10 Literary Features of the Bible

Posted by on 10/17/2017 in: ,

The following content can be found in the introduction notes of the ESV Literary Study Bible.

The Bible is not a totally unique book. In general, its literary forms function in the same way that these forms function beyond the Bible. A story is a story, whether in the Bible or beyond it. A metaphor is a metaphor. Nonetheless, it is possible to make generalizations about characteristic literary features of the Bible, with no implication that these features do not exist elsewhere. Below are twelve literary qualities or preferred literary techniques that we often find in the Bible.

1. A UNIFYING STORYLINE

Although the overall genre of the Bible is the anthology of individual books and passages, the Bible possesses a unity far beyond that of other literary anthologies. The technical term for a unifying superstructure such as we find in the Bible is metanarrative (big or overarching story). In the Bible, the metanarrative is the story of salvation history—the events by which God worked out his plan to redeem humanity and the creation after they fell from original innocence. This story of salvation history is Christocentric in the sense that it focuses ultimately on the substitutionary sacrifice and atonement of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from death. The unifying story line of the Bible is a U-shaped story that moves from the creation of a perfect world, through the fall of that world into sin, then through fallen human history as it slowly and painfully makes its way toward consummation and arrives at the final destruction of evil and the eternal triumph of good.

2. THE PRESENCE OF A CENTRAL CHARACTER

All stories have a central character or protagonist, and in the overarching story of the Bible God is the protagonist. He is the unifying presence from the beginning of the Bible to the end. All creatures interact with this central and ultimate being. All events are related to him. The story of human history unfolds within the broader story of what God does. The result is a sense of ultimacy that comes through as we read the pages of the Bible.

3. RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

The subject of literature is human experience, and this is true of the Bible, too, but a distinctive feature of the Bible is that it overwhelmingly presents human experience in a religious and moral light. Events that other writers might treat in a purely human and natural light—a sunrise, a battle, a birth, a journey—are presented by the authors of the Bible within a moral or spiritual framework. Part of this moral and spiritual framework is the assumption of the biblical authors that a great conflict between good and evil is going on in our world and, further, that people are continually confronted with the need to choose between good and evil, between working for God’s kingdom and going against God.

4. VARIETY OF GENRES AND STYLES

Every literary anthology of the Bible’s magnitude displays a range of literary forms, but the Bible’s range may well top them all. We need to be alert to this, because the religious uses to which we put the Bible can easily lull us into assuming that the Bible is all one type of writing. The list of individual forms, if we include such specific motifs as the homecoming story or trickster or love poem, keeps expanding. The variety that we find in the Bible stems partly from the large categories that converge—history, theology, and literature, for example, or prose and poetry, realism and fantasy, past and future, God and people.

5. PREFERENCE OF THE CONCRETE OVER THE ABSTRACT

While the New Testament contains a great deal of theological writing, the general preference of biblical authors is for concrete vocabulary. This is especially true of the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. In the Bible, God is portrayed as light and rock and thunder. Slander is a sharp knife. Living the godly life is like putting on a garment or suit of armor. Heaven is a landscape of jewels. To read the Bible well, we need to read with the “right side” of the brain—the part that is activated by sensory data.

6. REALISM

The prophetic and apocalyptic parts of the Bible give us a steady diet of fantasy (flying scrolls, for example, and red horses), but the general tendency of the Bible is toward everyday realism. The Bible displays the flaws of even its best characters (Oliver Cromwell famously said that the biblical writers paint their characters “warts and all”). Although the Bible does not delineate the sordid experiences of life in the extreme detail that modern literary realism does, it nonetheless covers the same real experiences, such as violence, murder, sexuality, death, suffering, and famine. Of course the Bible differs from modern realism by showing us that there is a realism of grace as well as a realism of carnality. In other words, the Bible is not content to portray the degradation of a world that has fallen into sin without also portraying the redemptive possibilities of a world that has been visited by the grace of God and is destined for glory.

7. SIMPLICITY

Although the Bible is certainly not devoid of examples of the high style, especially in the poetic parts, its overall orientation is toward the simple. The prevailing narrative style is plain, unembellished, matter-of-fact prose. Shakespeare’s vocabulary is approximately twenty thousand words, Milton’s thirteen thousand, and English translations of the Bible six thousand. Biblical writers often work with such simplified dichotomies as good and evil, light and darkness, heroes and villains. Of course there is a simplicity that diminishes and a simplicity that enlarges. The simplicity of the Bible paradoxically produces an effect of majesty and authority.

8. ELEMENTAL QUALITY

The Bible is a book of universal human experience. It is filled with experiences and images that are the common human lot in all places and times. The Bible embraces the commonplace and repeatedly shows ordinary people engaged in the customary activities of life—planting, building, baking, fighting, worrying, celebrating, praying. The world that biblical characters inhabit is likewise stripped and elemental, consisting of such natural settings as day and night, field and desert, sky and earth. Even occupations have an elemental quality—king, priest, shepherd, homemaker, missionary.

9. ORAL STYLE

Even though the Bible that we read is a written book, in its original form much of it existed orally. This is true because ancient cultures were predominantly oral cultures in which information circulated chiefly by word of mouth. The literary forms of the Bible show this rootedness in an oral culture. The prevalence of dialogue (directly quoted speeches) in the Bible is without parallel in literature generally until we come to the novel. Everywhere we turn in the Bible, we hear voices speaking and replying. The spare, unembellished narrative style of the Bible arises from the situation of oral circulation of the stories. Additionally, many of the nonnarrative parts of the Bible show signs of oral speech—the prophetic discourses and oracles, the psalms (which were sung in temple worship), the epistles (which were read aloud in churches), and the Gospels (where the words of Jesus are a leading ingredient).

10. THE LITERATURE OF CONFRONTATION

When we read Shakespeare or Dickens, we find ourselves moved to agreement or disagreement, but we do not ordinarily feel that we have been confronted by someone or something that requires us to make a choice. By contrast, when we assimilate the Bible we feel as though we have been personally confronted with something that requires a response. While this choice is ultimately for or against God, the ideas of the Bible, too, require us to believe or disbelieve them. The Bible displays a vivid consciousness of values—of the difference between good and evil—with the result that it is virtually impossible to remain neutral about the ideas that confront us as we read the Bible.

LEARN MORE

Interested in learning more about the literary aspects of the Bible? We just added a new resource to our store: The ESV Literary Study Bible! In fact, the content of this blog post comes straight from the introduction of this resource.

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Learn to Read Books of the Bible as Books

Posted by on 10/16/2017 in: ,

APPROACHING THE BIBLE AS LITERATURE

There’s no doubt you’ve realized that the Bible is a book, but have you ever thought about what that means? If you took a literature class is high school or college, you may remember that there’s a lot more to studying books than simply reading them. There’s a storyline, plot, characters, themes, motifs, genre and literary devices. Sometimes, the author’s intentions are easy to understand. And sometimes, the author’s intentions lie deep beneath the surface. Just like reading Shakespeare or Nathaniel Hawthorne, if we hope to understand the Bible, we have to understand how and why it was written.

But what will you gain by approaching the Bible as literature? First, you will be able to see the Bible as a metanarrative (a fancy word that means “one big story”). It’s incredibly neat to see patterns throughout not only books of the Bible, but the Bible itself. Secondly, you will be able to better understand and apply some of the more confusing books of the Bible—like Ecclesiastes.

WHAT RESOURCES DO I USE?

There are so many different ways to study the Bible, and it can be hard to know which resources will give you the information you want. Some study Bibles and commentaries are more vague, providing you with an array of different types of information. But recently we were able to add the ESV Literary Study Bible to our store—and it is the perfect resource for solving this problem.

READING THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES AS… A BOOK

Before you start reading Ecclesiastes, it’s probably good to get some background. The ESV Literary Study Bible loads their introduction notes with helpful information to get you ready. It covers the basics (such as format, patterns, rhetoric, and genres), but it also gives you a heads-up on some inferred literary intentions and theological themes.

One of the most helpful sections is called: “Ecclesiastes as a chapter in the master story of the Bible.” This resource always tries to teach you how each book of the Bible fits into the whole Bible. Here’s a snippet of what it shares:

“The book of Ecclesiastes has been called a Christ-shaped vacuum. Its contribution to the story line of the Bible is to record the longing of the human soul to find satisfaction and to point us toward the satisfaction of that longing in a Christ-centered experience of life. Jesus is the meaning of life, and if he is not at the center of our daily experience, we will find only futility and frustration.”

The Futile Quest to Find Meaning in Pleasure

Now, we’ll look at two examples of how this resource teaches you to read the Bible as literature and apply it to your life. Under this heading, you’ll find information on Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. In this passage, Solomon is telling his listeners about all the items he acquired in his search for pleasure. Because of his wealth, he was able to have anything he desired and yet, in the end, it was useless to him.

The study notes are helpful in revealing what is being communicated and how it applies to us:

 “The passage gives us a catalog of acquisitions and attempted avenues of pleasure. Even as we observe a courtly version of the acquisitive lifestyle, it is easy for us to see real-life applications: a fancy house and yard (vv. 5–6); possessions (v. 7); money, entertainment, and sex (v. 8). The passage asserts the paradox of hedonism: the more one searches for pleasure, the less of it one finds.

The World’s Most Famous Poem on the Subject of Time

In this section, the ESV Literary Study Bible covers the famous poem on time (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “a time to be born, and a time to die…”). Poetry definitely requires more literary analysis in order to understand. Here’s what the resource shares on this section of Scripture:

The poem illustrates the haunting and cumulative effect of Hebrew poetry: by the time we finish the poem, we are emotionally convinced that there is, indeed, a time for everything. In terms of the rhythm of the book of Ecclesiastes, the poem is positive in mood: within the given that we cannot control the events of life, the poem (a) implies that life is as much good as bad, (b) embodies a spirit of calm resignation rather than protest in regard to the time-bound nature of human life, (c) affirms an order to human life, and (d) asserts the positive theme of timeliness (if we cannot control time, we can plug into its flow).

LEARN MORE

If you’re using these notes and you come across a term you don’t know—that’s okay! Many of the literary devices are hyperlinked to a glossary. Also, all of the verses are hyperlinked for easy study.

Want to starting reading books of the Bible as literature? Check out the ESV Literary Study Bible.

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Learn to Preach Christ-Centered Sermons

Posted by on 10/16/2017 in: ,

There are SO many Biblical resources out there—but how do you know which ones will be helpful to you?  Especially if you’re a pastor, you don’t have a lot of time or money to waste!

The Christ-Centered Exposition Series makes its purpose clear just from the title. This commentary series is made for pastors. Pastors who want to preach Christ at the center of their message.

WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT OR BETTER?

But wouldn’t every Biblical resource mention Jesus where it’s applicable? Nope! The authors of this commentary noticed that there are two ways to study the Bible: with a magnifying glass or a wide-angle lens. For years, Bible study resources have been focused on the tiny details that can be uncovered in each verse.

There’s two issues with this for pastors:

  1. It takes a lot of time to turn those tiny details into a message that your audience can resonate with
  2. The tiny details address individual Bible stories—not the whole story of the Bible with Christ at the center

Pastors need resources to help them prepare heart-transformative messages, making Jesus known to their congregants—no matter what book of the Bible they are studying. David Platt, Tony Merida, and Daniel Akin have provided a solid, Biblical resource that accomplishes this by using up-close detail and big-picture thinking to make Jesus the hero of every chapter.

You, too, can preach with Christ at the center. Watch this 60-second video to learn more:

IS THIS COMMENTARY RELIABLE?

It’s important to research the authors/editors of any book you read! All three of these men have great credentials that make them perfect for writing Biblical resources for pastors.

DAVID PLATT

Platt is currently the president of the International Mission Board and the founder of Radical, a resource ministry that seeks to serve the missional church. He is well-known for his best-selling book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. He holds a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

DANIEL AKIN

Akin is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is the author and editor of many popular books and Bible commentaries such as Theology for the Church and the New American Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. His gained his Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington.

TONY MERIDA

Merida is the lead pastor at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and is an Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written two books entitled Faithful Preaching and Orphanology. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

CAN I USE THIS PRACTICALLY?

Yes! Inside our app, you’ll be able to pull up this commentary alongside any Bible translation of your choice, take notes, create an outline, and prepare your sermon. This series also comes with “Reflect & Discuss” sections, perfect for furthering personal devotions and small group studies.

We know many pastors who even use a tablet with our app open when they are preaching. You’ll have all the information you need at a tap of your finger.

LEARN MORE

With this resource, you’ll be able to

  1. Quickly find the content and research you need to write a well-prepared sermon
  2. Preach Christ-centered, heart-transforming messages to your listeners
  3. Grow spiritually as the Holy Spirit leads

Visit our website to learn more about the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Set (24 Vols.). Have questions about anything? Email support@olivetree.com. We’ll help you!

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How-To: Get the Most Out of Your Strong’s Tagged Bible

Posted by on 10/13/2017 in:

The great part about Strong’s Tagged Bibles is that anyone can use them. You don’t need to be seminary trained or have years of experience. You can just tap and read. The tool is powerful and practical enough to be useful even for personal study.

As with many powerful tools, these resources can do more if you know how to use them. They can also be somewhat dangerous if you don’t know how to use them. We don’t just want to provide you with the resource; we want to help you get the most out of it and avoid the dangers of misinterpretation. In this post, we’ll talk about the basic features of Strong’s Tagged Bibles and about how to get the most out of each of them.

TAP TO SEE GREEK/HEBREW WORD

The first feature is the most obvious. As soon as you tap, you can see what Greek or Hebrew word is behind it. This is the first thing you’ll see when you tap on a word. It’s probably most helpful for people who know Greek or Hebrew.

Now, if you tap on a darker word and it doesn’t open to do anything, that means that the word isn’t explicitly in the Greek or Hebrew text. The word was added by the translators in order to help the sentence make sense. We do this all the time in English, leaving out words because they’re assumed. Of course, the words left out in Greek aren’t necessarily the words we can leave out in English. Different languages have different rules for what’s important and what can be left out.

The takeaway here is that, while a word might not be in the original Greek or Hebrew, that doesn’t mean the word isn’t implied by other words. Sometimes the Bible translators add those words so that we English readers won’t be left scratching our heads.

ENHANCED STRONG’S DICTIONARY

The Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary is what appears when you tap a word that does have a Greek or Hebrew word behind it. This is a really handy tool because it will show you all the ways that the word gets translated throughout the Bible and give you an idea of how common each translation is. This can give you a fuller idea of what the word meant in the original language.

The thing to keep in mind here is something that all languages share in common: just because a word can mean something in one place, doesn’t mean it means that thing everywhere else. How and where a word is used in a sentence, paragraph, chapter, and book is a critical part of understanding what the word means.

Many words in English have several diverse meanings. For example, the word “dodge” can mean to get out of the way of something. It can also mean to lighten part of an image or photo (like the “dodge brush” in image editing programs). If you were to simply look up the dictionary definition and pick the first one, you could find yourself very confused. Another example is the English word “love.” When someone says “I love ice cream,” he means something very different from when he says “I love my wife” (or at least he ought to).

The point here is that we want to let the dictionary help us get an idea of what the word can mean, then let the context of the passage determine what the word does mean. If we’re in a class on photography, “dodge” probably doesn’t mean “get out of the way.” It probably means “lighten.” But we wouldn’t want to make that assumption in gym class.

VIEW ALL OCCURRENCES

This is probably my favorite feature in The Bible Study App for word studies. It’s the button that says “Search for g5457” (or some other number). This feature allows you to search for everywhere in the Bible where that particular Greek or Hebrew word is used. Since a translation might translate one word twelve different ways, it’s hard to know when that word is being used. But this feature can help.

The best way to use this feature is to start with where the word is used closest to the verse you’re studying, then work outward from there. Look in the verse, then the chapter, then the book, then other books the author has written, then in the whole Bible.

In this way you can get a sense for how a certain author used a particular word in its context, in all his writings, and how the word gets used throughout the whole Bible. While this doesn’t necessarily result in the same mastery of the word that a scholar might have, it certainly does help us to better understand the word and the passage we found it in.

Generally speaking, this isn’t going to completely change the way you read a passage of Scripture. The translators know the languages a lot better than most of us, so most often we’ll end up agreeing. But doing a word study can help us discover a richness to the word that we otherwise might not have seen. It can also help us to connect things in Scripture that we otherwise might not have thought to connect.

LOOK UP WORD IN DICTIONARIES

The Look Up feature allows you to look up a word in any Greek/Hebrew dictionaries that you might have. There are a lot of really helpful dictionaries out there by scholars who have already done the work of a detailed word study. They may also include information about where the word came from and how it was used in books outside the Bible. These can be extremely helpful to supplement the word studies that you’re already doing with the ESV with Strong’s. Here are a few you might find helpful:

CONCLUSION

Tools like Strong’s Tagged Bibles and Bible dictionaries can be really helpful in understanding what God has to say. We should pray that, in our study, we will allow God to correct us with what we learn about the words of Scripture. This is very different from using the tools to bend God’s words to mean what we want them to. Humility and openness to correction are important here.

If we come to the Scriptures with our tools, ready to be taught by the Scriptures, then we will be in the right place to see God’s love for us in Christ and how we are to live in light of that love. We hope these tools prove helpful in your studies.

PSALM 119:130 (ESV)

The unfolding of your words gives light;

it imparts understanding to the simple

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Thoughts on Meekness

Posted by on 10/12/2017 in: ,

A LUTHERAN’S PERSPECTIVE

Have you ever heard of Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament? R.H.C. Lenski was a German-born American and conservative Lutheran. He lived from 1864 to 1936 and loved to write. For our blog today, I’ve pulled out Lenski’s commentary on Matthew 5:5: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (NKJV). I found a great reminder in his writing; While we wait for Jesus’ return, we ought to remain meek, trusting that God will cut down the wicked.

THOUGHTS FROM LENKSI

Blessed the meek; for just they shall inherit the earth. The best commentary is Ps. 37; note v. 11. “The meek” are the mild, gentle, patient. The word refers to an inward virtue exercised toward persons. When they are wronged or abused they show no resentment and do not threaten or avenge themselves. The opposite are the vehement, bitter, wild, and violent. Jesus is the greatest example of meekness.

The paradox is again startling, the fact that people of this kind “shall inherit the earth.” Jesus does not say, “the new earth,” yet many regard his word as a reference to the millennial earth or to Rev. 21:1. And Jesus says “shall inherit,” namely with Christ, the heir of all the earth. This lot is theirs in accordance with their Lord’s will and testament. Read Ps. 37: the wicked shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb-evildoers shall be cut off-yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be-and so the story of the wicked goes on. There is not much inheriting of this earth according to the Psalm. But look at the ‘anavim (also in Isa. 61:1), “the meek.” Jesus is merely repeating Ps. 37:11, 22.

They are cautioned not to vex themselves when the wicked grow haughty and appear mighty and great. They may suffer, but the divine blessing constantly follows them also in this life and on this earth. It will not do to say that the temporal blessings promised to Israel in the old covenant are not to be regarded as being promised also to those living in the new covenant. The Christian Church has fared even better than Israel fared. The idea that in the Psalm “earth” signifies Canaan and thus the heavenly Canaan in Jesus’ beatitude, is specious; for Jesus indicates no difference of this kind. It will always be true (v. 16): “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked,” for his little has God’s blessing, and their much God’s curse.

Our meekness, however, often shines by its absence; our covetousness, pride, and other faults necessitate God’s discipline, who always follows higher aims that reach beyond temporalities. Chemnitz writes that God lets his children find a little nest on the house that is intended entirely for them. Luther agrees that this beatitude adds the promise of “temporal life and goods on earth.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Lenski’s commentary isn’t for everyone. He is very meticulous about his work with the Greek language! But if you are a lover of original languages, you should definitely look into this resource more. Just follow this link to our website.

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A Tiny Biography on John Calvin

Posted by on 10/11/2017 in:

NAME:

John Calvin

BIRTH:

July 10, 1509

DEATH:

May 27, 1564

HOMETOWN:

Noyon, France, 67 miles northeast of Paris

VOCATION:

Scholar, Theologian, Preacher

FAMILY:

Wife Idelette de Bure, 3 children, all died in infancy

BIO:

Calvin was born to Gerard Calvin and Jeanne le Franc in 1509. His mother died when he was three years old, and his father soon remarried. Gerard had a good position working with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Noyon and planned for his sons to become priests. Calvin was precocious and went to Paris at the age of 14 to study theology and philosophy.

When Calvin was 19, his father had run afoul of the church and ordered his son to become a lawyer instead of a priest. To obey his father, he moved to Orleans and Bourges to study law until his father’s death in 1531. Calvin quickly returned to Paris after his father’s death to pick up the study of theology and the classics again. During his studies, he learned about Desiderius Erasmus, who had published a more accessible Latin translation of the New Testament, and Martin Luther, whose Protestant ideas were making their way through Europe. He attended meetings with other students where they read and studied the Bible and the writings of Martin Luther. The seeds of Reformation ideas were planted in Calvin’s head, and he fully converted to the Reformation cause in 1533, at the age of 24.

Protestants were being persecuted in France at this time, so Calvin spent a year in hiding before settling in Basel, Switzerland. When he was just 26 years old, he published his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is his seminal work and a cornerstone publication of the Reformation. He edited it throughout his life as he studied Scripture and fleshed out Protestant doctrine.

In 1536, Calvin was in Geneva, Switzerland, on route to Strasbourg, Germany, when William Farel, a fiery Reformed preacher, pleaded with him to stay in Geneva and work for the Reformation cause. Calvin worked there two years as a professor and pastor before the City Council banished him and Farel. Calvin settled in Strasbourg to pastor refugees who had fled persecution in France. He was in Strasbourg for four years and met and married Idelette de Bure in this time.

In 1541, the Geneva City Council called Calvin back to the city to again defend the Reformed cause. He remained in Geneva until his death in 1564 at the age of 54. His years in Geneva were spent preaching, giving pastoral care, writing, lecturing, working for the welfare of the city, and defending Reformed theology and practice. Calvin’s legacy includes Reformed theology, which has also been called Calvinism, and a number of Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterian and Christian Reformed, that trace their earliest roots to Calvin.

LEARN MORE

While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. Additionally, we used this short biography on Calvin by John Piper, which you can get for free!

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3 Ways to Improve Your Highlights

Posted by on 10/10/2017 in:

Highlighters, crayons, markers, and pens are staples for personal Bible study. When you find a passage you want to memorize or remember for later, you mark it up in some kind way that makes it stand out from the rest of the text. When it comes to digital Bibles we often neglect using highlights as a part of our study methods. Sure, we may highlight a favorite verse or passage, but most don’t go any further than that. Today, I want to open up a world of highlighting possibilities for you in the Olive Tree Bible App that will hopefully improve your Bible study.

HOW TO HIGHLIGHT

Before we dive into the ways you can use highlights, first let me give you a refresher on the two ways to make a highlight in the app.

VERSE HIGHLIGHTS

The most popular way to make a highlight in our app is to highlight an entire verse, or a group of verses. To do this, you tap the verse number and select “Highlight.” If you want to highlight a range of verses you can increase the range to your desired selection, then choose your color. This method is useful if you want to have your highlights appear across various Bible translations. Since these are tagged on a verse level, they will appear in all your Bibles.

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WORD-BASED HIGHLIGHTS

You also have the option to make word based highlights that are resource specific. To do this, simply select your desired text, and then follow the same steps to highlight as above.

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MAKE YOUR OWN HIGHLIGHTER STYLES

One advantage of using Olive Tree is that you are not limited to default highlighter styles or colors that come with the app. You have the ability to create your own highlighter colors & styles to suit your needs. This is the first step in making highlights more useful in your study.

There are a couple different ways you can get to the new highlighter menu. First, you can go to the Main Menu, select Highlights, tap Edit, then choose “Add Highlighter.”  Alternatively, you can reach this menu by selecting a verse or text to highlight, tap Highlight, select the “More” icon, then choose “Add Highlighter.”

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Once you’ve reached this screen you are presented with a few different options. First, you can give your highlighter a name in the Label field. You can either name it the color you’re going to create, or you can get creative and give the highlight a specific meaning. For example, you can have all references to the Holy Spirit or Jesus use this highlighter, and then name it as such. The choice is yours. From there you can select whether you want it to be a traditional highlight or underline. Then you have the ability to customize how that highlight or underline will appear by selecting intensity, thickness (for underline), and the color.

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Once you’ve made all the highlighters you need, you’re ready to start using them in your study. And, remember, it’s just as easy to make new highlighters as you need them; just follow these steps.

ADD NOTES TO THE MIX

Another way to highlight and emphasize key passages is to use the notes functionality within the app. This works just like highlighting, except you choose “Note” instead of “Highlight” when selecting a verse or text. One of the cool things about notes  is that you can select a cool icon to go represent what the note is about. This is cool for when I’m taking notes on sermons, but it’s also useful for calling out a part of the text. If something is extra important you might want to add a “star” or if it’s puzzling you can select the “question mark” icon. Even if you don’t put anything in the note, these icons will appear in your Bible and can serve to as an additional layer of highlighting and meaning.

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GREAT FOR INDUCTIVE STUDY

While the purpose of this post is to show you the possibilities for highlighting instead of a specific method, there are some Bible study methods that are centered around highlighting. One of the more popular methods is the Precepts Inductive Bible Study method popularized by Kay Arthur. While the Precepts method involves some fairly complicated highlighting models, with the infinite highlighting possibilities that you can create in the app you can certainly adapt it for your needs. Click here to learn more about the Inductive Bible Study method from Precepts Ministries International.

Experiment with highlights & notes icons to create a Bible study method that works for you. Also be sure to check out the Bible study titles we currently have on sale.

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The Five Solas:
Faith Alone

Posted by on 10/09/2017 in:

FAITH ALONE?

One of the pillars of the Reformation was the belief that we are saved by faith alone. The cry sola fide declared that we come to salvation, not through any righteousness of our own, but solely through the work and person of Jesus Christ.

What does faith alone mean? This is the doctrine of justification. Here are some of the questions the Reformers sought to answer:

  • Are we saved by faith alone or faith plus works?
  • Does Christ’s righteousness only clean our slate of past sins (before salvation)?
  • Does Christ’s righteousness wholly replace our own?

Sola fide declares that we are saved by faith alone and all of Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account. There is nothing more we can or need to do to achieve our salvation. If there were remaining work on our end, then salvation would be in our hands, not God’s.

DOES IT MATTER?

While this may have been an important question for the Reformers, does it still matter 500 years later? The answer is a resounding yes! Throughout history the question has not changed: How can a person be made right with God? We all must confront this question, and sola fide gives us our answer. This doctrine reminds us of the grace of God and his gospel. We can testify that God is good because he is the one who ultimately and completely accomplishes our salvation. He loves us so much that he did all the work. How we are justified and able to stand before God is one of the key components of the gospel, and one that is worth fighting for.

When this doctrine is rightly understood, you can join Christian rapper Shai Linne in saying, “It feels so good to be justified!”

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To learn more about the doctrine of faith alone check out Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

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A Commentary You Can Apply to Your Life

Posted by on 10/08/2017 in: ,

There’s a reason students call seminary, “cemetery.” When I think of my Bible college experience, I remember the thick, dry textbooks. The information usually felt distant: arguments about authorship, textual criticism, definitions of the Greek and Hebrew. Although I learned a lot about the Bible (it was a priceless experience, believe me), I often finished my reading assignments wondering what any of it had to do with my personal life. This is why academic Bible study can feel like a graveyard; the Bible can quickly become only an ancient text to study, instead of the life-transforming book that it is.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMMENTARY

Not all commentaries neglect this important aspect. Recently, I was reading through Mark and thought it would be nice to have some extra input in my Bible study. I remembered that this week we have the NIV Application Commentary on sale, and I’ve never opened it before. So, I tried it out!

Every section of Scripture is explained in three ways: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. I’ll give you an example from my own study:

MARK 9:30-50

This passage is outlined in four sections: The Second Prediction of Jesus Suffering and Resurrection (9;30-37), The Unfamiliar Exorcist (9:38-40), Warning About Causing Others to Stumble (9:42-48), and Salt (9:49-50). For the sake of trying to keep this blog short, we’ll look at the Unfamiliar Exorcist.

John proudly announces to Jesus that they saw someone casting out demons in his name and they obstructed him. Their reason for intervening? “Because he was not one of us.” The complaint drips with irony. The disciples only recently bungled an exorcism, yet they do not hesitate to obstruct someone who is successful but who is not a member of their team. Jesus catches them by surprise when he does not commend them for their vigilance but instead reproves them: “Do not stop him” (9:39).

This response recalls Moses’ reply to Joshua. Joshua implored Israel’s leader to do something about unauthorized prophets, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” Moses answered, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:26-29). Are the disciples jealous for Jesus or for themselves? Do they want to corner the exorcism market, which would make them indispensable and revered, whereas Jesus wishes that all were exorcists casting out Satan in his name?

In the ancient world, exorcists used whatever name of deities they thought would work. Jesus’ explanation for condoning the exorcist’s success in Mark’s account is practical, not theological. He argues that they cannot use his name to do mighty works and speak ill of him later. Anyone who recognizes the power of Jesus’ name will not accuse him of working by Beelzebub, as the teachers of the law from Jerusalem had done (3:22).

There’s more information on this passage, but we’ll stop here for now. When reading this, I was thankful for the cross-reference to Moses. I don’t think I would have put that together on my own! And this also helped me to understand why the disciples said what they did about the exorcist. But how does this relate to who God is?

BUILDING CONTEXT

Here’s how the NIV Application Commentary builds context to this passage (again, this is trimmed!):

A deep sense of lowliness understands that God can use anyone and applauds others who are successful for God, even though they may not be on our team. Jesus’ reaction implies that disciples who go along with him must get along with others. He not only opens admission to the reign of God to all and accepts any who come in his name, he sanctions anyone using the power of his name. The barrier between insider and outsider in this episode becomes nebulous. Augustine said: “Many whom God has, the Church does not have; and many whom the Church has, God does not have.”

CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE

Now, here comes the punch to the heart. How are we, today, making the same mistakes as the disciples? In what ways are we, too, separating and putting ourselves over our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Jesus has consistently avoided self-acclamation, but his disciples are all too ready to exalt themselves over others. If Jesus directed the same question to contemporary followers that he asked his first disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” the answer will be no less embarrassing. Christians still jockey for prominence. The unbridled will to power still surfaces in local churches and in denominational politics, destroying fellowship and eviscerating Christian love.

Little has changed. Seminary students who begin their studies with high ideals frequently grow disillusioned by the political gamesmanship that infests churches and denominations. Some ministers become so disillusioned by such machinations that they leave the ministry; others quickly learn to play the game; still others correctly recognize that Jesus does not reject ambition, but they sublimate it by aspiring to become the greatest servant in the church rather than the greatest overlord.

LEARN MORE

The information I pulled from the NIV Application Commentary is only covering two verses of Scripture and I had to trim it down! This is truly an in-depth resource that will also help you apply the Bible to your personal life. If you’re wanting to improve your Bible study, or struggling to make Scripture applicable in your teaching, this is definitely a commentary set worth looking into.

Currently, the NIV Application Commentary is on sale, and you can learn more about it here.

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