Helpful Features of This Daily Bible Guide
Read The Bible With Commentary In A Year By Spending Only a Few Minutes Every Day-- The book aims at readers of any denomination who want the full Bible experience, with daily reflections—Genesis through Malachi in the Old Testament and Matthew through Revelation in the New Testament—in one year. (The Apocrypha is also included.) The theme is a layman’s journey through scripture, so the comments are those of a visitor, not an experienced traveler, but expert Bible commentators are always nearby. Each day’s reading requires 10-20 minutes, more or less, including scripture and ommentary..
All the Great Stories, Prayers, Incidents and Memorable Characters Are Included -- A reader will find the famous and not-so-famous narratives from the Old and New Testament: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and his coat of many colors, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath (there were really two Goliath stories, one not involving David at all), David and Bathsheba, Jezebel and Ahab, Daniel in the lion’s den, the forty rulers (including one queen) of Israel/Judah, Elijah and Elisha, plus hundreds more from the Hebrew Bible—and Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Peter and Paul, James and John, Herod, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, centurions, priests and all the heroes, villains and common people of the New Testament. Many Christians who haven’t met the major and minor prophets before will discover that prophecy was a terribly difficult job. Many of these men were reluctant when God’s call came—but they performed their duties admirably, contributing some of the world’s great literature and poetry in the process. We’ll encounter all the famous prophetic quotations, too, from swords into plowshares in Isaiah (Isaiah 2:4) and Micah (Micah 4:3) to plowshares into swords in Joel (Joel 3:10), Amos’s great vision of justice flowing like water, immortalized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Amos 5:24), and hundreds more.
The major character is Jesus, and since he knew the Hebrew Bible very well, there are countless times when he quotes the Psalms, prophets and Torah. For example, in Luke Chapter 4 where Jesus opens up the heaviest scroll of all, Isaiah, and goes almost to the end of it to find the words that he chose to announce his mission in the world: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2, NRSV). And as that same Luke 4 story continues, Jesus uses examples from the lives of Elijah and Elisha, Hebrew Bible heroes, to shame his detractors. It’s that continuing link between the Old and the New Testaments that is at the center of the book’s perspective.
Many Special Features But Never a Compromise with the Basic Text -- The approach in these daily readings is a combination of reverence and frankness. . Nearly every reading offers parallels in the author’s experience and linkages to literature other than religious. For example, Samuel, David and Solomon were great men but they had some bad sons who complicated their lives—something that happens to great leaders even today. King Saul reminds a reader of King Lear—it didn’t have to turn out that way—but that’s why his story is considered tragic. Israel and Judah each had forty different kings before the Captivity but most of them were average or worse. Aren’t many of today’s leaders average or worse? Pilate was an appointed governor who probably allowed Jesus to be crucified because he didn’t want Rome to think that he was being unreasonable to the influential leaders in Jerusalem. Do today’s leaders ever temporize in tough situations? The author’s spin on all the stories, hymns, miracles, wars and great personalities is like that of Abraham and Moses early in their journeys--that of a stranger or alien (Genesis 15:13, Genesis 23:4, Exodus 2:22)—not yet familiar with the territory, but learning all the time.
Here are some other features:
Easy to use -- The book is designed to be simple to use and easy to read. It’s possible to find various scripture passages, specific days’ readings and even key words, with a click or two. Reflections on this journey are usually brief, informal and light, only an appetizer. The main meal each day is the appropriate scripture passage, direct from the New Revised Standard Version or occasionally from other translations. There are hundreds of endnotes but you don’t need to click on them unless you want to.
Extensive study of the commentators and other experts – The author, a lay person, has studied hundreds of outside resources, scripture experts from Christian, Jewish and other denominations. His role is mostly as a person being whisked along on a year-long tour by expert guides, although sometimes he disagrees with the tour leaders.
Layman’s perspective -- As a layperson who is still marveling at the immense complexity of the Bible, the author’s spin on each day’s readings is different from that of an expert. It must be. Yet the Bible messages shine through every day.
Frequent geographical updates -- There are many comments on the “where” of the scripture. When the Israelites go to the wilderness of Paran, its current location (on the Sinai Peninsula) is described. Abraham lived near Hebron in today’s Israel. Jonah’s Nineveh is probably today’s Mosul, Iraq. The journeys of Paul, which covered about ten thousand miles, and the movements of Jesus are described in contemporary geographical detail and so are the travels of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David and other great personalities in Bible. The reader can find most of the important places on a modern atlas because people and events are situated in their current locations—modern cities and towns--as much as possible.
Famous quotes are singled out -- The best-known stories, sayings, prayers, curses and hymns of the Bible are emphasized. In most cases there are special graphics to call attention to the memorable lines from the Old and New Testaments.
Enumeration of commandments, feasts, blessings, curses, etc. -- Whenever there are important enumerations, bold numbers or brackets set them off. You’ll find this in the tribes of Israel, the Ten Commandments, the ten plagues, the three dreams that guided Joseph early in Matthew, the selection of the twelve apostles, the major feasts of the Israelites in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and many other places. In 1st Peter almost two dozen instructions--a to-do list of sorts—is set off for the reader’s examination.
Selection of the most relevant text.-- The Bible has a million words, over a thousand chapters and more than thirty thousand verses and some parts, like the first nine chapters of 1st Chronicles, are omitted, or excerpted. Aside from Psalms, Sirach, and Proverbs, which are complete, the other seventy books are sometimes in excerpted form.
Charts, maps and tables – Instead of charts, maps and tables in the text, the reader is directed to books and web sites that feature them. So you can be quickly transported to wonderful sites like Bible-history.com to additional details.
Inclusion of appropriate dramatic and musical examples -- Songs and stories from the worlds of drama and entertainment are included or given as links when they seem to fit, like Ezekiel’s dry bones, Henry V’s “band of brothers”, the Medical Mission Sisters’ “God Loves a Cheerful Giver”, Grammy winner Tom Paxton’s “How Beautiful Upon the Mountain”( from Isaiah 52:7), and many others.
Some examples from the Latin Mass -- Just skip these parts if you want. Pilate probably said in Latin “Quod scripsi scripsi” (“what I have written, I have written”—meaning leave the words labeling Jesus “King of the Jews” as they are) in the Passion story. For Catholics of a certain age, many will be quite familiar. Psalm 43, for example, includes “I will go to the altar of God”, “Introibo ad altare dei” . That’s what the priest said during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The altar boy’s reply was “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam” or “to God who is the joy of my youth”.
Reference to useful web sites – Internet links are provided for further study of Solomon’s temple, of Michelangelo’s Moses statue and dozens of others.
Other translations included -- While the basic Bible source is New Revised Standard Version, several other translations occasionally used.