Title: Ryken’s Bible Handbook
Authors: Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken and James Wilhoit
Publisher: Tyndale House (2005)
Studying the Bible can be a challenge. While the majority is relatively straightforward, there are many passages and books that don’t make sense to the average reader. How do you properly interpret a book like Revelation? How do you apply the Proverbs, the Parables or the Song of Solomon?
And where do you start to look for answers?
Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken and James Wilhoit’s Ryken’s Bible Handbook is a great starting point. This book provides a book-by-book overview of the entire Bible, complete with notes on the context, the key themes and doctrines, key words and phrases, tips for teaching and even historical perspectives.
Much of this information is really a student or teacher’s dream come true! Because I’m a bit of a geek about these kinds of things, I really appreciated reading the insights of the three authors, especially because they give a little different perspective than your average study Bible. While there is definitely some crossover, the authors have a little more space to go in-depth into the subject matter. The tips for reading & teaching are exceptional as they give little nuggets to direct the flow of application questions you might ask in a small group or points to bring up in a sermon. They also point out things for you to watch for in your reading.
Especially helpful for me, though, were the articles on reading each literary style. One of the great struggles I’ve had in teaching and preaching is making sure I’m honoring the text as literature. You don’t preach the Psalms the same way you would a narrative passage of the Gospels or Acts. You don’t teach a parable the same way you would Proverbs. But by understanding each unique style that appears in the Bible, I’m better able to communicate that and avoid coming up with interpretations that are completely off-base.
For example, by knowing that many passages contain satire (the exposure of human vice or folly, often accompanied by humor or sarcasm), you’re better able to understand many of Jesus’ own comments.
Take Matthew 19:24. Here, Jesus says that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” If you take that literally (as some commentators have), you end up in this kind of crazy place where you have to suggest that there was a tiny gate in the wall of Jerusalem called “the eye of the needle” that a camel could only pass through if it were crawling.
Or, if you read it as satire, you see the rebuke—that the love of money is a snare and it’s easier for the impossible to happen (a camel fitting through the eye of a needle) than for one who is consumed with the love of material wealth to enter the kingdom of God. Understanding the literary style helps you better understand these passages and actually be able to see glimpses of Jesus’ sense of humor.
Ryken’s Bible Handbook is an invaluable resource to any student of the Bible. It’s helpful, insightful and well worth the investment.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by the publishers