Category: Product Reviews

An Update on the New American Commentary

Posted by on 12/18/2017 in: ,

Here’s some news! We just released a new version of our New American Commentary Old & New Testament Set. It now holds 42 volumes. You can visit our website here to see all of the volumes included, along with what ones are not available yet.

With this update, we thought it would be nice to share some information with you about this resource. We’ll even give you a look inside. Let’s start!

WHAT IS THE NAC?

The New American Commentary collects the best in contemporary evangelical scholarship in a series that examines the entire Bible in depth. Currently, it offers 18 volumes of commentary on the New Testament and 24 volumes of commentary on the Old Testament.

It based on the NIV Bible text and provides verse-by-verse analysis. Additionally, it is considered to be a mid-level commentary, relfecting comprehensive biblical research in the original languages of the Bible, but avoids using overly-technical language. That way, you don’t have to have a seminary background in order to understand.

The New American Commentary consistently supports the inerrancy of Scripture and contributing scholars all hold explicit commitments to Scripture’s infallibility. Its distinctive perspective is a focus on the theological ideas springing from Scripture.

Along with the textual grounding of an expository commentary, the New American Commentary also focuses on the broader strokes of theology developed by each book, and interprets each book as a theological unity. Rooted in conservative theology, this resource also directly engages a wide range of theological and exegetical issues raised by contemporary biblical scholarship.

A LOOK INSIDE

Every book comes with an outline and book introductions. You can easily navigate through the commentary set with the List View of our toolbar navigation.

You can read the commentary in the main window and open Scripture references and footnotes in a helpful pop-up window.

And as you are reading the Bible, the resource guide will let you know if the NAC has an article on the passage you are reading. All you’ll need to do tap, and it will open, following along with wherever you are in the main window.

If a verse in a different section is references in the commentary, you can still open a pop-up window to read it.

LEARN MORE

If you want to see how the commentary works in our app or learn about its contents, head on over to our website by clicking here.

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Look Inside: Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in: ,

WHAT IS IT?

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary is a Gold Medallion Christian Book Award-winning resource! It is considered a major contribution to the study and understanding of the Scriptures. This 12-volume reference work is a staple for seminary and college libraries. Without a doubt, it provides pastors and Bible students with the comprehensive, scholarly tools needed to exegete, teach, and proclaim the Word.

It was compiled between the years of 1976-1992 with 50 different authors contributing.

FROM THE AUTHOR

One of the best ways to know more about a commentary set is to hear from the author. Here is an introduction from Frank Gaebelein, the main editor:

Written primarily by expositors for expositors, [this series] aims to provide preachers, teachers, and students of the Bible with a new and comprehensive commentary on the books of the Old and New Testaments. Its stance is that of a scholarly evangelicalism committed to the divine inspiration, complete trustworthiness, and full authority of the Bible.

Its seventy-eight contributors come from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, and from various religious groups, including Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Free, Independent, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches…

Whatever else [the Bible] is—the greatest and most beautiful of books, the primary source of law and morality, the fountain of wisdom, and the infallible guide to life—the Bible is above all the inspired witness to Jesus Christ.

May this work fulfill its function of expounding the Scriptures with grace and clarity, so that its users may find that both Old and New Testaments do indeed lead to our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone could say, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Frank E. Gaebelein, the original Expositor’s Bible Commentary

HOW DOES IT WORK?

In the Olive Tree Bible App all of this content is easily accessed in the Resource Guide found in the split window. No matter which commentary you are using they both follow along with the scripture in your main window to give you easy access to expositional commentary, charts, outlines and more.

How does this affect you? It makes your study of God’s Word a smoother process. You don’t have to flip pages or have your desk full of open books. Instead, our app serves you the material you need, that is relevant to the passage your studying. We want to help you steward your time well!

Here’s a few screenshots of how the resource looks in our app.

Each number indicates relevant entries for the passage

Notes are just a tap away

Charts and outlines are easy to use

LEARN MORE

You can learn more about the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Volumes) by visiting our website.

If you’re looking for a reliable, comprehensive commentary set, the price won’t get much better than this. Don’t forget that this discounted price is only good for our Black Friday sale!

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Friendship with the Master

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in: ,

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. — John 15:15

FRIENDSHIP IN ROME

In the Roman world, a “friend” was often a political ally who owed one a favor, or a more powerful patron on whom one could depend. But the traditional Greek concept of friendship remained influential even during the apostle Paul’s day. Paul had urged the financially well–off Christians of Corinth to treat Christians in Jerusalem as friends by sharing all things in common.

Friends treated one another as “equals” (2 Corinthians 8:13,14).

FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS

Jesus said to His disciples: “I have called you friends.” While He was not implying that as His friends they were His equals, He was offering to share with them what belonged to Him. John’s Gospel describes this assurance specifically as the promise of the Spirit sharing Jesus’ words with the disciples, so they would know Jesus’ heart (see John 16:13–15).

The intimacy pictured between Jesus and the disciples fits the ancient ideal of friendship, which stressed both loyalty and the sharing of secrets. Among the Greeks, the highest expression of a friend’s loyalty was to die for a friend, and Jesus summoned His disciples to lay down their lives for Him and for one another, as He was about to do for them (John 15:12–14).

But servants often proved no less loyal then friends, so Jesus spoke of an intimacy greater than that between the average master and servant. Greek literature often stressed how friends share secrets with one another in confidence, and Jesus had shared with the disciples all the words He had heard from His Father (John 15:15).

Some Jewish writers in Jesus’ day stressed that being God’s friend, as exemplified by Abraham and Moses, was even greater than being God’s servant. Jesus thus bestowed on His disciples such an honor of intimacy with Himself.

You can talk to Jesus with this level of intimacy as well. Jesus calls you friend. How does this change your relationship with him?

LEARN MORE FROM A CHRONOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE

This blog post was created from a note in the The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV). But what exactly is a chronological study Bible?

Chronological study Bibles are just what they sound like—Bibles arranged in chronological order with study notes inserted. How does this work? Here’s an example!

The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) starts the New Testament with Matthew 1:25, covering Jesus’ genealogy. There are a few study notes on the culture and society during Jesus’ birth. Verse 25 ends with Joseph believing that Mary is still a virgin and naming his son Jesus… and then the text jumps to Luke 2:1-20, sharing the more detailed account of Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem.

Reading a chronological study Bible can rejuvenate your quiet time by helping you see the story of God’s Word. All of the different historical accounts interact with one another and show God’s faithfulness through time. When you read it in order, you will be able to insert yourself into the story, too.

Visit our website to learn more about how The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) works!

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What’s Inside the Archaeological Study Bible?

Posted by on 11/20/2017 in: ,

When I first heard about the Archaeological Study Bible, I wasn’t sure what to think.  My initial thought was how could there be an entire Bible devoted to archaeological study?  And honestly, how could a study Bible devoted to archaeological study not be a snoozer?

So, I got a copy of the Archaeological Study Bible and began looking through it.  Wow, was I impressed (and wrong)!

WHAT MAKES IT GREAT?

The Archaeological Study Bible is a great resource.  There are 520 articles covering five main categories:

  1. Archaeological Sites
  2. Cultural and Historical Notes
  3. Ancient Peoples and Lands
  4. Reliability of the Bible
  5. Ancient Texts and Artifacts.

IT’S  ENHANCED!

Additionally, our app enriches the Archaeological Study Bible. As you read through your Bible, the Study Center will keep you synced with your reading. If this study Bible has content related to the passage of the Bible you are reading, the Resource Guide will let you know.

Here’s an example of an article on the Zealots and Essenes:

SO MANY PHOTOS

Also included are almost 500 full-color photographs throughout the text.  Here’s two examples:

Throughout the text there are detailed charts like this one:

At the end of the Archaeological Study Bible there are several maps that help you get an idea of the placement of biblical events:

The authors of the Archaeological Study Bible also included detailed book introductions for every book of the Bible. Other study tools include a glossary, extensive concordance and several indexes to help you find articles relevant to your study.

LEARN MORE

As you can see, you can spend hours learning the historical background of the Bible and the settings in which biblical events took place.  The articles and pictures will give you insights into the Bible and make you feel like you could have been there. Interested? Check out the Archaeological Study Bible in our store.

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NEW! NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible

Posted by on 11/17/2017 in: ,

ANSWERS FOR TODAY

Have you ever wished that the Bible spoke directly about controversial issues we face today? The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible hopes to bridge the gap between God’s instruction and today’s questions. But how?

The goal of this Bible is to inspire believers to Christlike thought, belief, speech, and action. It is intended to help Christians from all walks of life to live their lives according to biblical principles, using information and encouragement based on a wealth of resources from around the glove and from ancient times up to the present day.

Normally, when you have a question about a present-day issue, you have to thumb through your Bible hoping to find a passage that relates somehow. Or, it’s the other way around. Reading the Bible doesn’t always seem to speak to things related to today, and you’re stuck trying to make connections on your own.

With this study Bible, you can be pointed in a good direction, without leaving your Bible app.

WHAT’S INSIDE?

There are eight subject areas covered in this study Bible:

  1. Church
  2. Corruption
  3. Economics
  4. Education
  5. Family
  6. Government
  7. Sanctity of Life
  8. Virtue

Emmanuel A. Kampouris, the publisher of Kairos Journal, wrote this study Bible. The notes and features of the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible are based on his extensive online resource. Each of the listed subject areas contain articles regarding controversial topics such as: Taxation, Evolution, Parenting, Abortion, and more.

Here is an example!

Here is a list of everything included in this resource:

  • Book Introductions: Provide key passages and background information for each book
  • Articles: Over 220 articles placed near relevant Scripture passages bring keen biblical insight to the current issues of the day
  • Quotations: Over 60 quotations from historical figures help you understand, first, that the issues of the day are not new; and second, that wise people throughout history have been challenged to live by biblical standards, just as we are today
  • Unapologetic Profiles: Over 40 profiles of historical figures inspire you with biblical faith lived out in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances
  • Indexes: Categorize each of the above features to assist you in a topical study
    of the issues that matter to you

HOW IT WORKS IN THE APP

As expected, this study Bible works in our Resource Guide. As you are reading the Bible in the main window, the Resource Guide will show you what study Bibles notes (and any other notes or articles!) from the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible line-up with what you are reading.

Additionally. this study Bible can be used with any translation you own, unlike a paper Bible.

Meaningful Bible study can happen now, with just a tap.

LEARN MORE

Visit our website to learn more about the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible.

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Spurgeon Study Bible

Posted by on 11/03/2017 in: ,

“Spurgeon had a phenomenal grasp of theology, and his reading had afforded him a breadth of insight matched by few, but when it came to opening up the Scriptures, he was a master of clarity and simplicity. He warned his students about going down among miners with technical theological terms and high-sounding phraseology. To do so, he said, was to act like an idiot.” – Alistair Begg

SPURGEON’S STUDY BIBLE

The day has finally come! The Spurgeon Study Bible is designed, formatted, and available for download. We’ve been waiting to tell you about it all month long.

Why are we so excited about this study Bible? What makes it worth the read, different than the rest, and helpful in your study of God’s Word? Here’s three reasons.

1) IT’S SPURGEON

If you don’t know much about Charles Spurgeon, you’re missing out. For nearly two centuries his nickname has been “The Prince of Preachers,” and for good reason.

Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, England in 1834. Growing up, he was influenced by both his father and grandfather who were nonconformist ministers. He loved to read Pilgrim’s Progress and learn about theology, although he never attended seminary. Spurgeon was one of a kind—insistent on the Bible’s power, continuously doing ministry, and an incredibly humble man. In his lifetime, he wrote over 135 books, founded an orphanage, and pastored a church that could hold 5,600 people. Without a doubt, Spurgeon was the most popular preacher in England.

Like the quote states at the beginning of this blog, Spurgeon’s fame didn’t encourage him to flaunt his wisdom. Instead, he always made sure to speak humbly and clearly. With this study Bible, you’ll get to soak up all of Spurgeon’s wisdom—with ease.

If you’re interested in learning more about Charles Spurgeon, Alistair Begg wrote a short biography as the introduction to the Spurgeon Study Bible. That’s where I found some of the details I shared above.

2) THE EXTRAS

SPURGEON QUOTES – Nestled inside Spurgeon’s commentary are thought-provoking quotes. This way, you get some of his most famous sayings, even if they aren’t directly related to a section of Scripture. (Click on the images below to enlarge them!)

SPURGEON ILLUSTRATIONS – Along with quotes, you’ll also find full illustrations that Spurgeon used while preaching. This is yet another way that Spurgeon will get you to think more deeply about Scripture and your relationship with God.

SPURGEON’S LOST SERMONS – There are twenty of Charles Spurgeon’s earliest sermon manuscripts from The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854. Also, you’ll find hand-written notes by Spurgeon!

3) USE WITH ANY BIBLE, ANY TIME

Now, this is only true with our digital version of this study Bible. There are paper versions out there, and in order to use them, you have to open multiple books if you want to see any other study Bible notes or translations.

But, when we sell study Bibles, we only sell the notes because they can be opened alongside ANY translation that you have in our app. So, if you’re doing a little reading while you wait at the bus stop or the doctor’s office, and Spurgeon had something to say about the passage you’re reading… the Resource Guide will show it to you. Just tap, and then you’re immediately reading the notes—without wifi.

You can take the wise words of the Prince of Preachers with you anywhere and read them at any time.

LEARN MORE

Excited to learn from Charles Spurgeon and the Spurgeon Study Bible? You can read more about the resource by visiting our website. Feel free to ask us any questions you have below or at support@olivetree.com.

See this video by the publisher of the Spurgeon Study Bible to learn more:

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About the Passion Translation

Posted by on 11/02/2017 in: ,

This article is provided by BroadStreet Publishing Group, the publishing house for The Passion Translation.

The Passion Translation is a groundbreaking attempt to re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to English readers. The Passion Translation is a new, heart-level translation that expresses God’s fiery heart of love to this generation using Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts, merging the emotion and life-changing truth of God’s Word.

Dr. Brian Simmons—linguist, minister, Bible teacher, and former missionary—serves as lead translator for The Passion Translation. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Paya-Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have started numerous ministries, including a dynamic church in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.

Brian began his biblical studies with The New Tribes Bible Institute and continued on to earn his doctorate with Wagner Leadership Institute, with a specialization on prayer.

While Brian serves as the lead translator for The Passion Translation, the translated text and the numerous footnotes are evaluated by respected scholars and editors to ensure The Passion Translation is faithful to the original text and heart of God.

So why another translation?

Many wonderful versions of our Bible now grace our bookshelves, bookstores, software programs, even apps on our phones. So why add one more? The reason is simple: God longs to have his Word expressed in every language in a way that unlocks the passion of his heart. The goal of this work is to trigger inside every reader an overwhelming response to the truth of the Bible, revealing the deep mysteries of the Scriptures in the love language of God, the language of the heart.

God refuses to meet us only in an intellectual way. God also wants to meet us heart level, so we must let the words go heart deep—bringing words that go through the human soul, past the defenses of the mind, and into the spirit. There is a language of the heart that must express the passion of this love-theology. That’s why The Passion Translation is an important addition to peoples’ devotional and spiritual life with Christ.

Bible translations are both a gift and a problem. They give us the words God spoke through his servants, but words can become very poor containers for revelation—they leak! Over time the words change from one generation to the next. Meaning is influenced by culture, background, and many other details. You can imagine how differently the Hebrew authors of the Old Testament saw the world from three thousand years ago!

There is no such thing as a truly literal translation of the Bible, for there is not an equivalent language that perfectly conveys the meaning of the biblical text except as it is understood in its original cultural and linguistic setting. Therefore, a translation can be a problem. The problem, however, is solved when we seek to transfer meaning, and not merely words, from the original text to the receptor language.

That’s the governing philosophy behind The Passion Translation:

to transfer the meaning of God’s original message found in the biblical languages to modern-day English. We believe that the meaning of a passage should take priority over the form of the original words, so that every English speaker can clearly, naturally encounter the heart of God through his message of truth and love.

To transfer the meaning of the biblical narrative from one language to another requires interpretation. Undoubtedly, the process of Bible translation cannot be considered a perfect science, but more of an artistic, Spirit-led production. Dr. Simmons has sought to faithfully carry over the meaning of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into modern English along with the nuances of the Scripture’s poetry and prose to make it come alive to the reader.

If you’re hungry for God and want to know him on a deeper level, The Passion Translation will help you encounter God’s heart and discover what he has for your life.

THE PASSION TRANSLATION & OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP

Now, the Passion Translation New Testament contains not only the ENTIRE New Testament, but also Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs! If you purchase this Bible through Olive Tree, you will also receive the I Hear His Whisper devotional reading plan by Brian Simmons.

Already own a volume of The Passion Translation?

If you have already purchased a volume of The Passion Translation, you can upgrade at no additional cost on our website! Learn more here.

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ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

Posted by on 11/01/2017 in: ,

This week is the week for new titles. Our second release of the week is the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible! Some very well-seasoned. and well-respected, theologians put together this study Bible: J.I. Packer, Michael Horton, Kelly Kapic, Michael Reeves, David Wells, and more. We have the full list of contributors on our website.

Since this is a brand-new release, we figured you might want to take a peek inside. In this blog you’ll learn about systematic theology, how this study Bible is put together, and how it works inside our app.

WHAT IS SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY?

Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. There are two popular ways to study and write about theology, though: biblical and systematic. What’s the difference?

Biblical Theology is a ground-level approach. Scholars who write biblical theologies go verse-by-verse looking for themes and characteristics. When these findings are documented, authors will spend a lot of time explaining a passage and then make theological statements.

Systematic Theology is an eagle’s-eye approach. Imagine yourself up-high, looking across the whole landscape of the Bible, discovering theological connections across the entire book. When these findings are documented, authors write extensively about one theological tenet. Then, they use several verse references as their proof.

The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible applies thoughts on core, theological topics to specific passages—making it a great resource for getting both a ground-level and eagle’s-eye perspective on Scripture.

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY + STUDY BIBLE

Study Bible notes fall into one of ten categories: the attributes of God, revelation, mankind, sin, Jesus Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, church life, the Christian life, and the end times. The information will emphasize the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, while also respecting different views on secondary issues such as baptism, spiritual gifts, and details concerning last things.

In these notes, there are cross-references. These will point you to other study notes that address similar themes. This is done so that you learn to see a holistic account of the Christian faith, drawn from the entirety of Scripture. Additionally, there are 28 separate articles that succinctly explain the main tenets of the faith, expanding on the content of these study notes.

Lastly, this resource comes with two indexes. You can look through a canonical list which outlines every study note in the order it appears in the Bible. Within the app, you’ll be able to simply tap on this reference, and you’ll be taken straight to the entry. The second index is topical. If there is a theological topic you would like more information on, search through this alphabetical list. You’ll be shown the verse reference where Scripture and the study notes address this topic.

SEE FOR YOURSELF

If you’d like to read the above snippet, just tap or click on the image and it will be enlarged for you.

In Titus 3:4-6, all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned, and I underlined them in my reading. The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible notes not only explain the relationship between the three, but gave me an understanding of how they are working together in this passage. If I tap the references there on the side, the split-window immediately takes me other entries on God’s triune nature.

I also found more information on this topic by going to the articles and choosing the one titled “God.” Here there is a lot of helpful information about God’s attributes with links to Scripture references.

LEARN MORE

What makes this study Bible useful? It gives you clarity on the attributes of God and Christian faith that are echoed across the pages of the Bible—without flipping a page. As always, this resource works in our Resource Guide, letting you know when a passage you are reading (in any translation!) is discussed in this title. It’s all right there, ready for you to read, no matter where you are.

If you’re interested in growing in your understanding of God’s characteristics and the theological themes of the Bible, check out the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible.

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A Reformed, Christ-Centered Commentary

Posted by on 10/27/2017 in: ,

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next week, we’ve been looking for helpful resources for our Reformed folk—and we found one that we think some of you will enjoy greatly. The Reformed Expository Commentary Series is edited by Richard Phillips and and Phillip Ryken: two Reformed pastors dedicated to Christ-centered preaching paired with a vigorously Reformed doctrinal stance.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Phillips and Ryken were both proteges of James Montogomery Boice. Sound familiar? Not too long ago we had the Boice Expositional Commentary Series on sale. Boice’s commentary set contains 27 volumes—that man knew how to write!

So, when Phillips and Ryken decided to produce their own commentary set, it was very important to them that they didn’t simply copy Boice. They wanted to make sure that their resource would be fulfilling a need.

A COMMENTARY THAT ANSWERS A NEED (OR 3)

Here are three needs that Phillips and Ryken want to fill:

1. There a few commentaries that extend from exegesis into exposition (answering technical questions while also applying the passage)
  • But this commentary set proclaims, explains, and applies the whole text within each set—perfect for sermons and Bible lessons
  • It also includes information on exegesis, text criticism, theology, and historical studies, but it shares the information in a way that can be used directly in a sermon
2. There are even fewer commentaries that teach a Christ-centered message that reflects Reformed doctrinal stances
  • But this commentary is consistently using a Christ-centered message is every passage of Scripture
  • And it is also staunchly Reformed, relying on the Westminster Confessions heavily
3. And lastly, barely any commentaries give real examples of their teaching being used in the pulpit
  • But this commentary organized as transcripts of sermons used by the authors—they were required to preach anything they included in this set!
  • And the information is so applicable, that even the editors continue to use this resource for their daily devotions

Most of this information was gathered from an interview conducted by Tim Challies, which can be viewed here.

BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?

First, we have to let you know that this resource works with the Resource Guide. If you’re in a passage of the Bible that this commentary references, our app will let you know. Just tap on “Reformed Expository Commentary” to access the information in the split-window.

Here’s what I found! The beginning of this sermon starts with an attention-getter, referencing The Lord of the Rings (automatic bonus points!). Then, it transitions into explaining how we can believe the miracles presented in the Bible and an explanation of the passage. Click on the images to see them enlarged.

LEARN MORE

Interested in Reformed theology, sermons, and Christ-centered teaching? Learn more about the The Reformed Expository Commentary Series by visiting our website.

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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 ten 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? Check out this resource in 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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