Tyndale House Publishers
Have you ever dreamed of discovering something that would be worth a fortune? All of us have heard stories about someone who found a treasure in an attic or in a box forgotten in an aunt’s basement. One television show, Antiques Roadshow, travels around the country stopping at many places and allowing people to bring in their antiques for appraisal by experts. Once in a while, the show unearths a valuable artifact, thrilling the owners.
Recently, a true-life story of a magnificent find hit the
national news. It started in the mid-1990s when a female trucker named Teri was
traveling through the Southwest and stopped to meander through Dot’s Thrift
What a buy it turned out to be! Ten years later, art experts have concluded that the painting was created in the 1940s by Jackson Pollock, a leading American artist. His “drip paintings” are so unique that they are almost impossible to imitate or forge. Art restoration expert Peter Paul Biro examined the painting and found a partial fingerprint that he compared to a known fingerprint of Pollock and noted twelve characteristics that are identical between the two prints. Biro also writes that the paint and the style used are just like Pollock’s.
Although no one can be sure how the painting got to the thrift
store, it most likely was purchased in an estate sale in
Can you imagine what Teri felt when she first had an inkling of the painting’s value? I can imagine her calling her friends and exclaiming, “Guess what! That old painting I got at the thrift store turns out to be a treasure!” What had seemed at first to be just a run-of-the-mill purchase was truly a fine work of art.[i]
That story reminds me of a discovery I made years ago.[ii] As a high school and college student I occasionally tried to read the Bible, but it made no sense to me. I found it boring and concluded that no really intelligent person could ever believe what it said. I certainly didn’t think that the Bible was trustworthy.
Then I became a Christian. From that moment, my life was transformed, and my attitude concerning the Scriptures changed dramatically. It was as if the Holy Spirit had unwrapped God’s words from a covering of dusty burlap, and I discovered what a treasure I had in my hands! I realized that the Bible was truly the holy, inspired, and infallible Word of the greatest author in the universe, our Father God.
Since that great discovery, I have spent nearly sixty years
studying the Bible, including five years of theological study at
I praise God that He used His Word to change me dramatically. As
a young man, I was especially ambitious. I was a humanist and a materialist.
The only way I knew of measuring success was through the accumulation of wealth.
And that’s what I was doing. I started my own fancy foods business and put all
my energies into making it a financial success. But with the prompting of the
Holy Spirit and through my study of God’s Word, I began to learn about our
great God and Savior, why He came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to this
planet Earth, and all that He accomplished for me. Over time as I studied and
read, the great benefits of receiving Jesus as my Savior and Lord and walking
with Him daily began to become more and more real to me. I learned that all the
blessings of heaven could be added to me if I would faithfully seek first the
Today I cannot imagine returning to my self-centered plans. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that I would be the fool of fools to do anything that would rob me of the incredible privilege of living in the light of God’s Word and enjoying the supernatural adventure of walking in fellowship with Him. Each day is an opportunity to be part of His great strategy to share His love with all people everywhere in fulfillment of the Great Commission. Discovering God through the Bible has been the greatest find of my life!
Since 1945, I have known many of the world’s rich, famous, and powerful people. Many of them achieved what I dreamed of doing as a young man—and are as unhappy as ever without God. I can assure you from experience and observation, true happiness comes from loving God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and seeking first His kingdom. I know without a doubt that I made the right choice.
Even today I live every moment with the Bible. It is my constant companion. As a believer for fifty-six years, I have tested God’s Word and found it true. In more than five decades I have not encountered one situation in which I have not been able to turn to God’s Word for comfort, wisdom, guidance, joy, and blessing.
At eighty-one years of age, I would rather have the Bible on my shelf and in my heart than any other book written in history because it contains the message of God. It is a love letter to me and to all other human beings, who are created in His image. Not only have I been transformed and enriched through reading the Bible, but I have also seen it change the lives of multitudes of people.
At this point you may be thinking, Sure, it’s easy for you to understand the Bible. You had seminary training and have studied the Scriptures for years. But I don’t have those advantages. I want to know what God says to me, but reading the Bible seems so difficult. I have trouble finding a Bible reference when my pastor reads from the Bible, especially if the passage comes from the Old Testament. When I read the Bible myself, I can’t understand how the ideas apply to me.
I understand your situation. I had the same perspective when I first discovered the Bible. And I want you to overcome those difficulties. That’s why I wrote this book. I want to share with you easy ways to make the Bible the book of your life. Rather than merely telling you about the content of the Bible, I want this book to give you a start in reading and studying the Bible on your own. With this ability, you will see the Lord transform your life through His Word and His Spirit. God works uniquely in each of our lives, and He will emphasize different parts of His message for you because He knows and sees your unique personality, situations, and needs. If you can learn how to mine God’s Word for yourself and find the countless treasures He has for you, you will have a lifetime of adventure in walking with God.
Keep in mind that God’s great desire is to reveal Himself to us. One of the most heartwarming and inspiring life stories of the twentieth century is that of the remarkable Helen Keller. If you remember, she was born blind and deaf, and everyone assumed that she would live out her life in darkness and ignorance. Then her parents hired a teacher, Anne Sullivan, who pierced the shroud that enveloped the child by introducing her to words, and thereby to communication. Using a unique form of “finger language,” Anne began “spelling” words into the child’s hand, and eventually Helen recognized the link between the words and objects. Once Anne Sullivan had given Helen the names of several physical objects, Miss Sullivan attempted to explain the existence of God. She tapped out the symbols for the name God.
Much to Miss Sullivan’s surprise, Helen spelled back, “Thank you for telling me God’s name, Teacher, for He has touched me many times before.” Even in her darkness, Helen Keller already knew that God existed. With the help of Anne Sullivan, the young blind girl had the ability to “see” and learn more about who God is and what He does for us.
Each of us has an inborn spiritual need to know God, but we must go beyond our soul’s instinct to find out the specific details of what He is like and what He has done. The primary way we discover God’s nature is through the Bible. It is His special revelation to us, His way of communicating with us.
One thing I have learned over the years is that the Bible is a living book. The apostle John writes these intriguing lines: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2, niv). This is a mysterious and supernatural concept. The Word in this verse refers to Jesus Christ. What John is saying is that the text of the Bible is not just black ink on white paper, but it is infused with the character and message of Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of God. When we read the Bible, we discover the very essence of God’s nature.
Does this excite you as it does me? No other book can make this claim. The Bible is so interconnected with God that we cannot separate it from His being. In fact, when we read the Bible with the right attitude, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, joins in our spirit to help us understand it and apply it. The book comes alive! The words in the Bible have life-changing power.
Let me start our “treasure hunt” by giving you some facts that show the Bible’s influence. It is by far the best-selling book of all time. No other book comes close in the number of copies printed, distributed, reprinted, and passed down from one generation to the next. This remarkable book has been translated into more than fourteen hundred languages and dialects. People of extremely diverse backgrounds wrote it over a period of fifteen hundred years, and yet all sixty-six books of the Bible are uniquely in accord with each other. And most certainly there are more books written about the Bible than about any other work in the history of mankind. God’s holy and inspired Word towers above every other volume in terms of its positive impact on individuals and nations.
In fact, the Bible is the cornerstone of Western civilization. Let me give you one of my favorite examples. George Washington, one of the greatest figures in American history, was a man completely devoted to God and to His Word. Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”[iii] The first American president lived this out. From his youth, George Washington began and ended every day on his knees, reading his Bible and praying for God’s guidance and blessing. He taught the American troops that God’s Word was the standard to live by. What a tremendous example!
When approaching the Bible, we must recognize that it has a definite form and organization. Understanding this format will help us in our reading and study. To give you an overview of what is in the Bible, I have included four sections in this book.
Part 1—“Why Should I Believe the Bible?”—gives important information about the Bible’s author and the Scriptures’ reliability, basic message, and promises. Each chapter concludes with a section called Discover the Treasure, which includes material to help you dig into God’s Word for yourself. The discovery material in the next chapter will give a map of the major sections of the Bible. The next two chapters will help you establish a habit of reading and memorizing Scripture and of using Scripture to build a more effective prayer life.
Part 2—“How Can I Understand the Bible?”—gives the basic elements of how to study the Bible and apply what you learn. The discovery material includes simple Bible studies for you to try on your own.
Part 3—“What Is the Bible About?”—presents an amazing look at who God is and how we can respond to Him. The discovery material includes simple Bible studies that will illuminate God’s roles as Creator, judge, and Savior.
By the time you reach Part 4—“How Does the Bible Change My Life?”—you will begin to feel more comfortable about using your Bible. You will be ready for these practical chapters on how the Bible builds faith, power, holiness, and love in our hearts and relationships. The discovery material that accompanies these chapters leads you through several biographical studies.
The appendixes include more aids to help you continue to study the Bible long after you have closed this book.
The discovery material at the end of this chapter will help you select a Bible if you don’t already have a favorite version. You will also get a glimpse of the differences between several versions of the Bible. I encourage you to select one main version to use in your study but also have on hand several others so that you can compare passages of Scripture from time to time. Most of the verses quoted in this book are from the New Living Translation of the Bible. All others are marked.
At this point, you may be thinking, This sounds so hard. I’m not sure I can do it all. Take heart. The steps to the Bible studies in this book are simple, clear, and short. They are written with not only the beginner in mind but also the person who has a busy schedule and still wants to make reading and studying Scripture a priority.
This is not a deep theological book that digs out the most difficult concepts in the Bible. What I want above all is to give you the basic tools to help you begin your adventure with the Bible. God is so practical, and He wants us to live a glorious life. There is so much we can learn about who we are in God’s eyes and what He wants to do through us! Your life can truly be transformed by God’s Word, as mine has been.
Since I became a follower of Jesus, the desire of my heart has been to please Him, to love Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him. Christ, in turn, has graciously caused my faith to grow and my relationship with Him to be enhanced. Now I find that having walked with Jesus for nearly sixty years, I am far more in love with Him, more excited about Him, and more enthusiastic about sharing my faith in Christ with others with every passing day. So you can see why I am so excited about the Scriptures. This is where I learn of His love for me and how I can love and serve Him and others better.
My goal through this book is to encourage a true “revival of the Bible” in your life. Certainly the Bible contains far more than what I have condensed in these pages. Let this book inspire you to learn all you can about God’s supernatural Word so that you can go on to spend a wonderful lifetime of discovering God’s treasures. You will be the richer for it.
Before you turn to the next page, stop and ask God to open your heart and mind to understanding the marvelous gift of Scripture. In our sinful condition, we cannot change ourselves. But through opening ourselves to the work of God’s Spirit and reliance on God’s Word, He will do the changing in us!
The Bible is the greatest treasure you will ever own. It is priceless. What a tragedy it would be if you let its cover accumulate dust on a bookshelf through neglect. I encourage you to treasure the Bible as the greatest source of hope, strength, encouragement, peace, and blessing known to mankind.
Spending time with your own Bible is an important way of learning about God through His Word. The Bible is the most important book you will own, and it’s important that you have the right one for your needs. If you don’t own a Bible that helps you want to read God’s Word, consider the options we discuss in the following paragraphs.
Bibles are found in two different types—translations and paraphrases. Since the Bible was written mostly in Hebrew and Greek, our English versions are translations that biblical scholars have made from the original languages, preferably from the oldest manuscripts available. The scholars who work on a translation of the Bible must follow certain defined translation rules to ensure the accuracy of the English text. A paraphrase, on the other hand, is not a translation of the original languages. Paraphrases take existing translations and make them easier to read and understand by using contemporary idioms and phraseology.
When you are doing Bible study, I recommend that you use a translation because it will offer you the most accurate rendering of a passage. Translators use one of two methods in translating the Scriptures: formal equivalence or dynamic (functional) equivalence. Formal equivalence tries to render a word-for-word equivalent of the original language. Dynamic equivalence tries to render a thought-for-thought equivalence of the original language, an attempt to recreate the same “dynamic impact” on modern readers as the original text had on its readers.[iv]
I recommend reading the Bible in several translations, chosen for the unique characteristics of each Bible. By using different translations, you will gain a fuller understanding of the meaning of the original text. The list below will help you with selecting the right Bibles, and the comparisons of translations will give you a flavor of the differences you will encounter.
When you are doing devotional reading, you may want to use a paraphrase, which is sometimes easier to understand. I have enjoyed using The Living Bible as a paraphrase that speaks to my heart.
When choosing a Bible, also consider using a study Bible. Study Bibles come in various translations and include not only the full biblical text but also study notes, maps, time lines, outlines, and other helpful tools. We think study Bibles are so important that we are putting together a Discover God Study Bible that will accompany the books in this Discover God series. Our study Bible will be available around 2006. If you choose to buy a study Bible before then, consider some of the many study Bibles that Tyndale publishes.[v]
Technology has had a great impact on the resources available to us to study the Bible. A typical Bible-study software package offers thousands of commentary notes from dozens of Bible reference works for a fraction of the price of owning all of the separate resources. For instance, Tyndale’s iLumina, a Bible and encyclopedia suite, links over thirty-five thousand commentary notes to the verses of the Bible, along with hundreds of relevant photos. With many Bible software programs, you can instantly search everyday topics—such as love, friendship, or troubles—to find out what the Bible says about such topics. Plus, with a visually animated Bible, such as iLumina, you can explore virtual re-creations of the world of the Bible—the streets of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Tabernacle. Such visual and written resources are invaluable for understanding the context of Bible passages and their meaning. A solid Bible software package is a great start for a home Bible reference library and a powerful tool for understanding God’s Word.[vi]
The following list describes the main versions of the English Bible used today.[vii] Consider them when you purchase a new Bible. Then make that Bible your own. Underline key passages that speak to you. Make notes in the margins. Record dates of the times you claim a promise found in a certain verse. Read and hear the words in your Bible as a love letter from your heavenly Father.
New American Standard Bible (nasb)
King James Version (kjv)
American Standard Version (asv)
New King James Version (nkjv)
Revised Standard Version (rsv)
Literal with freedom to be idiomatic
New Revised Standard Version (nrsv)
New International Version (niv)
New Jerusalem Bible (njb)
Revised English Bible (reb)
Dynamic (functionally) equivalent (modern speech)
Today’s English Version (tev)
New Living Translation (nlt)
Contemporary English Version (cev)
The Living Bible (tlb)
The Message (message)
Looking at how various Bibles render the same passage can give you a sense of the distinctives of the various translations. Read how several Bibles (in alphabetical order) render this passage from John 1:1-5:
King James Version
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The Living Bible
1-2Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. 3He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make. 4Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. 5His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it.
New American Standard Bible
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2He was in the beginning with God.
3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
New International Version
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
New Living Translation
1In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 He created everything there is. Nothing exists that He didn’t make. 4 Life itself was in Him, and this life gives light to everyone. 5 The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
New Revised Standard Version
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
[i] Story taken from Peter Paul Biro, “Teri’s Find: A Forensic Study in Authentication,” <http://www.askart.com/interest/advertisement_pollock.asp>.
[ii] Even though Dr. Bright died during the final revisions and editing of this book, the publishers decided to retain the verb tenses in the present tense to reflect his thoughts in his initial writing of the book.
[iii] This comment is quoted on several Web sites. For example, see “Notable Sayings about the Bible,” by Henry H. Haley, <http://www.bible-history.com/quotes/henry_h_haley_1.html>.
[iv] If you want to learn more about these two schools of translation, see Philip W. Comfort, Essential Guide to Bible Versions (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 2000), 99–108.
[v] Tyndale’s wide selection of study Bibles—including its popular Life Application Bibles—offers various translations and paraphrases. For a full list of study Bibles available, go to the Tyndale Web site at www.tyndale.com, and click on Catalog, Bibles, and Study, or see http://public.tyndalebooksellers.com/search.asp.
[vi] The iLumina software includes small-group discussion questions linked to every chapter of the Bible and Life Application Bible Studies linked to every chapter of the New Testament, all instantly available and printable for the individual and for Sunday school classes and other small groups. You can find iLumina at Christian bookstores, or go to the Tyndale Web site at www.tyndale.com, and click on Catalog, Bibles, and CD-ROM.
[vii] Adapted from Comfort, Essential Guide to Bible Versions, 235.