The preaching task is rooted in Scripture — both studying the text itself, then studying other sources to explore the text’s background, setting, and possible interpretations. And year by year, publishers provide ever more resources to enable preachers to carry out that task most effectively.
Recent months have witnessed the release of some interesting Bibles and biblical study resources that will be of value to those who proclaim the Word.
One of the most unique and helpful releases of the past year is The Message: the New Testament in Contemporary English by Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress, 1993). Peterson, an accomplished writer and former Presbyterian pastor, now serves as professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Message is a paraphrase (based on the Greek text) which attempts to capture in contemporary English idiom the flavor and power of the original language; Peterson wants us to hear the text as it would have been heard and understood by those who read it the first time. There are chapter divisions but no verses. The language is fresh, expressive, vivid. I can already foresee using certain passages in the pulpit to enhance the congregation’s understanding of a text.
For example, here is Peterson’s rendering of the opening verses of Roman 12:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out” (p. 328).”
During this season of the year, Luke 2 is a frequently-used text. Here’s how Peterson expresses a portion of that favorite passage:
“While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
“There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid, I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide. A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re looking for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.’
“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: ‘Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him’ (p. 119).”
No translation is perfect, and Peterson’s paraphrase is just that (rather than a literal translation) — although his facility with the Greek text makes it a far better work than the popular but flawed The Living Bible. Readers will find places where they disagree with Peterson’s interpretation in specific instances. Nevertheless, much as J. B. Phillips’ translation provided a wonderful interpretive tool to preachers of a previous generation, The Message will be a helpful resource to preachers who are proclaiming the truth of God’s Word in contemporary American culture.
Another significant release this year is The Word in Life Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, 1993). Using the New King James text of the New Testament, this 1013-page volume offers a kaleidoscope of study notes and references; indeed, on some pages you can nearly miss the biblical text itself in the midst of an abundance of decorative maps, profiles, articles, and study notes.
At the beginning of each New Testament book is a one-page introduction, followed by a table of contents listing articles about various portions of the text, a profile of the biblical author, and a map (where appropriate). Some of the articles that accompany the text of Luke’s gospel, for example, include: “Jesus is for Gentiles, Too” (1:1-4), “New Testament Political Rulers” (3:1), “The Underclass” (7:20-22), “What is the Gospel” (7:22), “The Women Who Followed Jesus” (8:13), and “Can Laity Get the Job Done?” (9:1-62).
As you proceed through the text, you encounter abundant sidebars and highlighted articles shedding light on various personalities or issues mentioned in the biblical text. Pages 212-213 of the Word in Life Study Bible contain the last two verses of Luke 2 and the first seven verses of Luke 3, accompanied by an article on “Jesus the Student” (keyed to 2:46-47), a brief profile of Anna (2:36-38), and a chart of the major Jewish feasts (2:42). Small graphic symbols beside the biblical text direct you to various study elements.
Many preachers will find the Word in Life Study Bible to be a source of ample ideas and insight in New Testament study.
One of the most unique Bibles you’ll come across is The NIV Rainbow Study Bible (Rainbow Studies, Inc.). Using the text of the New International Version, this Bible color codes the entire text to correspond to one of twelve thematic headings: God, Discipleship, Love, Faith, Sin, Satan, Salvation, Family, Witnessing, Commandments, History, and Prophecy. A favorite “preacher parlor game” could be arguing over which passages should have been given a different color/theme! The parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-29) alone goes through nine different color sections as you move through the parable.
An entirely new translation released this year is the New Life Version Victor Books, 1993). Known as a “special controlled vocabulary” Bible, the NLV was developed by missionaries for use with Eskimos who were just beginning to learn English. The entire text of the Bible uses only 850 words; more difficult phrases are typically broken down into a series of understandable words.
This is not a Bible preachers will use in their own study or pulpit, but it offers great potential for use in prison ministry, literacy ministry, with children, and with others for whom English is a second language. Given the diverse cultures within which many preachers serve today, the New Life Version is likely to find a welcome place in many arenas.
The Amplified Bible has been a favorite of mine for years because of the varying insights it offers. Many preachers will be glad to know that Zondervan has now released it in a paperbound edition.
Two other promising publications were scheduled for fall release but too late for this survey: the HarperCollins Study Bible (HarperCollins, 1993), which will use the New Revised Standard Version, and the New American Standard Thompson Chain Reference Bible (B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., 1993).
Bible Reference
One of the most stunning Bible reference works you’ll ever find is the Holman Bible Handbook (Holman Bible Publishers, now Broadman & Holman). The volume is marked by beautiful illustration and liberal use of color throughout the book. In addition to the practical editorial content, this book is a joy just to thumb through and “look at the pictures!”
Compiled by general editor David Dockery (now dean of theology at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville) and an outstanding team of editors, the Handbook includes the work of more than seventy-five contributors, mostly Baptist. Articles in the 896-page book are divided into five major sections: The Bible, The Bible in Its World, The Bible in the Church, The Bible and Its Message, and The Bible and the Christian Faith. The editorial quality is consistently high. The Holman Bible Handbook deserves a place on the shelf of every preacher.
I still remember one of my pastors from childhood who made the affirmation, “I believe the whole Bible, from Genesis to Maps!” Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a fondness for Bible maps. If you share my affinity for such tools, you’ll enjoy Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Thomas Nelson, 1993). Teachers will particularly appreciate the opportunity to reproduce these simple maps and charts which provide a visual description of each biblical book, along with a variety of other aids. All maps and charts are in black-and-white to provide for easy reproduction (although I must admit I missed color on those Bible land maps!). At $19.95 for this substantial (504 pages) volume, the cost is quite reasonable.
The NIV Compact Concordance (Zondervan, 1993) by John R. Kohlenberger III, is an abridged concordance that will be quite adequate for most Bible study uses. Its smaller size (5″ x 7 1/4″) makes it convenient for pastors to keep at their desks for quick reference.
An alternative to your favorite concordance is Roget’s Thesaurus of the Bible (HarperCollins, 1992) by A. Colin Day. Using Roget’s famous system — which involves 1,000 categories of meanings — Day has linked Bible passages to Roget’s categories. This allows you to search for passages based on ideas rather than specific words, making it more like a topical Bible than a concordance.
No matter how many commentaries I own, there is always room for another good one, and 1993 has seen the release of a number of quality commentaries.
The latest releases in the Word Biblical Commentary series are Luke 9:21-18:34 and Luke 18:35-24:53 by John Nolland, vice president and lecturer in biblical studies at Trinity College, Bristol, England. Nolland treats each section of Luke’s text with a bibliography, translation, a discussion of form/structure/setting, exegetical comment, and interpretive explanation.
Two Old Testament volumes in the New American Commentary series (Broadman & Holman) were released this year. Jeremiah, Lamentations is by F. B. Huey, Jr., professor of Old Testament at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Duane A. Garrett, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, is author of the commentary on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. This series is marked by solid scholarship and written from a conservative-evangelical perspective.
The most recent volume in the New International Greek Testament Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing) is Commentary on Hebrews by Paul Ellingworth, translation consultant for United Bible Societies and honorary lecturer in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen. This fine work on Hebrews puts an emphasis on solid exegetical work, and assumes the reader has at least a functional use of the Greek text.
Crossway Books has begun the re-release of some classic commentaries, beginning with volumes on Matthew and Mark by J. C. Ryle. Ryle was a nineteenth century Anglican expositor and first bishop of Liverpool. These commentaries offer excellent insights for biblical exposition. Spurgeon’s two-volume expository commentary on Psalms was also projected for release this year. Since many of these great resources are no longer readily available, the editors (Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer) and publisher do the church a great service through this new series.
Crossway also continues its publication of R. Kent Hughes’ “Preaching the Word” series with James and a two-volume set on Hebrews. Hughes is pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and these expository commentaries will be useful to preachers as they deal with these biblical books which offer such a treasure of sermonic material.
Finally, one of my favorite Bible teachers is Warren Wiersbe, and I’m always glad to see his work made available to fellow preachers. Victor books has released Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, which provides suggested homiletical treatments for selected chapters in the Old Testament. This volume (and its companion work on the New Testament) will provide a wealth of insights for biblical preaching.
With all these wonderful new resources available — and more on the way in 1994 — the only problem is finding space for more bookshelves!

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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