Improving Bible Literacy in Our Churches

Bible Gateway Blog has an interview with Shelley Leith about “The Story.” The interview was conducted by Jonathan Petersen, marketing manager for Bible Gateway.

“The Story” is a Bible resource that seeks to deal with the problem of biblical illiteracy that is prevalent in most of our churches today. The problem of biblical illiteracy is rampant in almost all churches in America, no matter the size or the denomination of the church.

Many Christians go to church every week, but few of them read the Bible during the week. And when they read the Bible, they read select parts of the Old Testament in order to spend more time in the New Testament.

A few months ago, I met a Christian woman who said that she reads the whole Bible every year. When I asked her what she thought about the genealogies in 1 Chronicles, she told me she always skips that section because it is too boring.

I told her that the genealogies in 1 Chronicles are a very important part of the book, primarily when one understands the function of genealogies in the Bible. I told her that the genealogies in 1 Chronicles cover chapters 1 through 9. I also told her that the commentary on 1 Chronicles 1-9 by Gary N. Knoppers in The Anchor Yale Bible Commentary Series has 544 pages.

Only scholars will read all the 544 pages of this commentary, but the commentary shows how important the genealogies are for the proper understanding of the history of Israel. There are 10 genealogies in the book of Genesis and anyone who skips them will be greatly handicapped in understanding the structure of Genesis.

By using the genealogies in 1 Chronicles in the context of biblical illiteracy, I am using a very extreme example to prove a point. No one can say I have read the whole Bible when they failed to read nine chapters of the Bible. One cannot say I have read the 1189 chapters of the Bible when in reality only 1180 chapters were read.

“The Story” is designed to help people read the Bible. Although “The Story” is an abridged chronological presentation of the biblical story, its goal is to challenge people to gain a better understanding of the biblical story and motivate them to read the whole Bible.

This is how Leith describes the structure and purpose of “The Story”:

There are no biblical structures in the text, and the segments of Scripture are arranged chronologically and connected with transition text written to connect the storyline so it reads like a seamless narrative. For people new to the Bible, this way of reading Scripture reduces the intimidation one can feel when approaching the full-length unabridged Bible, and it gives them a holistic and sequential picture of the storyline of Scripture. For seasoned Bible veterans, the chronological arrangement of the essential texts reveals the way the whole Bible fits together in a single grand narrative. The Story is what I like to call a Bible suction machine, because it triggers discovery and curiosity, and drives people back to the original Bible texts for further exploration.

I am in favor of combating biblical illiteracy anyway we can, and “The Story” is a good beginning.

Read the whole interview with Shelley Leith by visiting the Bible Gateway Blog.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Bible Gateway, Biblical Illiteracy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Improving Bible Literacy in Our Churches

  1. barnete7807 says:

    I used to feel the same way as this woman about reading the genealogists until I came across Joshua’s name in the geneologies. In the margin I had scribbled a reference to another passage in Numbers 13:8 where Joshua is also Oshea. This prompted me to do a study of Joshua’s name , Joshua is the English name, his Hebrew name would have been Yeshua in Greek it would be Jesus. With Moses being forbidden entrance into Canaan we see an Old Testament example of Jesus leading the people of God into the promise land in the roll that Joshua played.

    Moses represents the the law which sets us free from the bondage of sin but the law is not sufficient in gaining entrance into heaven, that is the role of grace through Jesus Christ.

    When came across this I nugget of truth I was grateful for the dull boring and mundane things of God’s word.


  2. My twitter feed got so full I thought I had lost your articles but I found them again. I so appreciate your knowledge and easy writing style. And YES! I too have a heart for getting people in God’s Word any way we can. I find the genealogies gain more meaning as you know more of your Bible. I started a FB group to read through the Bible chronologically together. And we include I Chronicles 1-9. 🙂


    • Traci,

      Thank you for your nice words. I am glad to know that your group is reading the Bible, including the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-9. Tell your group that I commend them in this venture and send them my blessing as they enter in this commitment to read the Bible.

      You may be interested in reading one of my posts on the genealogy of the kings: The Challenges of Parenthood.

      Claude Mariottini


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