A different way to engage with the Bible
Philip Law is Publishing Director at SPCK. His previous books include A Time to Pray (Lion, 2002), The Story of the Christ (Continuum, 2006) and The SPCK Book of Christian Prayer (SPCK, 2009). Here, he discusses The One Hour Bible, our new book that he compiled and edited himself.
The Bible is the world’s bestselling book. Full of memorable stories, inspiring poetry and timeless wisdom, it has influenced the lives of billions around the world and across the centuries. Yet even those who read it every day will readily admit that it’s not always an easy read, and few people manage to read it all the way through.
Why is that? Well, for a start the Bible is very long: most versions of it contain at least 770,000 words. (That figure applies just to the Protestant Bible; the official Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles are even longer.)
But as well as finding it very long, if you’re new to the Bible you’ll soon discover that its contents are just too complex to read comfortably from cover to cover. There are long lists of names, collections of laws, regulations for worship and detailed building instructions; there are histories, chronologies, poems, prayers, proverbs, parables, prophecies and visions; there are Gospels, letters, memoirs, theological reflections, speeches, hymns, and a mysterious form of writing known as ‘apocalyptic’.
All these different writings were collected and edited by a range of authors – priests, prophets, poets, sages, apostles – over more than a thousand years. The earliest parts of the 39 books that make up the Old Testament were probably written around three thousand years ago, while the 27 books in the New Testament were probably completed by the end of the first century.
Because of this huge diversity, many people prefer to follow a gradual, step-by-step approach to the Bible, taking a few passages at a time and spreading their reading over several months or years. But the disadvantage of that approach is that you can easily end up losing sight of the wood because you’re too busy studying the trees! You can end up with a view that’s fragmented, disjointed, lacking a sense of how different people, places and events fit together into the bigger picture.
That’s where The One Hour Bible comes in. Whatever your present level of acquaintance with the Bible, this little book will enable you to stand back and view the epic sweep of the Bible’s entire narrative arc – from the majestic opening of the book of Genesis to the final stirring words of Revelation.
In roughly an hour (give or take a few minutes, depending on the speed at which you choose to read it), you will journey along the highways and some of the byways of the Bible’s grand narrative. And on the way you’ll encounter some of the Bible’s most powerful and enduring teachings.
The great thing about The One Hour Bible is that it isn’t simply another summary or retelling of the Bible. That’s been done many times before, both for children and adults. What makes this book different is that the text is compiled entirely from the words of the Bible itself, using the text of the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.
There’s much more I could add, but I’ll end now by saying that I hope you’ll enjoy The One Hour Bible and that you’ll find the stories it contains both entertaining and enlightening.
As Dame Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London, said when she read it, this little book contains ‘Stories of love and teaching for life – and more besides!’