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A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible

Learning to Read Scripture's Story

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This compact, one-semester introduction to the Bible prepares students to begin reading the biblical text as Christian Scripture, focusing on the meaning of Scripture for the church. The editors and contributors--experienced teachers with expertise in different parts of the Bible--orient students to the whole of Scripture so that they may read the biblical text for themselves. The book first explains what Christians believe about Scripture and gives a bird's-eye survey of the whole biblical story. Chapters then introduce the story, arrangement, style, and key ideas of each division of the Old and New Testament, helping readers see how the books of the Bible make a coherent whole.

1. Reading the Bible as Scripture
2. Reading the Bible as Story
3. The Beginning of the Story
4. The Story of Israel in (and out of) the Land
5. The Witness of Israel's Poets and Sages
Job-Song of Songs
6. The Witness of Israel's Prophets
7. Israel in Waiting
The Time between the Two Testaments
8. The Story of Jesus
The Four Gospels
9. The Story of the Church
Acts and the Letters
10. The Story's Conclusion
The Revelation to John
11. Epilogue


"This compact guide is a true vade mecum: 'Walk with me.' The authors cordially invite you to accompany them into the drama of faith through Christian Scripture. Especially if you are new to biblical study and desire to read the Bible seriously and faithfully, it's an invitation I encourage you to accept."

C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"The Bible is a tough book for modern readers to tackle on their own. It's history, biography, doctrine, and poetry, but it's also so much more. A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible is unique in its sweeping, fast-paced, accessible invitation to read the Bible--the whole Bible--in all of its wonderful, challenging presentation of the God who meets us in this ancient, tough, revealing, and relevant book. Perhaps the greatest gift of A Compact Guide is that it dares to present the Bible as Scripture. Generations of people have lived and died by this book, have met a living, revealing God through its stories and pronouncements, and have been taken places they could never have gone without Scripture taking them there."

Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry, Duke Divinity School; former bishop, the United Methodist Church

"It's easy to find introductory textbooks that overwhelm students with information and theories about the Bible--textbooks that complicate rather than open up the Bible to its readers. The promise of this slender volume is its commitment to genuinely invite students into the Bible by giving readers a keen sense of how each section of Scripture contributes to the whole and by identifying key landmarks for making sense of the biblical materials. This compact guide is the obvious choice for undergraduate courses concerned with the Bible as the church's book and for congregational use."

Joel B. Green, dean of the School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Those of us who teach Scripture as part of a larger theological enterprise often long for a concise and accessible way to present the whole scope of Scripture to students. This book is an answer to those longings. It is clear, theologically acute, and written with beginning students in mind. These colleagues have brought their scholarly expertise and their commitment to reading theologically to bear on the whole Bible. The result is a collaborative work that is unified in its approach, uniformly accessible, and of immense value to the rest of us."

Stephen Fowl, professor of theology, Loyola University Maryland

"This book is written by authors deeply committed to and engaged in both the life of faith (church) and the life of the mind (academy). They deftly weave the two together as they guide readers through the Bible. The inclusion of the intertestamental history and literature is a real gift and distinguishes this compact guide from even lengthy introductions to the Bible. If you are concerned with biblical illiteracy among Christians, this would be an excellent choice to give a solid grounding in God's dynamic drama."

Nancy R. Bowen, professor of Old Testament, Earlham School of Religion

"It is notoriously challenging to write a brief, thoughtful, one-volume introduction to the Bible, especially when one recalls that there are commentaries on smaller books in the biblical canon like the Song of Songs or the Petrine Epistles that run into hundreds of pages. I commend the editors and chapter writers for succeeding admirably in facing such a challenge. They have written an exceptional text whose primary (but not exclusive) target audience will be undergraduate students enrolled in an introduction to the Bible class. Were I to teach such a course, this would easily be the volume I would use in such a class."

Victor P. Hamilton, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Asbury University

"Wall and Nienhuis have assembled a concise and readable guide to the Bible as Christian Scripture. This is not your typical historical and literary introduction but a guide to the Bible as the church's sacred canon. It is an outstanding resource for learning to read the biblical texts theologically and a gift both to the church and to the academy."

David F. Watson, academic dean and vice president for academic affairs, United Theological Seminary

"Many Christians, from college students to laypersons in Bible study groups, need a quick overview of the whole Bible to better understand this sacred text. These scholars have provided an easily understandable, comprehensive, and yet well-grounded introduction to the Bible. For those who read Scripture as God's Word for God's people, this is a very helpful book."

Scott J. Jones, bishop, Great Plains Area, the United Methodist Church

"In a world where people go to war in the name of God and Scripture and where matters of law, morality, and ethics often lack foundation and context, a biblical people must master--and be mastered by--Scripture's story. This volume presents that story in a way that helps us grasp its major themes and movements and thus provides light for interpreting, assessing, and applying the Bible today. I commend it highly to those charged with communicating the story, to those whose lives should reflect the story, and to all seekers for whom the story begs to be told."

David W. Kendall, bishop, Free Methodist Church-USA

The Authors

  1. Robert W. Wall

    Robert W. Wall

    Robert W. Wall (ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington. He has written many journal articles and authored or coauthored numerous books,...

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  2. David R. Nienhuis
    Leo Chen

    David R. Nienhuis

    David R. Nienhuis (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament studies at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington. He is the author of Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon...

    Continue reading about David R. Nienhuis


"Instead of presenting the content book by book, as if each biblical text existed in isolation from the others, the chapters introduce the readers to the larger literary subunits, progressively moving toward the 'big story of the Bible' in which all the subunits converge. . . . The authors successfully point out how each section follows logically and how the parts interrelate and connect to one another. In each part they give a clear sense of how a particular section contributes to the whole in order to make sense of the rest. They construct a clear holistic picture. . . . What is unique in this book is the way in which each section is embroidered into the overall metanarrative. . . . With this book the authors will certainly achieve one of their objectives: it will facilitate Bible study in classrooms and among congregations and contribute to happy engagements with the text."

Dirk G. van der Merwe,

Review of Biblical Literature

"A concise introduction to the biblical story. . . . The end of each chapter opens the horizon of the next, thus preserving the thread of continuity throughout the various books and distinct theologies. Words in bold type are further explained in a concluding glossary, adding to the pedagogical value of the book, which is written for undergraduate study or adult Bible study groups. . . . These essays are well grounded in solid scholarship."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"The authors provide an easily readable and understandable book for their teaching requirements at a specific institution. I am convinced that this book can be used by many other teachers and institutions with the same aims and objectives--a walk through the Bible that can serve to introduce the student and general reader to the basic story of the Protestant Christian Bible."

Lilly (SJ) Nortjé-Meyer,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The editors have succeeded in producing a remarkably brief, insightful, and theologically-oriented guide that provides the reader a cogent outline of the major themes and historical periods found in the biblical texts. The inclusion of a chapter on the religious literature of the intertestamental period illustrates how carefully they have seen their method through and, in addition, helpfully locates the role and importance of the Apocrypha in terms of subsequent New Testament thought. This little book is a brilliant way to begin a study of biblical texts. I have heard students express the need for precisely this kind of preliminary overview before they engage in deeper biblical studies. I intend to assign this book as part of the first week's reading in courses that cover the entire canon."

E. Carson Brisson,


"Anyone who wants to read Scripture faithfully, college student or otherwise, would benefit from the foundation laid by this book. Its theological, literary, and historical sensitivity make it a solid starting point for more deeply engaging the story of Scripture."

Abram Kielmeier-Jones,

Bible Study Magazine

"The promise of this slim volume is its commitment to genuinely invite readers into the Bible by providing a keen sense of how each section of Scripture contributes to the whole and by identifying key landmarks for making sense of the biblical standards. This compact guide is an excellent resource for both undergraduate courses at Christian universities as well as for use in the church. This text is an answer to those who have wanted a smaller commentary or guide to the Scripture. It leaves out heavy theological terms and overwhelming historical data. It is clear and theologically accurate and written with the student or reader in mind. The writers have brought their scholarly expertise and commitment to theological reading to bear on the whole Bible. The result is a collaborative work that is unified in its approach, uniformly accessible, and of great value to anyone who wants to better understand the message of the Bible. . . . The book itself is well-written and interesting. It is a book that can be returned to frequently. The targeted audience would be both new believers with an interest in God's Word and students who have seldom opened a Bible before. The book is a helpful companion to the Bible and would go far in establishing a solid foundation of faith for the student or new believer. Overall, I would strongly suggest that pastors make this book available for those who desire to better grasp God's Word."

Phil Schmutz,

Journal of Ministry and Theology

"For the believing reader who confesses the biblical canon as inspired, this book succeeds in facilitating the understanding of the biblical metanarrative."

Philip la G. du Toit,


"A Compact Guide to the Whole Bible is a small book that meets a big need . . . in schools, churches, and homes. . . . With the Compact Guide's thorough and succinct introduction to the Bible, [the authors have] developed a way of teaching about the Bible that gives readers knowledge and confidence to encounter Scripture."

Jeffrey Overstreet,