One of the most difficult things with the Bible are the questions that come in reading it for the first time:
What am I reading?
How does it all fit together?
Why are there differences in some of the Gospel stories?
Recently, I had the opportunity to read and review a new book called Frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament (Eric Larson) and was refreshed to find a user-friendly way to read the New Testament. The book is geared toward those who need a basic understanding of how the New Testament was written and how the various pieces fit together. Larson says –
Frameworks, quite simply, is a book about Bible navigation and context, material that’s designed to build your confidence in your ability to negotiate the text and understand it. (15)
The book provides everything from a breakdown of how different translations of the Bible were created to a numerical system of understanding what kinds of writings are included the New Testament. Each chapter offers a key visual to keep in mind when reading particular books of the New Testament as well as plenty of summaries and highlight lists to introduce the first-time reader to things he or she should be looking for and expecting. Elements of geography, politics, and personalities are all included in this brief but helpful look at the New Testament and the world in which it was written.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the book is how each piece is focused on maintaining the overall story of the New Testament and the message of Jesus Christ. First-time readers will be able to see not only why certain content is included in the New Testament, but also how that content contributes to the greater overall story. The application points at the end of each chapter also help the reader see the way the content of the New Testament applies to life today.
I also appreciated the way Larson breaks down Jesus’ life into seven distinct phases, helping the reader understand Jesus’ life in terms of what He had done and what He was going to do. I believe that this simple list could help even readers who are familiar with the Gospels to understand Jesus in a new light.
I can see several uses for this resource:
Personal study – this could be a “keep on the shelf resource” that an individual could refer back to time and again as they read through the New Testament
Life Groups/Discipleship Groups - the addition of questions at the end of each chapter lend well to group or one-to-one discussions.
Bible Classes – if you are looking for a simple way to begin a class on the New Testament in your church or community, this book would likely serve you well.
My only concern with this book is also, I believe, one of the strong points. Any resource that tries to respect the “less is more” approach to reading the Bible is bound to leave out certain questions that can become critical if left unanswered or at least uninspected. I do not fault the author for this, but simply suggest that the use of a book like this has to be paired with a community or relationship of accountability and direction to make the most of the content presented. This book isn’t Scripture, but instead a guide to reading Scripture so we also have to practice discernment in our reading. I find areas in this book where I might diverge from the author, but not ways in which I would push people away from using this resource entirely.
If you are searching for a place to begin in your reading of the New Testament, I suggest picking up a copy of frameworks here and diving in to it as soon as possible!