Bible Handbooks and Introductions

I am wondering what other folks have used, benefited from, and recommended in the way of handbooks of the Bible and introductions to each of the two Testaments—not necessarily textbooks, but they are not excluded. What would you recommend to the average young (or older) adult to be a companion? Not a book on hermeneutics or method, but on the Bible itself. (What prompted this was a query from a good friend who teaches a college- and career- class at his church.)

Let’s start with one-volume Bible handbooks and companions. Suggestions?

I very recently ran across a copy of The Complete Bible Handbook and Illustrated Companion, edited by John Bowker and published in 2001 by DK. Since I have regularly annotated such works here and there, I was surprised both that I did not know about it and that it was so good! I am now thinking of recommending or even requiring it for my students who are new to biblical studies. The team of contributors and editors is excellent, the text very historically responsible and theologically engaging, and the photos, etc. both lavish and helpful.

7 Responses to “Bible Handbooks and Introductions”

  1. Craig Beard says:

    Though it won’t be available until October, I’m eager to have a look at The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, edited by Gordon Fee & Robert Hubbard.

  2. MJG says:

    Thanks, Craig–I had not heard about that one. Sounds promising.

  3. Frank says:

    I usually recommend these to folks in the church:

    Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

    How to Read the Bible Book by Book (Fee and Stuart)

  4. Mike,

    I recently came across An Intoroduction to the Bible by Robert Kugler and Patrick Hartin (Eerdmans).

    It is more along the lines of a textbook, but looks extremely helpful.

    Unusual, but it places the glossary of terms (15 pages worth) at the beginning of the volume accompanied by pneumonic devices.

    I think this volume would be well worth consulting.

  5. MJG says:


    Thanks especially for the reminder about the Fee and Stuart volume; it’s a good read and guide.


    Thanks for this heads-up; it’s brand new and looks pretty good as an overall introduction, though it speaks a bit too confidently about authentic and inauthentic Pauline letters for my taste, and I wish it had more illustrations (from what I can see in an Amazon browse).

  6. Jason says:

    Its nothing creative, just what they used at Wesley. Raymond Brown’s intro. to the NT. I lend it to folks in my community who are preaching for the first time and they seem to find it helpful.

  7. MJG says:


    Nice to “see” you! Glad to hear that the Brown intro has been useful. When it first came out, I used it as a text for an NT Intro class and was surprised at how favorable the students reacted. I think he’s better on the gospels than on the rest of the NT (where the format changes from the earlier mini-commentary approach). I think it’s a great resource but not exciting, and perhaps overwhelming as a first read in a non-student context.

    BTW, Ray Brown began his teaching career at my seminary, and we have a Raymond E. Brown Library as well as his collection of books on John and Judaica. When the intro was published I wrote the review for Christianity Today (one of my last pieces for CT, I think). I hit the send button at deadline time on a Friday night and then on Saturday received the call from our then-President that Ray had died. I quickly rewrote the first paragraph, referring to the late REB, and sent it off to CT.

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