If I had to choose just one Bible handbook to accompany solid Bible study, it would be How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Zondervan) by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, both well-known and respected biblical scholars. This book, now in its third edition, has proven itself over three decades. The first edition, which came out in 1981, is still valuable, and the latest edition is a real treat. I use this book for college and seminary classes, and I also recommend it to my church.
Fee and Stuart’s book is not a handbook, as perhaps some would define that term. It is not loaded with facts or background. What it does, though, is lead the reader to a more serious, in-depth approach to the Bible. The authors begin, wisely, with a brief introduction to the necessity of interpretation (hermeneutics), because we all do interpret. And they provide a very helpful approach to evaluating the variety of English translations of the Bible.
The core of the book, however, is found in the chapters devoted to the specific issues one confronts in the various kinds of biblical literature: the Epistles, Old Testament narrative, Gospels, Law, Prophets, Psalms, etc. The authors provide guidelines or principles for interpreting each kind of literature and some warnings about approaches that result in over-interpreting or misinterpreting. Along with providing general strategies for reading, the book also has a lot of excellent examples that help unlock the Scriptures.
This is a book that respects the Bible as God’s Word, and yet opens up the human context and means by which that Word is conveyed. Every student who wants to understand the Bible should keep a copy of this book alongside his or her favorite Bible.
Mark Matson serves as associate professor of Bible at Milligan College in Tennessee.