Do you view the Bible as a disconnected series of moral tales interspersed between impossible commandments, woven into a maze of mysteries that somehow produces a message about a nice Jesus in the New Testament to counter the mean God of the Old Testament (as Bryan Chapell, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, has phrased it)?
Bible Gateway interviewed Greg Gilbert (@greggilbert), general editor of the ESV Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey Through the Unfolding Promises of God (Crossway, 2018).
How is the Bible more than a collection of individual books?
Greg Gilbert: Many Christians tend to treat the Bible as a series of mostly unrelated books that deal with various topics—sometimes even to the point of thinking that each verse is a self-contained “fortune cookie”! But in reality, the Bible is an epic story that runs from God’s creation of the world to the Last Day when his redeemed people stand in glory before him in a Recreated Heavens and Earth. When you see that reality—that it is, Genesis through Revelation telling One Epic Story—you’ll understand God’s purposes more fully and therefore love him and worship him more deeply for what he has done.
What is the objective of this Bible?
Greg Gilbert: The ESV Story of Redemption Bible is designed to help readers understand and make their way through the entire epic story of the Bible, from start to finish. It’s so easy to start out on a Bible reading plan, with all the best intentions of making it all the way through, but then to lose the thread—usually somewhere in the middle of Leviticus, let’s be honest!—and give up. In this Bible, though, my goal is to go with you as a sort of “tour guide,” helping you keep the thread, pointing out interesting developments in the story, reminding you of where we’ve been and where we’re headed, and generally helping you not just read but also understand this story in all its epic glory, tension, and drama.
Explain the way this Bible is constructed and its various study aids, including the timeline at the end.
Greg Gilbert: The main feature of the ESV Story of Redemption Bible is the notes that appear at various points in the text. I wrote those with the aim of helping the reader keep the thread of the Bible’s storyline. One of the most interesting features, I think, is that if you follow the notes, you’ll read all 66 books of the Bible, but you won’t necessarily read them in canonical order. So for example, instead of reading the 12 Minor Prophets in one big chunk at the end of the Old Testament, the notes will send you to read those books at the appropriate time in the story (many of them in the middle of 2 Kings, it turns out), and then send you back to where you were to pick up the story again.
There are other features that help you keep your footing in the story as well, including beautiful maps and illustrations throughout. Finally, at the back of the Bible is a stunningly designed fold-out timeline of the whole story of the Bible, which is invaluable for remembering “when” you are as you read the story.
What Bible passage was particularly challenging for you to write an explanatory note for and how did you handle it?
Greg Gilbert: I think the Minor Prophets are incredibly difficult to get our modern heads around. I’ve often said that they seem to us mostly like a bowl of “judgment spaghetti” with a “Messianic meatball” thrown in here and there! But what I learned, even in writing these notes, was that if you can put the Minor Prophets in their correct place in the story—that is, if you read them at the point of the story when they were actually preaching—they tend to come to life. You can see why they said what they did because you’ve just been reading about those very things in the book of 2 Kings.
What Bible passage was particularly joyous for you to write about?
Greg Gilbert: Strangely enough, I think it was probably the Major Prophets, especially Isaiah. Isaiah paints a breath-taking picture of the coming Messiah—700 years before his birth!—and I think Christians often miss that because Isaiah is such a long and daunting book. But hopefully, with a tour guide to go along with you, you’ll be able to understand and revel in Isaiah’s message in a way that perhaps you never have before.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Greg Gilbert: I use Bible Gateway all the time. I love having a resource that’s easy to search and navigate right at my fingertips. It’s an indispensable tool for me, in writing, in sermon prep, and in my devotions.
Bio: Greg Gilbert (MDiv, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author of Why Trust the Bible?, What Is the Gospel?, Who Is Jesus?, and James: A 12-Week Study, and is the co-author (with Kevin DeYoung) of What Is the Mission of the Church?.
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