose. I like how the timelines also include people and events relating to world history.
2. Bible Overview, copyright 2012, published by Rose Publishing, Inc. For each book of the Bible it gives you the purpose; the theme and how it fits in with the rest of the Bible; author, date, audience, and brief history of that time period; outlines; maps; time lines; charts; photos; archaeological discoveries; how Jesus can be seen in each book; and application for us today. Also included is some general information about the Old Testament, New Testament, and the time between the testaments. Generally 2-4 pages per book of the Bible.
3. The Complete Guide to the Bible by Stephen M. Miller, copyright 2007, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. This one has the book-by-book background and explanations, fascinating details on Bible times, and beautiful pictures. Several pages per book of the Bible. The author has a sense of humor and it reads like a book.
Any of these 3 books are great resources. But my favorite and the one I recommend to my students is The Complete Guide to the Bible by Stephen M. Miller.
A books-of-the-Bible reference book is worthwhile to have.