“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
This word from the Psalms should stand as a motto over the whole Bible Overview course and thus make it clear: Here it is about learning and knowledge, but above all it is about understanding, growing further into the Word of God that has been handed down in writing.
The Bible is the greatest book of mankind, it is unique, just the book (Greek: biblios). It is an inexhaustible treasure, in which you will always discover new things throughout your life. Because it is not a compendium of clever human wisdom, but the collection of the word of God, which came to us over several thousand years of history in diverse times and ways.
“For all scripture (is) inspired by God”.
(theopneustos: 2Ti 3:16)
This requires an attitude of humility towards the Holy Scriptures, which is not always easy. For in reading the Bible one will time and time again come across passages of Scripture that one does not really like, or that one simply does not want to or cannot understand, because they contradict one’s own experience. Such passages are often reinterpreted. Here it is best to listen to Martin Luther’s advice: If you are unable to understand something in Scripture, then “take off your hat and move on”, for:
“Scripture does not want to be mastered.”
One does violence to the Holy Scriptures if one puts them on the last of the modern spirit of the times and only accepts what corresponds to one’s own understanding of reality, as it is common in the present university theology.
One also does violence to the Holy Scriptures if one uses them as a quarry for torn out quotations that are only meant to confirm one’s own opinion. Whoever knits a whole worldview out of a torn Bible verse, offends against the diversity of the Bible.
This diversity of the bible is really a unique feature of this book. It reflects the diversity of human life and the diversity of human experiences with the one living God. This diversity is its strength, but at the same time also its difficulty when studying the bible:
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels”
(2 Cor. 4:7)
It is not always easy to come to terms with the diversity of the Bible. Whoever wants to play off one creation story against the other right at the beginning of reading the Bible has understood little of its richness. Those who want to iron out both with hot iron have destroyed the diversity. Its diversity is its strength. But diversity does not mean arbitrariness at all.
So reading the Bible is not that easy. Bible studies should be a help for this. It broadens the horizon by providing a broad overview of the Bible, discovering continuous lines, making people aware of connections, but also pointing out individual highlights.
Of course, knowledge is also required, which must be presentable in the end in an examination paper. Whoever works in the church must know “their” Bible. This also indispensable includes a basic knowledge of biblical studies. This concerns for example: Locations of the most important accounts in the OT and NT, but also individual especially important Bible locations such as the Songs of the Servant of God, Our Father, the most important parables of Jesus, the I Am Statements, etc., but also the arrangement of the books within the canon such as the order of the prophetic books, etc. But not everything is equally important: In the Pentateuch, for example, Genesis must already be known, Exodus must be understood in its structure and known in the most important accounts. Leviticus to Dt. only in the overview.
However, it seems to make little sense to demand the amount of factual knowledge that Westermann, for example, offers. Learning the exact reference for a certain Bible verse by heart is no longer absolutely necessary today – except for very important Bible passages – because this is done by the search function of every computer. More important than a detailed knowledge of the facts seems to be the competence to deal with the different books of the Bible. Knowledge of the variety and peculiarities of the individual writings opens up the Holy Scriptures from within. Such Bible competence is to be developed. Only it creates an overview of the diversity of the entire Bible and the great connections of the history of salvation, which God walked with his people Israel and which was completed in the incarnation of his Son.
A sign of the diversity of the Bible is also the inclusion of quite different writings from several centuries in the canon of the OT. The synagogue has determined the extent of its holy scripture only between 100 before and 100 after Christ’s birth. The question of the binding validity, the so-called canonization of the OT scriptures is quickly answered: the early church simply adopted the decisions of the synagogue and thus also declared the controversial writings of Kohelet and the Song of Songs to be canonical.
It can be a wonderful journey of discovery when one can perceive the hidden connections to the New Testament already at the very beginning of the Old Testament. When one discovers hidden references to the Trinity such as the Spirit of God (Gen.1,2) and the rationally unexplainable plural “let us make man” (Gen. 1,26). Or if Gen.3:15 is understood as a messianic prophecy. Then the Holy Scripture begins to shine from within and does not let you go.
On the structure of the course
The Syllabus Bible Studies of ths provides for the following structure of the course Bible Studies. The seven course units each contain one course day of 6 teaching hours:
2 History books
4 Scriptures and Apocrypha
5 Synoptic Gospels and Acts of the Apostles
6 Gospel of John, Epistles of John, Revelation of John
7 Paul’s letters and other letters
8 Exam (including discussion)
Note on the use of sources:
1 – 1st primary source the Bible,
Additional to the biblical indexing the obligatory compulsory reading:
2 – Westermann, Claus and Ferdinand Ahuis, Calwer Bibelkunde, 15th ed. Stuttgart 2008
However, this work is quite extensive, so that it can hardly be worked through completely in the time-limited course. Therefore, in some places this
3 – Script as an abridged version.
If necessary, Westermann can always be called in.
As an easy-to-read introduction that gives a good overview, it is recommended (but not
obligatory) the catholic bible study
4 – Dohmen, Christoph and Thomas Hieke, The Book of Books. Kevelaer 2012.
For the OT the likewise not obligatory work was additionally consulted:
5 – Ellisen, Stanley A., From Adam to Malachi. Understanding the Old Testament, Dillenburg 2015.
It is well written and informative, but at times paints with too thick a brush and then becomes inaccurate.
In view of the large amount of material, the approach is partly exemplary. In the Pentateuch, for example, the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are underweighted compared to Genesis and Exodus, which are heavily weighted.