Personal background of website
© Jeff Stacey
Last updated: 19 April 2020
Finding the way
While at university studying engineering, I began to read a modern translation of the Bible. I started with the New Testament, about Jesus Christ. This had a lot to do with my getting serious about God and “finding the way”. I became a committed, “born again” Christian – a life-changing event!
Yet I struggled to live out this new commitment. About three years later I decided to read a bit of the Bible every day. My Christian living then became more stable and positive. So reading and studying the Bible is vital to me.
Understanding the Bible
Like any engineer I just want to take things apart and figure out how they work! So I aimed to really understand the Bible. I tried doing this by “going back to first principles” as we do when solving engineering problems.
But it was difficult to get the Bible’s main story line. Where was it all heading? What was the big picture, especially in the Old Testament? Was there only one big picture, since the Bible has so many different parts? My findings also needed to be organised somehow.
I continued studying the Bible. This included formal courses as well as a lot of reading, teaching and discussion. I found that getting more understanding of the Bible was creative and exciting. It also gave me greater confidence to live as a Christian in daily life.
Discovering and explaining the Bible’s big picture
Especially significant for me was when I began focussing on the idea of God’s primary purpose. Developing a description of this from the Bible has opened up the main story line for me. So I am finding-the-way in a whole bigger-picture way!
More recently I realised that the Bible can be divided up into nine separate eras of history. Their “boundaries” are each time when God altered how His relationship with people was to work.
I started to map out these insights using boxes-and-arrows flow charts, engineering-style, for each era. These began simply as teaching aids. Because they “worked” I kept on developing them. Then I started writing detailed notes for each chart, introducing and explaining all the boxes and arrows. This will continue for some time yet…
Studying the Bible in English, using the New Living Bible (NLT) and New International Version (NIV)
The NLT is a recent translation which uses explanatory words and phrases rather than “equivalent” words to translate the original biblical languages into English. This makes it more understandable or “living” to read. The NIV is currently the most widely used English translation.
Yet my method has been deliberate. I usually urge others also to FIRST have a go at reading and understanding the Bible themselves, directly. Whatever we discover this way then becomes our frame of reference when reading about the Bible and trying to increase our understanding of it.
Studying the Old Testament
How to understand and study the Old Testament (OT) does raise some major questions and problems. For a start, the OT is about 75% of the whole Bible. Yet is it now only “background” for the New Testament? Is it mostly “obsolete”? Or does it contain material that is still relevant, even vital? Addressing these kinds of issues has been a significant motivation for me – a major “why” for this website!
As my Charts and detailed explanations quickly show, there is structure and huge amounts of basic theological information in the OT that are still vitally significant now and always will be. There are also many practical principles for living
However, Christians today often read only short “inspirational bits” of the OT (some Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah), other selections about heroic individuals (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Nehemiah) or dramatic episodes (creation, the Flood, crossing of the Red Sea, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Elijah on Mt Carmel, David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions’ den). Usually these are prominent in children’s Bible story books. But what about all the other huge sections of the OT? Is there some guiding framework for understanding them usefully?
My method of FIRSTLY reading and trying to understand any bit of the Bible BEFORE reading any secondary explanations of it, has been a key principle for me in studying the OT. Formal OT courses often major on secondary or background issues. Yet even reading the OT text at all can be omitted! But by first having a go at reading and understanding a part of the OT myself, I found it was possible to get some real insights. This was most satisfying!
This website: helping each other to understand the Bible
This website is intended to work as a kind of ongoing “peer review”. I invite you to share in this using the Your Comments tab in the menu at the top of this page. We could develop a conversation and help each other to understand the Bible better. I will acknowledge on the website anything included that has come from others by this process.
I realise that this is just another way of sharing in Bible discovery and won’t suit everybody. Anyway, I hope you will give it a try. My prayer is that all readers will find it helpful.