Five Bible Tools: The Bible Bookcase

These are my words that I spoke . . . that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.
— Luke 24:44 ESV

Why Steinmetz Earned $10,000

In his book, 30 Days To Understanding The Bible, Max Anders shares the interesting story of Charles Steinmetz. Steinmetz was an electrical engineer of fantastic intellect. At one point in his career, a major appliance manufacturer hired him to locate a malfunction in their equipment. Steinmetz carefully examined the machinery. Taking a piece of chalk out of his pocket, he marked an "X" on one panel of the complex system.

Workman for the manufacturers disassembled the machine. To their amazement the defect lay precisely underneath the chalk mark left by Mr. Steinmetz.

Some days later the manufacturer received a bill from Steinmetz for $10,000. They protested: "Why so much? Please itemize your services." Steinmetz was happy to comply. He returned the itemized bill:

  • Making one chalk mark .......... $1.00
  • Knowing where to place it..... $9,999.00

Like Steinmetz, when you know where the chalk marks go, the toughest tasks are more easily solved. On the other hand, if you don't know where to put the mark you'll be like the sailor who, when asked where he sailed, responded:

"Sir, I am restricted to the ocean."

The Bible is a great ocean, but if you don't know where you are sailing, you are going to get lost. You will wander around the pages with no real sense of destination. Sure, you'll see some interesting sights, but trip is going to lack purpose and you'll fail to arrive at the all-important destination we discussed in The Bible Checklist.

The Bible Bookcase

Though many of us consider the Bible as one book, it is actually a library of sixty-six books written by forty authors over a period of 1500 years. The books are different in style and substance. Some are easy to understand, some are downright hard. Knowing how they fit together helps. That's why one of the best Bible tools is the Bible Bookcase.

Understanding The Books On The Shelf

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, AARP The Magazine is the largest circulated periodical in the country with a circulation of 23 million. Hot Rod Magazine (one of my favorites) on the other hand, has a circulation of "just" 578,000. While they are both magazines we approach them differently. Why? Because they are not the same genre of literature. The same is true of books. A novel is going to read differently than a biography. For our purposes Genesis is going to read differently than Revelation.

When it comes to reading any book, Mortimer Adler has said,

You must know what kind of book you are reading, and you should know this as early in the process as possible, preferable before you begin to read.

Understanding the nature of the book helps us understand how to read the book. The same is true of the Bible. So let's picture the Bible as a bookcase with different sections:

  • The Old Testament has sections devoted to History, Poetry, and Prophecy.
  • The New Testament has sections devoted to Gospels, Church History, and Letters to Churches and People.
"The Bible Is A Library"

"The Bible Is A Library"

The Old Testament

The story line of the Old Testament is contained in the first 17 books (the five books of the Law and the Historical books). Added to this there are 5 poetical books, and 17 books of prophecy.

  • If you want to read Israel's history, you begin with the historical books.
  • If you want to enjoy Israel's poetry, walk slowly through the poetical books.
  • If you want to consider what the prophets of God said, check out the prophetical books.

The New Testament

The New Testament tells the story of Jesus and the coming the Kingdom of God, the growth of the church after Christ's resurrection, and letters written by Paul and others to churches in general and people in particular.

  • If you want to understand the life, death, and resurrection of Christ (and the kingdom of God) start at the gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke take a similar view of Christ's life. John gives us a year they do not cover.
  • If you want to read Paul's letters to young churches and young Christians, check out Romans - Philemon.
  • If you want to read what God had to say to larger groups of Christian, read the General Epistles or what are called, "Letters To The Entire Church." Dr. Joseph R. Nally Jr., notes: "Some interpreters have referred to the General Epistles as 'tracts for the times' because they deal largely with issues that nearly all Christians face."

Take A Book Off The Shelf

Most reading plans will encourage you to read widely. When we open the Scriptures we discover that God feels the same way:

  • "Every word of God proves true" Proverbs 30:5 ESV
  • "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4 ESV
  • "Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Matthew 5:18 ESV
  • "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable." 2 Timothy 3:16

Here are three ways you can make use of the Bible Bookcase today:

  1. Stop where you normally skip: Read a chapter from a section in the Bible you normally pass over. Ask yourself: "What is God saying?" "What is the application to my life?" Click here for an online index of Bible books. Look for "Bible Book List" under the search box.
  2. Peruse the Poetical Books: Click here to read Solomon's insights after he "tried it all."
  3. Pause in the Prophetical Books: Malachi is fascinating. Click here to read chapter 1, in which God and the nation of Israel go toe-to-toe.  Mike McKinley has some insights for you on how to read the prophetical books devotionally. Click here for his article.

Spanish River Church is Biblically Anchored Family. What is important to God is important to us. Here's what is important to God:

For you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
— Psalm 138:2 ESV


We invite you to join us this Sunday as we continue to honor his name and dive into his Word. Our series We Are SRC has been a good one to that end. We are continuing it this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:45.

Here's more:

  • If you missed Sunday's sermon, We Are Biblically Anchored, you can get it by clicking here.
  • If you need a Bible Reading Plan, click here.
  • For Days 1-3 in Five Bible Tools, just click the title below:
    Monday: The Bible Checklist
    Tuesday: The Interpretation Flashlight
    Wednesday: Praying The Promises
  • The Charles Steinmetz story comes from Max Anders, 30 Days To Understanding The Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2011. Page 11 with very minor modifications.
  • "You must know what kind of book . . ." from How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. USA: Touchstone. 1972. Page 60.
  • "Some interpreters have referred . . ." from Joseph R. Nally, Jr. in "Introduction to the Epistles of the New Testament." www. Accessed March 15, 2017.