Engaging the Christian Scriptures

An Introduction to the Bible

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This readable and faith-friendly introduction to the Bible aids students as they engage in their first informed reading of the biblical text in an academic setting. The authors, who have significant undergraduate teaching experience, approach the Christian Scriptures from historical, literary, and theological perspectives. Engaging the Christian Scriptures is designed for a one-semester course and is meant to be read alongside the biblical text. It includes text boxes, illustrations, maps, and suggestions for further reading.

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1. Places to Begin
Why Read the Bible?
How Did We Get the Bible?
How Shall We Read the Bible?
Suggested Reading
2. Pentateuch
The Old Testament World
Primeval History
Ancestral Stories
Exodus and Covenant
Sojourn in the Wilderness
Theological Reflection: Creation and Covenant
Suggested Reading
3. Former and Latter Prophets
Historical and Social Contexts of the Prophets
Settlement in the Land (Joshua and Judges)
Movement to Monarchy (Samuel and Kings)
The Latter Prophets
Exile and Beyond
Theological Reflection: Crises of Monarchy and Exile
Suggested Reading
4. Writings
The Context of the Writings
Poetry and Worship
Poetry and Wisdom
The Five Scrolls
Theological Reflection: Faith and Culture
Suggested Reading
5. Between the Testaments
Sociohistorical Developments
Religious Beliefs and Practices in Antiquity
Suggested Reading
6. The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles
The World of the Gospels
The Genre and Literary Tradition of the Gospels
The Gospel according to Mark
The Gospel according to Matthew
The Gospel according to Luke
The Gospel according to John
The Acts of the Apostles
Theological Reflection: Unity and Diversity
Suggested Reading
7. Paul and the Pauline Tradition
Paul's Life, Ministry, and Letters
The First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians
The Letter of Paul to the Galatians
The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians
The Letter of Paul to the Romans
Additional Undisputed Letters of Paul
The Pauline Tradition
Theological Reflection: The Contours of Paul's Theology
Suggested Reading
8. The General Letters and Revelation
The World of Early Christians
The Letter to the Hebrews
The Letter of James
The First Letter of Peter
The Second Letter of Peter and the Letter of Jude
The Johannine Letters
The Revelation to John
Theological Reflection: A Fitting Conclusion
Suggested Reading


"This new introduction to the Bible is brilliant in clarity and thoroughly engaging. Never before have I read a textbook that is as scholarly, concise, imaginatively written, and artistically laid out as this one. For teachers and students alike, this volume is a 'pearl of great price.'"

Carol J. Dempsey, professor of theology (biblical studies), University of Portland, Oregon

"This team of scholars has put together an excellent text for a course covering both Old and New Testaments. Their summaries of the biblical books give a flavor for each book's contents and the world that influenced the biblical writers. Of particular importance to students is the careful treatment of sometimes controversial materials as the authors demonstrate a moderate and thoughtful consideration of different viewpoints."

Victor H. Matthews, dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs and professor of religious studies, Missouri State University

"Engaging the Christian Scriptures is an outstanding resource for guiding the beginning student to become an informed reader of Scripture. The authors present both the content of Scripture and the critical issues of interpretation in a way that is accessible and fair, providing students with the information necessary to form their own judgments. The book satisfies the need for an introductory textbook on the entire Bible that will engage student interest and provide resources for further study."

James Thompson, scholar in residence, Graduate School of Theology, Abilene Christian University

"The challenge of introducing first-year college students to the academic study of the Bible can be overwhelming. Attending to the vast array of scholarly issues can drown out the primary purpose of the scriptures: to inspire, encourage, and direct people of faith. In their fine introduction, Engaging the Christian Scriptures, Arterbury, Bellinger, and Dodson center on the major critical questions about the Bible in order to help the student base a theological interpretation of the Scriptures on a historical and literary reading of the text. A very helpful introductory textbook--clear and concise--that covers all the important topics of biblical studies for a confessional academic context."

Rodney Reeves, dean and Redford Professor of Biblical Studies, Southwest Baptist University

"In a world where teachers of biblical studies can no longer assume a general level of biblical literacy, even among students with connections to the church, the temptation is to pile up information in order to erase the deficit. In Engaging the Christian Scriptures a group of seasoned theological educators avoids this pitfall and offers an elegant entry point into the academic study of the Bible. An introduction to the Bible course for undergraduate students needs to rest on three legs: the biblical text, the classroom experience, and a succinct written guide that students can use for preparation and review. Engaging the Christian Scriptures offers the third component of this vital combination in a way that consistently points into the classroom and into the text of the Bible."

Mark McEntire, professor of religion, College of Theology and Christian Ministry, Belmont University

The Authors

  1. Andrew E. Arterbury

    Andrew E. Arterbury

    Andrew E. Arterbury (PhD, Baylor University) is professor of Christian Scriptures at Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.

    Continue reading about Andrew E. Arterbury

  2. W. H. Bellinger Jr.

    W. H. Bellinger Jr.

    W. H. Bellinger Jr. (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chairholder in Bible, professor of religion, and chair of the Department of Religion at Baylor University. He has served on the editorial board of Catholic Biblical...

    Continue reading about W. H. Bellinger Jr.

  3. Derek S. Dodson
    Courtesy of Baylor University

    Derek S. Dodson

    Derek S. Dodson (PhD, Baylor University) is senior lecturer in religion at Baylor University.

    Continue reading about Derek S. Dodson


"In a well-written and engaging style, this book blends the topics of Bible introduction and Bible survey. . . . Maps, illustrations, and sidebars frequent the pages, and indexes of Scripture and subject cap the volume. Insightfully, the authors draw out some of the literary aspects of the biblical books. . . . Read alongside Scripture, this supplementary textbook engages readers who desire to gain exposure to critical viewpoints and practices in biblical studies."

Mark A. Hassler,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This introduction is meant for the beginning college student. The character of the writing demonstrates the teaching ability of the authors. The book provides fine geographic and historical information before briefly treating the biblical content that presumes such background. Charts, maps, and other informational inserts add to its pedagogical value. Each chapter ends with Theological Reflection that summarizes some of the salient literary, historical, and theological points covered. This is a fine introduction."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Many introductory textbooks to the Bible tend either to skim the surface too lightly or dive too deeply and overwhelm the student with too much information--not so this book. With clarity and precision, Arterbury, Bellinger, and Dodson have struck an ideal balance appropriate for students beginning to study the Bible academically. . . . Numerous text boxes and illustrations summarize important content or provide supplementary information. . . . This volume is an excellent--not to mention affordable!--introduction to the Bible and biblical scholarship."

Zachary J. Cole,

Expository Times

"An excellent introductory textbook for university students, this book would work equally well [for] lay readers who want a good, basic, nontechnical introduction to the world of academic study of the Bible. . . . Numerous charts, maps, and pictures . . . illustrate descriptions on the pages. . . . Textboxes (with gray shading) throughout highlight important concepts. . . . The authors present a walk-through of the Bible while reflecting on biblical scholarship, although never quoting or documenting their sources. As an entry-level introduction, this not only avoids bogging early students down in such detail, it stays focused on the point at hand: getting students familiar with the language and issues relevant for actually reading biblical texts, while preparing them to go deeper at some later time. The writing style throughout is easy, but not breezy; it does not waste time but is clear, on point, insightful, and engaging. . . . The authors and publisher are to be congratulated on a sound resource that is aptly titled, and that will be usable beyond a simple read."

Cary D. Collier,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"Engaging the Christian Scriptures has many strengths to commend it. . . . Peppered throughout the book are boxes containing charts, brief discussions of issues such as 'messiah or Christ' and 'social justice' or 'the Immanuel prophecy,' suggested exercises and questions, maps, and artistic reconstructions of Solomon's temple, among many others. These sidebars make the text not only visibly appealing but also breathe a certain life into it. . . . I recommend this volume as an insightful, challenging, and readable foray into the Christian scriptures for the introductory student. The admonition that the primary focus for such a course should be to get students into the biblical text itself is an admirable and worthy animating factor for this volume. . . . [It] serves as a helpful guide and companion as students begin their engagement with the Christian scriptures."

John E. Anderson,

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