With 66 books written at different times, by different people, and for different purposes, the Bible can be confusing even to seasoned students of Scripture. One can easily get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture—you can read an Old or New Testament book and miss its overall themes and messages. Fortunately, there exists a tool that can remedy this problem and bring clarity to potential confusion—the Bible survey.
As the name suggests, a Bible survey gives a big-picture look at every book of the Bible, while an Old and New Testament survey does the same for those respective portions. Typical surveys will examine each book and discuss the author, the date of writing, the historical background, the book’s overall themes and messages, and provide an outline. The format is similar to what you find in most study Bibles, but the discussion goes into greater depth, which is ideal for sermon preparation or small-group lessons.
In addition, many surveys provide maps, charts, photos, and diagrams that serve as helpful visual aids.
There are many Bible/OT/NT surveys available, and often what distinguishes them is the level at which they’re written. Some surveys are intended for beginning Bible college students (i.e., a lay audience), while others are written for seminary or graduate students. One example of a very accessible volume is Ed Hindson and Elmer Towns’s Illustrated Bible Survey. This survey features the topics listed above, along with introductory chapters on how we got the Bible and how to read the Bible, along with practical reflections on biblical truths.
A more advanced set of books covering just the New Testament are the volumes by Craig Blomberg included in our two-volume bundle. The first volume covers Jesus and the gospels, while the second explores Acts through Revelation. One of the differences you’ll notice right away is the number of footnotes, which are much more plentiful in Blomberg’s volumes. These indicate places where Blomberg is interacting with other biblical scholars on issues like authorship and date, as well as on more academic topics like textual criticism, sources, and literary genre. But even on topics like this, Blomberg explains the issues clearly, and his writing is easy to follow.
A third survey, David deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament, covers the standard topics, but also features a section on practical implications for ministry at the end of each chapter. This is ideal for students as well as those serving in pastoral ministry.
Using a Bible survey in WORDsearch can dramatically increase your productivity in studying the Word, in preparing lessons, and in researching for sermon preparation. Surveys in WORDsearch allow you to:
- Quickly find the most important elements of a book you’re studying: Who wrote it, when it was written, its historical background, themes, messages, and outline.
- Use the outlines and other vital information to help shape and organize your sermons and lessons.
- Easily read linked Scripture references that appear in the text.
- Search the survey for keywords, Scripture references, people, places, and other important terms.
- Use the WORDsearch word processor to take notes and paste text from the survey.
For all of these reasons, a good Bible/OT/NT survey is one of the essential tools in the pastor’s, teacher’s, or student’s Bible study toolkits.
How do you benefit from a Bible survey? Share with us!