Tag Archives: Bible Studies

Frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament

A brand new Christian who is sitting in the pew hears the pastor say – “Open up to Habbakuk 3:1” and has no idea where to even start looking for that book – or a seasoned Christian who has sat through innumerable sermons and Bible studies but wants to learn about the Bible on his own… this book by Eric Larson is for those two Christians and everyone in between.

Even this guy could use a book like this!

Frameworks, according to Larson, is…

A book about Bible navigation and context – material that’s designed to build your confidence in your ability to negotiate the text and understand it. Think of it as a guidebook, a Bible companion, written for anyone who would like to have a personal biblical tour guide. This book can be sued for self-study, in small group discussions, or in classrooms to set the context for Bible reading and to lead you through it. (15)

This book certainly lives up to its stated purposes. Larson helps you navigate through the New Testament first by providing an introduction to the New Testament as a whole. Here he gives you the background necessary to read the gospels and all of the NT letters. Then he takes you through each New Testament book one by one. As he takes you through these books he answers 10 questions:

  1. What is the book like?
  2. What is this book about?
  3. Why was it written?
  4. How is the book organized?
  5. How does it read?
  6. How do I move through it?
  7. What makes the book or its author special?
  8. What should I remember most?
  9. How can I explore further or go deeper?
  10. What one verse can I apply right now?

What I liked

There are several things that really stuck out to me as being fantastic about this book:

  1. Solid use of evangelical scholarship that doesn’t dumb things down but makes things accessible to the general reader.
  2. Helpful organization of the content.
  3. Very helpful and memorable introductions to each book.
  4. Some really amazing pictures and graphics.
  5. Easy to read layout.

What I Didn’t Like

Naturally there are some things that I didn’t like about the book:

  1. The introduction to the synoptic gospels harmonizes the books too much and doesn’t allow each book to speak for itself.
  2. Some of the pictures were clearly stock photos, which I feel like I have seen elsewhere.
  3. Some of the graphics were poor in quality, its almost like they didn’t print out well.
  4. There were some typos throughout the book.
  5. Some of his book “themes” were quite a stretch, its as if he preferred to have an easy to memorize/catchy statement over a more accurate one.

Overall Thoughts

This is a fantastic New Testament survey which will definitely help “ordinary” people navigate their way through the New Testament. I wouldn’t use this book for a NT survey class in a college or seminary, however this might be an awesome textbook for somebody teaching a New Testament survey at a Christian high school or in a Sunday school class. Regardless of how you use it though, it sure is helpful, and it even sparked some ideas within me for preaching series!

(Note: I received this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.)

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Book Review – New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit and Kingdom by Robbie Fox Castleman

As the person who oversees college Life Groups at my church I know how hard it is to find, write, or develop good small group/bible study curriculum. Over the years I have perused tons of Bible studies and small group materials, only to be fairly disappointed every time. However, Robbie Castleman’s New Testament Essentials a collection of 12 weekly bible studies does not disappoint.

Castleman’s book focuses on two basic characteristics of the New Testament – first that it is Christocentric and second that it is thoroughly Trinitarian. These two themes get developed across three bigger sections: 1) the person and work of Christ, 2) the person and work of the Spirit in the church, and 3) the kingdom of God. Under each of these sections you will find a Bible study portion – 5 in the Christ section, 3 in the Spirit section, and 4 in the Kingdom section.

Each of these sections include:

1 – Bible Study: scripture to read, some texts to memorize, and some question to reflect on based on the reading.

2 – Reading: a section written by Castleman in which she offers background and insight into the passage.

3 – Connecting to the Old Testament: here she helps the reader understand how the New Testament draws upon the Old Testament.

4 – The Ancient Story and Our Story: a section on how the passage connects with our lives as Christians today.

Thoughts….

I was pretty impressed with the book. Rarely do I come across a bible study that actually challenges me to think deeply about Scripture and deeply about my life. Bible studies tend to go one-way or the other, but this one found a a great balance. Also I thoroughly enjoyed it – in fact I did one study each morning for 12 days. During those twelve days I was forced to ask myself deep questions about my life with God and I was challenged to really read Scripture instead of simply skimming it. All in all it was a valuable exercise.

However I can foresee some issues that people will have with this book. First, and maybe this was just my own issue, the book started falling apart in just a few days. Maybe it was created so you could rip out the pages for “study purposes” but I highly doubt that is the case. Second, I can foresee some people saying that the study questions are way too difficult. The author really leads the reader into some heavy exegetical work, meaning that most people will have a difficult time making it through the questions in a timely manner. I found the depth quite refreshing, but I know not everybody will feel the same way. This makes me wonder about its intended audience, who is this book really for? Is it for a new believer? I doubt it. Is it for the average adult? Probably not. I imagine that it is probably geared towards college students and/or seminarians.

Overall this study guide impressed me. I enjoyed working through each session. I was challenged and stretched and I believe that others will be too.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)