Category: Educational

What is Advent?

Posted by on 11/17/2016 in: ,

Three Advent Candles Lit In Snow

If you would have said the word ‘Advent’ to me when I was a kid my first thought would have been some sort of calendar with doors that a few of my friends families had hanging in their house during the Christmas season. Advent – in any form – was not a part of my family tradition. When my wife and I got married however we were a part of a church that did Advent readings and candle lighting in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I began to explore the tradition more fully and grew to really appreciate the Biblical context it brought to the Christmas season. Now, years later with several kids, we have made Advent one of the ways that our family seeks to keep the focus on Jesus during the Christmas season. In a culture that has made it all about other things (presents, parties, decorations, etc.) we have found Advent readings and times of reflection as a family to be a beautiful centerpiece of the way we celebrate.

What is Advent?

Maybe like me your understanding of Advent was limited or non-existent and you’re just wondering what it is.  Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming” or “arrival.” For Christians it is the time of year when we specifically look to the coming of Jesus Christ, first in his coming to bring our salvation and then his subsequent return to reign in glory. The advent season begins four Sundays before December 25, so the start date varies from year to year. This year Advent begins November 27. For four weeks the idea is to meditate on Christ’s coming, much like God’s people waited the thousands of years for him to arrive.

Advent Reading

If you are looking for a way to personally observe Advent we have created an Advent reading plan that is available in the Olive Tree Bible App. Starting on November 27 this plan will guide you through 28 days of select scripture that will end on Christmas Eve.

To find this plan tap on the Reading Plans section of the app then tap ‘Get More Reading Plans’ and you’ll see Advent Reading Plan 2016 available for download at the top of the list.

(Please note: on some devices you may see a preinstalled Advent Reading Plan. To get the most up to date one you’ll need to tap the ‘Get More Reading Plans’ button.)

Additional Christmas Season Resources

If you’re looking for further Advent resources such as devotionals, study guides, or eBooks here are few that can be used in the Olive Tree Bible App.

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Study Bible vs. Commentary

Posted by on 09/23/2016 in: ,

Let’s be honest, it can be intimidating to ask what something is when it seems like we should already know. A theological term or Bible study method may sound familiar, but that doesn’t mean you know what it actually is. We are here to help! In this blog, we’ll talk about the difference between a study Bible and a Bible commentary and how each can help you in your own Bible study.

Study Bible

A study Bible is the Bible text along with additional notes and resources that are meant to help you understand what you’re reading. A non-digital study Bible is often formatted with the study Bible notes below the Bible text, which allows for quick reference without having to leave the passage you’re reading. Depending on the study Bible, the study helps can include historical and contextual background information, cross references to other verses, maps, charts, and more. Much of this will be underneath the text and some will be organized in sections in the back of the book.

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Study Bibles in the Olive Tree Bible App work much the same way. While you’re reading the Bible text, the resource guide will pull in the content from any study Bible you have in your library to give you quick access to helpful information. The video below shows how this works.


Bible Commentary

For starters a Bible Commentary is not usually bundled with the text like a Study Bible is but they are typically based on a specific Bible translation such as the KJV, NIV, ESV, etc. Some Bible commentaries may have a separate volume for each book of the Bible. For example the print version of  the 62 Vol. Word Biblical Commentary series would take up about 7 feet on your bookshelf. Other more concise Bible Commentaries may only be a single volume yet even these will usually offer more content than a typical Study Bible.

While most Study Bible’s take a similar approach to providing study helps, commentaries can be broadly put into three different types; devotional, homiletical, and exegetical. Before I lose you, let me define those three so you know the difference.

  • Devotional commentaries are primarily focused on the application of the text to daily life and are often written by one individual. They don’t typically cover the the Bible verse by verse or give as much information about specific background or context focus a lot on the individual application
  • Homiletical or preaching commentaries are written with the purpose of helping people to both interpret and apply the word. Many such commentary sets are written by preachers themselves and often even based on messages that have previously been preached.
  • Exegetical commentaries are based on a set of practices and procedures focused on discovering the author’s intended meaning. These types of commentaries will often explain passages from the original language the Bible was written in (Hebrew and Greek), the context of the culture, and other technical aspects having to do with specific text in the Bible.

With both Study Bibles and Bible Commentaries it’s important to realize that whether they have a single author or a team of contributors there are always theological and doctrinal influences on scriptural interpretation. Just as you would prayerfully evaluate a sermon you hear on Sunday it’s important to do the same thing as it relates to any sort of commentary. With that said though the scholarship and insight that you’ll find in a Study Bible or Bible Commentary can be an amazing wealth of knowledge that really helps you to unpack the Bible and see scripture  in new and exciting ways.

What’s right for you?

If you are looking for quick reference material a Study Bible or a one volume commentary like the Zondervan Bible Commentary is a good place to start.

If you’re wanting to go deeper you may want to pick an exegetical commentary set like the MacArthur New Testament Commentary or something similar.

The great thing about using study Bible notes or a commentary is that either one is just as easy to use in the Olive Tree Bible App.

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In the screenshot above (taken from Bible App on a Mac) all study Bible notes and commentary notes appear in the same section of the Resource Guide under ‘Commentaries’. A simply tap/click and you can access a wealth of knowledge to help you grow in your understanding of God’s word.

 

Want to see available Study Bibles and Bible Commentaries?

Go here for Study Bibles and here for Commentaries.

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Inductive Bible Study

Posted by on 09/14/2016 in: ,

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As a teacher of the Inductive Bible Study Method I am often asked, “What is Inductive Bible Study?”. Unfortunately, there is really no short answer to that question.  Inductive Bible Study is more of an approach to the Bible than it is any particular technique. In fact the “Inductive Method” that we teach in the School of Biblical Studies is really a collection of Bible study techniques combined in such a way as to help the student maintain an “inductive posture” toward the text. The shortest description I can give of this approach is this, “Inductive study is an approach to the Bible that helps the student build their conclusions from observations of the text.” In other words – observation first, conclusions second.  Sounds simple, but there are complications. To illustrate let me tell a very old folk tale.

The Two Travelers and the Farmer

A traveler came upon an old farmer hoeing in his field beside the road. Eager to rest his feet, the wanderer hailed the countryman, who seemed happy enough to straighten his back and talk for a moment. “What sort of people live in the next town?” asked the stranger.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer, answering the question with another question.

“They were a bad lot. Troublemakers all, and lazy too. The most selfish people in the world, and not a one of them to be trusted. I’m happy to be leaving the scoundrels.”

“Is that so?” replied the old farmer. “Well, I’m afraid that you’ll find the same sort in the next town.

Disappointed, the traveler trudged on his way, and the farmer returned to his work.

Some time later another stranger, coming from the same direction, hailed the farmer, and they stopped to talk. “What sort of people live in the next town?” he asked.

“What were the people like where you’ve come from?” replied the farmer once again.

“They were the best people in the world. Hard working, honest, and friendly. I’m sorry to be leaving them.”

“Fear not,” said the farmer. “You’ll find the same sort in the next town.”
-North American Folk Tail (Source uncertain)

This story illustrates many points but the one I think is the most relevant to Biblical study is that people tend to see what they expect to see. Or to put it another way, what people bring to the Bible greatly influences what they take away from the Bible. How do we prevent this? By doing all we can to set aside our preconceived ideas about the text and focus on two things – reading and observation -forgoing judgment until we have thoroughly analyzed the text. We need to learn to let the text speak.  We need to let our observations drive our conclusions. Rather than simply taking our conclusions to the text for testing, or worse yet, merely looking for validation of what we already believe or have been told. The text is always right and proper interpretation is defined as what the author meant and what the original readers would have understood.  To understand the author and original readers of the text we must first identify them and their issues. This is historical context and it is critical to our understanding of what the text is really saying. Our situation should not even be considered until we understand what was meant when it was written. To sum up, understand what the text says, who wrote it, and as much about the original readers as you can. Careful reading of the text in its proper historical context is the key to proper interpretation.

After we have discovered the meaning in the original historical context we are finally ready to take that giant leap forward in time and culture to our present time and circumstances. By identifying the timeless truths at work under the specifics of the text, we can then begin to ask questions about why these truths are significant today. The timeless truths driving the ancient solutions then become the truths directing our modern applications. By building these disciplines in students it is possible to train them to truly listen to the text each time they read it, rather than simply seeing what they expect to see.

The three main steps of inductive study to remember are these:

Observation – What the text actually says.

Interpretation – What the text meant to those to whom it was originally written.

Application – How do we respond to the timeless truths of the text today?

Text first, original audience second, our perspective last.  The Bible was written for us – not to us. Use the clear passages to understand the obscure passages, and most of all pray. And may God enlighten you as you continue to explore his word.

Tom Possin is the director of the School of Biblical Studies in Lakeside, Montana

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Four Steps To Your Ultimate
Study Bible!

Posted by on 09/06/2016 in: ,

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If you’re ready to take the next step in your study of the Bible than this blog is for you. Read on to find out how to build your own custom study Bible!

Step 0: Use the Olive Tree Bible App

We don’t want to assume anything here but the foundation is important and the building blocks of your ultimate study Bible start with our Bible App.  You can search resources in a matter of seconds, quickly look up cross references, and study anywhere. You don’t have to worry about flipping pages or having a large desk so that you can open all your books at once. Instead, carry your entire library on your phone, tablet, or laptop. There is no steep learning curve required to use the app and all the features are intuitive. So, download the app & let’s move to Step 1.

Step 1: Add a Bible Translation

A lot of people don’t think about Bible translations and how they can help their Bible study. For many, they use whatever Bible translation they were given when they became a Christian and never give it a second thought. Yes, the thee’s and thou’s of the KJV may be quite poetic, but what good is it if you cannot understand what you’re reading? In many respects, the Bible is already a difficult book to study, so why make it harder with a difficult to read translation? There is nothing wrong with owning a Bible written in a modern translation.

When choosing a Bible translation, you should find one that works for you. One helpful idea is to get a translation that is word-for-word in its translation of the original languages and also a second that is more thought-for-thought or a balance between the two.

Once you have your Bible translations, you’re ready to build the rest of your ultimate study Bible library.

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Step 2: Add Study Notes

Next to the Bible, if you had to spend money on one resource, hands down it would have to be a study Bible. These are great tools because they are an all-in-one resource. You get commentary, introductions, and a wealth of other useful features. With so many study Bibles on the market, wisdom is needed when making a purchase. You want to make sure you’re buying something that will help you understand what you’re reading and keep things in their proper context.

A good study Bible should contain: thorough study notes, book introductions, maps, charts & illustrations, and Bible chronologies. A few worth checking out include: the ESV Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, NKJV Study Bible, Life Application Study Bible, and the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible.

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Step 3: Add Key Reference Tools

As you expand your library beyond Bibles and study Bibles, you should start by adding key reference tools. This is a broad category that ranges from single volume commentaries to Bible dictionaries and atlases.

Bible commentaries come in many flavors and vary in their target audience, which is often reflected in the price. Because of their depth, commentaries can quickly become the most expensive tool in your library. A good place to start is with a single volume commentary since they cover the entire Bible. While single volume commentaries may not be as thorough as their single-book counterparts, they do take time to cover all passages in general and are sure to explain the more difficult ones, making them useful additions to your library.

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While study Bibles and commentaries are good at explaining the text of the Bible, they don’t always give enough detail about some of the Bible’s concepts and words. This is where a good Bible dictionary comes into play, which is, in effect, an encyclopedia for the Bible. To illustrate it’s usefulness, let’s say you’re reading the gospels and you encounter the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who are these guys and where did they get their authority? A Bible dictionary will explain who they are so you’re not left clueless about their role and purpose in the Bible.

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Atlases are a fantastic tool to have in your library. If we’re honest, most of us aren’t familiar with the geography of the lands from Bible times. Not to mention, it’s difficult to find many places mentioned in the Bible on a modern map. Atlases provide you with extensive maps that help you get a lay of the land so that you can make better sense of the Bible’s narrative. Many atlases also provide relevant commentary on the Bible that corresponds to the map or picture.

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Many of these tools you can add to your Olive Tree library at minimal cost and they will go a long way in helping you study the Bible.

Step 4: Add Advanced Reference Tools

Most people could stop at Step 3, but if you’re the person who wants to dive deeper into God’s Word you can buy more advanced reference tools. Resources that fall into this category would include: single book commentary sets, Greek & Hebrew lexicons, and more extensive versions of the tools found in Step 3. These are the tools often used by pastors, seminary students and others. This is an area where you can spend a lot of money, but each resource is well worth the cost.

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Build Your Ultimate Study Bible Today

By following the above steps, you will have built your own Ultimate Study Bible and have all the essential tools needed to study the Bible. Start building yours today with our Build Your Ultimate Study Bible sale!

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Works of William Perkins

Posted by on 07/19/2016 in: ,

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By Olive Tree Employee: Harold Coleman

Who is William Perkins and why are his writings relevant to us today? These are fair questions to ask about a man who wrote over 400 years ago. His life and writings spanned the early decades of English Protestantism during the Elizabethan period. He is thought by many to be the father of Puritanism, not as its founder but as its defender and as a developer of its theological positions. As a moderate Puritan, he worked from within the Church of England, slowly influencing the church towards Protestantism. His writings were so popular that the numbers of copies sold often outnumbered many contemporary Reformed writers combined.

Perkins held to the doctrine of Solus Christus (Christ alone) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) as the twin foundations of biblical preaching. He was an advocate of unclear Scriptures being interpreted by clearer portions of Scripture, rather than by tradition or speculation. He was a strong proponent of double predestination, which was criticized by his contemporary, Jacobus Arminius. As a reformer, he speaks to our use of Scripture today. Is understanding Christ the focus of our study in the Old as well as the New Testament? Do we rely on traditional understandings of tough passages or do we dig into Scripture in light of other Scriptures that are clearer?

Volume one of his works contains three sections: “A Harmony of the Books of the Old and New Testament”, “The Combat between Christ and the Devil”, and “A Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount”.

A Harmony of the Books of the Old and New Testament lays out how biblical history intersects with the history of the world during biblical times. Perkins believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and that the Holy Spirit accurately represented God’s intent through Scripture’s human authors. This section begins with an unbroken progression of years from Adam to Solomon. At that point, he could tie in secular historical facts as they were known in his time in order to date the Bible from Solomon through the New Testament book of Revelation. With updated archaeological information, modern readers may have different understandings of those dates, but seeing Perkins’ dates is informative.

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What I find most important in this section is the extensive timeline of events through biblical history that correspond to chapters about these events. These chapters are particularly helpful in putting together the bigger picture of 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles. These scriptural links can be accessed through the commentary notes in the Resource Guide as you study passages of the Bible in your main window. By adding a note to the dating of an event with a calculation to the Julian calendar, I can add my own estimated B.C. or A.D. dating of the event according to Perkins. This gives me a point of comparison with date estimates that have come since Perkins’ time. While this timeline doesn’t serve as an outline of any book, particularly in subject or doctrinal matters, it helps to put any biblical event in perspective with other events.

The Combat between Christ and the Devil considers the battle waged in heaven and on earth through the end of Revelation. It is an extensive commentary on Matthew 4:1-11, with implications for individual believers and the church as they too are assaulted by the schemes of the Devil. In reading this section, modern believers will see that we experience similar temptations and assaults but also have a high priest who knows our troubles from his own experience.

A Godly and Learned Exposition of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is crucial to Perkins’ understanding of the Gospel. He saw the Sermon on the Mount as the cornerstone to the Gospel because it is authored by Jesus himself after a whole night in prayer. He breaks the sermon into twelve branches. In this commentary, he has a style of making points, arguments, answering objections, and then expounding on ‘The Use’ (application) of the section covered. His style offers a model for preaching or teaching directly from Scripture. His commentary is lengthy in its analysis and explanations of points and objections but is very readable. Although Perkins taught at Cambridge, he doesn’t lose the reader in deep discussion of Greek or theological fine points. His intention is to instruct the pastor or devoted student of God’s Word thoroughly and practically, as he saw modeled by Jesus. In sermon preparation, you can find years of material in this single commentary on the Sermon on the Mount that will provide insights for returning to this most famous sermon many times.

Volume Two of Perkins’ works is a commentary on Galatians. It is the compilation of three years of sermons by Perkins on Galatians 1-5. After his death, Ralph Cudworth edited the sermon notes into this commentary and added his own commentary of chapter six to complete it. Much like Luther and Calvin, Perkins saw the importance of this letter as differentiating between the old Law of Moses and the new law of grace as given through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Writing at the early stages of Protestantism, he draws out the importance of a biblical view of law and grace and argues against traditions that may be as relevant today as they were in his time. He believed that as Christ taught in plain speech, his sermons should also be plain to understand.

You can now add this classic resource to your Olive Tree library!

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What’s the difference between a Concordance and a Cross Reference ?

Posted by on 07/18/2016 in: ,

Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s intimidating to ask what something is when it seems like we should already know. Maybe you’ve heard of the theological term or Bible study method before, but that doesn’t mean you know what it actually is and it can be embarrassing to ask.  Well, we’re here to help. In this blog we’ll talk about the difference between a Concordance and a Cross-Reference and how they can help you in your own Bible study.

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Cross References

A cross reference is a verse that has a similar theme or topic as the verse that you are reading. In the Olive Tree Bible App these are most easily found in the Resource Guide under Related Verses.

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In the above screenshot I’m reading Ephesians 4 in the NIV. Under related verses I see nine cross reference entries that are already a part of the NIV translation. I can tap the resource of my choice to bring up the specific cross references related to the text open in my main window.

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I chose the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and now see a list of topics and words sorted by verse. The great thing about the Bible App is that I can tap any of these verses for a quick look without having to leave my primary reading.

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Cross references are a great tool when you are trying to study themes or topics found in all of scripture. But if you are wanting to do a specific word study then you’ll want to use a concordance.

Concordance

A concordance offers more precise lookups on specific words than a cross reference and shows you where those words appear throughout scripture. Like cross references, many Bible translations include a brief concordance section with the text but in order to do comprehensive word study a dedicated resource is the way to go. In the Bible App the easiest way to use a concordance is via the Lookup feature.

In this screenshot I’ve tapped on the word patience in Ephesians 4:2. I then tap on Lookup.

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Then I’ll select the Olive Tree NIV Concordance.

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Now I get a list of where the word patient appears throughout the Bible and I can easily access those verses in the popup window for easy reading.

You’ll notice that Olive Tree Concordance’s actually have three options.

  1. The verse references are a list of where the English word patient shows up throughout the Bible.
  2. The Strong’s numbers are where the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as patient appear throughout the text.
  3. And the dictionary takes me to an explanation of the Hebrew or Greek word.

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Recap

As you can see there are differences between a Cross Reference resource and a Concordance.

If you are looking for related themes and topics to the scripture passage you are reading, a Cross Reference is a great tool.

If you want to do specific word study across Greek, Hebrew, and English then a Concordance will be a tremendous help.

Go here to see what Concordance and Cross Reference resources are available for the Olive Tree Bible App.

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Tips For Getting Your Book Published

Posted by on 06/24/2016 in:

Publish written on a wooden cube in a office desk

Guest Blogger: Pete Nikolai

While the majority of people believe they have a book in them, very few actually start writing their book and far fewer finish. If you have started or even finished your manuscript then you may have begun looking into the options that are available for getting your book published that run the gamut from “the big five” traditional publishers to self-publishing. An author is usually best-served by considering the options in that order. Being published by a traditional publisher has numerous benefits including broader distribution and the affirmation and market position that comes with the support of an industry leader.

The first step to getting your book traditionally published is to develop a comprehensive book proposal as early in the process as possible—preferably before you start writing. In doing so, you will get to know the wants and needs of your target market, identify competitive titles, and begin to determine how to create the book your target market needs along with how they might become aware of their need for your book. Your book proposal should encapsulate the information literary agents and publishers need to evaluate your book’s commercial viability.

As you work on your proposal you should also research the literary agents that may be interested in representing you (if you want to be traditionally published). Most of the publishers you might be familiar with do not accept “unsolicited materials” directly from authors. Publishers rely on agents to sift through thousands of proposals and manuscripts to identify the strongest ones and to pitch those to the publishers who would be the best fit.

One way to identify agents to consider is to determine the ones who represented the authors of books similar to yours. Many authors mention their agent in the acknowledgments section of their book and many agents list the authors they represent on their website. The Write For Us page on the HarperCollins Christian Publishing site has a link to a list of literary agents who represent authors of Christian books along with links to other helpful resources such as a book proposal template.

To secure an agent, first identify several candidates and then visit the website for each to obtain their submission guidelines and follow those guidelines very closely. Your ability to adhere to those guidelines is a good indicator of whether you will be the type of author agents want to work with.

Give yourself a reasonable deadline for each milestone such as hiring an agent within 3 months and then securing a publisher within 6 months. Doing so helps you stay focused on your objectives and also provides some perspective as to when it might be prudent to consider other options such as self-publishing.

The majority of the books published and sold each year are self-published. Most readers rely on recommendations from their friends and associates or on reviews on websites to determine what to purchase so whether your book is traditionally published or professionally self-published will have little impact on how your book is perceived by potential readers. The most important elements include a quality manuscript and a professionally produced book (pages and cover).

Nearly every book is made available on the various book retailer websites and included in industry databases so it can be ordered by any bookstore. However very few self-published books are actually sold to bookstores and other accounts in any way close to the intentional and methodical efforts of a traditional publisher’s sales team.

At WestBow Press (the self-publishing services division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing that I manage), we help hundreds of authors self-publish their books and the ones that get strong reviews and sell well initially are then sold by the HCCP sales team to bookstores and other accounts.

If the deadlines you set for being traditionally published have passed and you’ve decided to pursue self-publishing then do your research so you know what to expect and are ready to take the necessary steps. Self-publishing service providers (such as WestBow) have a team of experts on hand to edit, proofread, design, market, sell, finance, print, and distribute your book.

Whether you self-publish your book or have it traditionally published, it can and should be a tool to impact your readers for good. You will put an amazing amount of time and resources into your book, and it can serve as part of your legacy—if you get it published well.

For more information including a free guide to publishing your book, visit WestBow Press today!

Pete Nikolai is the coauthor of Write Your Book and has been in the book publishing business for over 25 years, working in a variety of roles for Thomas Nelson Publishers before becoming the Publisher of WestBow Press.

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Resource Updates

Posted by on 06/16/2016 in: ,

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The benefit of eBooks and other digital resources is that when a particular resource needs to be updated it can happen quickly and easily. You’ve probably noticed in the past that there are periodic updates available for books in your Olive Tree library. The most common reasons have to do with fixing minor errors in the text, formatting changes, or revisions from the author or publisher.

Just as we are always working to improve the Olive Tree Bible App, we are also working to keep your resources up to date, looking beautiful, and working smoothly. It’s with this in mind that we wanted to let you know of a massive update we just pushed out to a majority of titles for the Bible App. This update is part of our ongoing innovation and commitment to providing you with the best reading and Bible study experience. We understand that it can be an inconvenience to update your resources and so we appreciate your patience and understanding as we strive to provide you with the most up to date resources available.

We can’t tell you how much we appreciate your trust in us to provide you with best Bible study tools possible! Thank you, and may God continue to inspire you through his word!

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A Conversation with Kent Hughes

Posted by on 04/06/2016 in: ,

R. Kent Hughes was in pastoral ministry for 41 years, the last 27 as senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He earned his B.A. from Whittier College (history), an M.Div. from Talbot Seminary and a D.Min. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Kent is the author of numerous books, among them the best-selling Disciplines of a Godly Man. He is also editor of the projected 50-volume Preaching the Word series to which he has made numerous contributions.

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I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Hughes and ask him to share how this series came about and to reflect on the role a commentary can play in a preacher’s study.

Of the 29 volumes of the Preaching The Word Commentary, you wrote 22 volumes. How did this project start?

I was [the pastor] at College Church in Wheaton which had lots of students and academics. I was very careful about doing all of my work on my sermons and then making them come alive when I preached. Lane Dennis (President of Crossway) and I were at an event and he approached me about publishing my sermons. We came up with the name Preaching the Word, which comes from 2 Timothy 4:2.

As you wrote a particular commentary, what goals did you have in mind?

The commentaries are homiletically arranged with careful attention to history, background, words, structure, and theology and with a focus on clarity in how they are presented. It’s important to also know that the content of each commentary has been preached live before a congregation.

If you were to pick the type of person that The Preaching the Word series is aimed at, who would it be?

It’s aimed at pastors, small group leaders, and Bible study groups.  For preachers, it’s not meant to be a substitute for personal study. It’s important that you do your own work first and then come to a commentary like Preaching the Word. If you come right to the commentary without doing your own study and outline first, then you’ll most likely end up preaching the commentary.

If I’m going to preach on a specific book of the Bible, what role should a commentary play in my sermon preparation?

If it were a small book like Philippians, I’d first read it 30-40 times through, mostly in my preferred translation but also in some others. If you’re able to, also read it in the Greek.

Then I’d ask, “What is the big theme of the book?” and look at structure, turning points, and applications – just try to get the text inside of me. Then I’d try and think of how to break up the book homiletically – how many sermons, where to break up the passages, and do my best to outline it.

Then, having done that, I’d open up a commentary and modify my sermon where needed. You should use a commentary like Preaching the Word as a part of your sermon-prep process. But if you use a commentary to start your process, you will become a commentary cripple.

When you look back at your own preaching ministry, what are a few things you wish you would have known as a young preacher that you’d exhort other young preachers toward today?

This matter of doing your own work is very, very important. You can borrow from all kinds of people and not really do your own thinking. The hardest thing to do is to sit down with the biblical text and ask God to help you. Do your own work first and then you can use a commentary to help you adjust.

*Editors note: This interview originally took place when the Preaching the Word Commentary Series was only 29 Volumes. We have recently added 11 more volumes to this series bringing it to 40 Volumes and you can get the entire set on special right now. 

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What’s the best Bible Translation?

Posted by on 03/31/2016 in:

I’ll be upfront with you. I’m not actually going to tell you what Bible translation I think is the best. I won’t even tell you which one I prefer or if it may or may not have colorful illustrations that make Jesus look like a California surfer. I tend to agree with Pastor Rick Warren when he said, “The best Bible translation is one that is translated into your life.” In saying that, there are some things that are worth knowing that may help you decide what you use for study, what you recommend to new believers, and even what you read to your kids.

Centuries of scholarship have gone into the English translations we have today.

The two primary metrics for how scholars have translated the original language into the the English Bibles we have today are based on:
1. How close the translation is to the original, literal word (word for word).
2. How close the translation is to the original idea being communicated (thought for thought).

The more technical terms are usually put into three categories:

Formal Equivalent
These translations attempt to reproduce the Greek and Hebrew as exactly as possible into the English language. Words, figures of speech, and sometimes even the sentence structure of the original languages are reproduced in a much more literal and limited way in this type of Bible. These hold -in varying degrees- to a generally word for word approach.

Dynamic Equivalent
These Bibles run on a more thought-for-thought philosophy than the Formal Equivalent translations, but not to the extent that a paraphrase would. Greek and Hebrew figures of speech are replaced with modern rough equivalents. They are typically easier to read, though sometimes in a freer translation passages may lean more toward an interpretation than a strict translation.

Paraphrase
Not usually considered ‘translations’ but rewordings of the Scriptures that speak in a very earthy, common tongue. Those who advocate these note that the New Testament was written in the common language of the people and not by scholars or philosophers. The results can be the clearest expression of Scripture on par with the original. However, theological lenses can more easily influence the interpretation. Some paraphrases are based on the original Hebrew/Greek and some are based on more formal equivalent English translations.

The centuries old challenge for scholars is how do you translate the original manuscripts in a way that makes them accurate and literal, but also readable and understandable?

For an example of this challenge imagine that I’m speaking to an audience in China through a translator and say, “Hong Kong is the coolest city I’ve ever been to.” If my translator literally interpreted my statement to the audience and said, Hong Kong is the coldest city I’d ever been to, they’d probably think I grew up in the middle of the Gobi desert (Hong Kong never really gets cold). I would want my translator to understand my culture and West Coast slang enough to take the liberty to translate my thought, as opposed to my literal words; “He really likes Hong Kong”.

And so for centuries the challenge for Bible translators has been to translate Scripture into thousands of languages worldwide, maintaining as literal an interpretation while still making it readable and understandable to the culture. So, unless you can read the Biblical Hebrew and Greek yourself every translation you have read has gone through this challenge.

Where does your favorite translation rank in terms of being word for word and thought for thought? Check out the *graphic below (click for larger image):

You’ll notice this chart doesn’t say one translation is better than another but it is a useful graphic to understand where the different translations lean in how they interpret the original manuscripts. If you want to dig deeper most Bible translations have an introduction that explains their translation philosophy. You can also check out the links below for more in depth thoughts on the differences between translations.

Helpful Resources:


* Please note that there is no specific difference (other than their place on the continuum) between the orange and green Bibles listed in the graphic

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