By now, I hope you’ve had a chance to look at Bible Gateway’s new Digital Store. The six titles there work a little differently than other ebooks—when you buy one of these titles, you unlock it within the Bible Gateway interface, and can access it right alongside Scripture as you read online. (Read more about how it works here.)
It’s a new feature, and to encourage you to try it out, I thought it would be useful to take a closer look at one of the titles you can buy and unlock. I picked a title that I’ve found very helpful over the years (there’s a print copy on my shelf; I was quite pleased to see it appear in our first round of digital titles): How to Read the Bible Book by Book.
The two authors, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, have impeccable credentials when it comes to biblical scholarship, and between them can point to decades of teaching, preaching, and writing about the Bible. In How to Read the Bible Book by Book, they’ve assembled their insights about understanding Scripture in a way that’s accessible to anyone.
Here’s an example, taken from their discussion of the biblical book of Genesis:
As you read this first book in the Bible… be watching for both the major plot and several subplots that help to shape the larger family story, the story of the people of God.
The major plot has to do with God’s intervening in the history of human fallenness by choosing (“electing”) a man and his family. For even though the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the major players, you are never allowed to forget that God is the ultimate Protagonist—as is true in all the biblical narratives. Above all else, it is his story. God speaks and thereby creates the world and a people. It becomes their story (and ours) only as God has brought this family into being and made promises to them and covenanted with them to be their God. So keep looking for the way the major plot unfolds and for how the primary players become part of God’s ultimate narrative.
At the same time, keep your eyes open for several subplots that are crucial to the larger story of the Old Testament people of God—and in some cases of the people constituted by the new covenant as well….
The first of these—crucial to the whole biblical story—is the occurrence of the first two covenants between God and his people. The first covenant is with all of humankind through Noah and his sons, promising that God will never again cut off life from the earth (9:8-17). The second covenant is with Abraham, promising two things especially—the gift of “seed” who will become a great nation to bless the nations, and the gift of land (12:2-7; 15:1-21; cf. 17:3-8, where the covenant is ratified by the identifying mark of circumcision). The second covenant is repeated to Isaac (26:3-5) and Jacob (28:13-15) and in turn serves as the basis for the next two Old Testament covenants: the gift of the law (Exodus 20-24) and the gift of kingship (2 Samuel 7).
God’s choice of the younger (or weaker, or most unlikely) to bear the righteous seed is [another] subplot that begins in Genesis. Here it takes two forms in particular that are then repeated throughout the biblical story. First, God regularly bypasses the firstborn son in carrying out his purposes (a considerable breach of the cultural rules on the part of God): not Cain but Seth, not Ishmael but Isaac, not Esau but Jacob, not Reuben but Judah. Second, the godly seek is frequently born of an otherwise barren woman (Sarah, 18:11-12; Rebekah, 25:21; Rachel, 29:31). As you read through the whole biblical story, you will want to be on the lookout for this recurring motif (see, e.g., 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11; Luke 1).
Related to this theme is the fact that the chosen ones are not chosen because of their own goodness….
That’s an example of the sort of study material to be found in How to Read the Bible Book by Book. If you found it interesting and useful, unlocking it as a Digital Product makes the entirety of the book accessible alongside Scripture as you read on Bible Gateway. So take a look at this and the other titles in the Digital Store! (And don’t forget that several Bible commentaries are already available for free in the Related Resources drawer on Bible Gateway—to access the free commentaries and any digital titles you’ve unlocked, see #5 in this list.)