Isaiah: Understanding the Books of the Bible Study Guides
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This Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide on Isaiah reminds us that Isaiah delivers a message of hope because he reminds the Israelites that God has called them his own people and therefore he will tender and compassionate towards those he loves. God has a plan not just for their redemption but for the redemption of the whole of his broken creation.
Isaiah is a challenging book, both for its literary form and for the message it delivers. This guide will help you make sense of Isaiah's many parts so that we can understand the scope of Isaiah's message and its importance in the overall story of God's work. And, for a people facing present-day crises-whether in our own lives or in the lives of our churches, nation or world--these studies will point us to the God who is still faithfully, compassionately speaking and redeeming the creation and people he loves.
The 26-lesson format is ideally presented for group or individual studies and is adaptable to any study situation. It will evoke deep conversations about all facets of Isaiah. It will bring personal growth and life change through a new level of understanding and engaging God's word.
The Understanding the Bible the Books of the Bible series moves groups away from a typical Bible study format into a new approach to experiencing the Bible together. Instead of following artificial chapter and verse divisions, these study guides lead groups through whole books following their natural outlines and flow. They pose engaging questions for discussion with personal implications all along the way, leading to a community Bible experience.
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Author: Christopher R. Smith
Submitted: March 21, 2013
Tell us a little about yourself. Im a writer and independent scholar living in East Lansing, Michigan. I served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years and I was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. My study guide series is keyed to this format. I was also one of the translators for The Voice Bible.
I stay active in ministry as a volunteer campus staff worker with Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Michigan State University. Ive also written for the website The High Calling of Our Daily Work.
I have a B.A. in literature from Harvard, a masters degree in theological studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in historical theology and Bible from Boston College. I have published articles on the literary structures of biblical books in journals such as New Testament Studies, Novum Testamentum, and The Journal for the Study of the Old Testament.
What was your motivation behind this project? I'm very concerned by the fact that the younger people are, the less likely they are to read the Bible. One significant reason for this is the traditional format (two columns, chapter and verse numbers, footnote cues, footnotes, cross references, etc.). This looks unlike any book many young people have ever encountered before. It hides the fact that the Bible contains the kind of stories, songs, poems, dreams, and prayers that postmodern young adults naturally love. By helping Biblica produce a new format, The Books of the Bible, and by developing this study guide series designed to be used with that format, I want to help younger people rediscover the literary beauties and spiritual wonders of the Bible.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? I want people to learn how to read and study the Bible without using any chapters or verses. The books of the Bible are real "books." They're meant to be experienced the same way other books are: as exciting, interesting works that keep us turning pages right to the end and then make us want to go back and savor each part. The Understanding the Books of the Bible series of study guides is designed help people do that with the Bible.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? Helping to create The Books of the Bible and these study guides has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. My father is a pastor and my mother is a literature professor, so it comes naturally to me to approach the Bible as a collection of whole writings. In my undergraduate studies in literature at Harvard I was introduced to the concept of the shaping principle of a work of literature, the overall purpose that determines its form, structure, and development. I realized that books of the Bible had their own "shaping principles." I pursued these ideas further in seminary at Gordon-Conwell and in my doctoral program at Boston College, where I studied and later published on the internally-indicated literary structures of several biblical books. In my work as a pastor in the years that followed, as I led Bible studies and adult classes and preached expository sermon series, I had the opportunity to teach through many more books, always with a view toward understanding their inherent designs and presenting them as whole literary works. This all came together when I got to work with Biblica and InterVarsity Press on these resources. I've been amazed and delighted by the response of so many people who've said they've had a whole new encounter with God through His word in this new form.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? I see myself as following in the footsteps of historic figures such as John Locke and Alexander Campbell who produced Bibles or portions without chapters and verses, and of more recent figures such as Richard Moulton and Ernest Sutherland Bates who did the same. I'm indebted to the biblical scholarship of figures such as Gordon Fee, Douglas Stuart, and Mark Strauss who collaborated on the "For All Its Worth" series. I'm grateful to Glenn Paauw of Biblica who led our project team that produced The Books of the Bible and the other leaders at Biblica who are now doing to much to promote the edition through Community Bible Experiences.
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: I support my study guide series with a blog, "Understanding the Books of the Bible" (understandingbooksbible.wordpress.com). I answer questions that users of the guide have asked me about the Bibleeither through the blog itself, or else in person, by email, through Facebook, and so on. I also share my own ongoing reflections about what the Bible is and how it is supposed to guide the lives of followers of Jesus, when we understand it as a collection of books, not a compendium of chapters and verses.
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