What do you reach for when you want to better understand the Bible? Are your shelves and devices lacking a certain something that could help you go deeper with Scripture? Would your Christmas wishlist benefit from a dash of inspiration?
Here, five of our academic staff members suggest their top resources for unlocking more of the Bible’s rich treasures:
5. A Bible atlas, such as the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas
Nominated by Dr Chris Sinkinson
Lecturer in Old Testament and Apologetics
“One of the best resources we can reach for is a Bible atlas. We sometimes forget how the Bible is rooted in real places. To understand where those places are, you need an atlas. When I’m reading a place name in the Bible, often that’s one of the words that’ll go straight over my head.
Think of the Bible as a time machine. It is set in time and space; in time, we need to know when in history it happened. In space, we need to know where in geography it happened. When Jesus tells a story of a man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, we’ll realise that he really did have to go down. Jerusalem is up on a hill, and Jericho is down below. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is in the wilderness and in the desert; it’s a lonely, dangerous road through the ravines. It’s only really an atlas that can bring alive the place names that the Bible writers knew about.
The Crossway ESV Bible Atlas ( not only provides the maps, but Leen Ritmeyer (a Dutch archaeologist and architect) has also drawn state-of-the-art pictures of the locations we read about. They’re based on the contemporary archaeology as he’s looked at where these locations have been excavated, what has been revealed, and therefore how Jerusalem or Bethlehem would have been in the ancient world. These pictures really help bring it to life.”
Crossway ESV Bible Atlas, $50 RRP
4. Logos Bible Software
Nominated by Dr Helen Morris
Acting BA Course Leader
“I always turn to Logos Bible Software. It’s a really useful resource, as it’s got so much information and so many commentary series all in one place, meaning I don’t have to go searching around on my bookshelf. I’ve got a series of commentaries on there, so I can type in the Bible passage and get it on NIV or ESV. You can select a commentary, and it will tell you all about it. There are some really respectable scholars on there who provide a strong, in-depth analysis—all in one place.”
Logos Bible Software 7, from $235.99
3. A biblical theology dictionary, such as IVP’s New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Nominated by Alistair McKitterick
Lecturer in Biblical and Theological Studies
“A resource that I would recommend somebody reach for is a biblical theology dictionary. The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, released by IVP, treats the Bible both in its unity and its diversity. It reads the Bible as both as one book with one story, from start to finish centred on Jesus, but also as lots of interesting, unique stories and major themes that run through Scripture and each have a point to make.
Reading the Bible through the lens of biblical theology helps us to see how each passage and book fits in with the whole of scripture, rather than just reaching for the Bible as a ‘thought for the day’.
I recommend reading the Bible as one extended narrative; the whole Word of God.”
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, £39.99 RRP
2. The Bible
Nominated by Andy Du Feu
Acting Vice Principal (Academic)
“The Bible. No jokes. People are not aware about what the Bible says about the Bible. What does the Word of God say about the Word of God? I interpret passages and verses based on what I know of the Bible, reading the passage in terms of its wider context.
The other day I asked some students, ‘Who can tell me anything about Jehoshaphat?’ There was an awkward silence. I went back home to my three-year-old and I read her the story of Joseph. I told her how they dipped the cloak in animal blood and took it back to Jacob. My daughter interjects, ‘No Daddy, it’s goat’s blood.’ Ouch! I was schooled by a three year-old! I’ll take it! How about you come into college with me? There’s a whole bunch of students you need to school!
So, it’s that biblical literacy that people don’t have. For example, let’s look at when Jesus was talking about him being the Son of Man, instead of ‘the Son of God’. If you don’t understand anything from Daniel or Ezekiel then that sort of expression goes straight over your head. For me, before any other book or resource, I reach for the Bible.”
And in first place…
1. The Bible. Again!
Nominated by Ian Coffey
Vice Principal (Strategy)
“There are lots of good things out there, such as Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, many commentaries and dictionaries. The usual place I start, however, is by looking at the Bible itself. If you hit a passage that is really puzzling, the first thing to do is to say, ‘Does the Bible shed light on this?’ ‘How do I interpret this in the light of what the Bible says in other places?’
One of the modules I teach is Preaching and Communication. I try to avoid letting students sit down and say, ‘I’ve got a great passage, let me go and find a great commentary, and I’ll work a sermon from that.’ The difficulty is that all they’re doing is reproducing what the commentator has written. Work with scripture, and when you feel that you’ve done enough, start to look at external resources. A phrase I often use is, ‘Write yourself empty, read yourself full.’ You write yourself empty by looking at the passage of scripture and comparing it with other passages of Scripture until you’ve got nothing left. So, you’ve written yourself empty, and then you can read yourself full. That way, you allow Scripture to speak rather than you looking into Scripture through someone else’s lens.
However, there are certain passages which are really difficult to understand. At that point, I tend to go to certain kinds of commentaries where I have learnt confidence over the years. For me as a pastor, one of the best series that has come out is The Bible Speaks Today, usually written by people who are both theologians and pastor-preachers. Often when you’re a working minister or preacher, you need good theology—but you also need to know how to apply it to a local congregation.”
How about you? What do you reach for when you need a deeper understanding of the Bible? Tweet us your thoughts and share your ideas.