About a month ago or so, I reviewed a NKJV Bible (the Bible that is the default for my own particular religious organization) that had been given study notes relating to evangelism and marketed specially . Seeing this done, and done well, I wondered if it would not be too great a task for my own church to seriously pursue the task of creating a study Bible that would specifically include as a commentary the notes from the Bible Reading Program. The Bible itself could easily be a New King James Bible, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers (a publisher, it should be noted, in the interests of full disclosure, that I frequently review books for), with the notes provided by those responsible for the Good News Magazine and the Beyond Today television broadcast.
Among the benefits of this would be providing a big enough vision to encourage the completion of the Bible Reading Program commentary for the entire Bible. It is vastly easier to complete one ambitious goal (like a Bible commentary) if that goal is one section of an even larger goal, namely that of providing a study Bible that clearly expresses the interpretation of the Church of God in scripture in a way that is accessible, consistent, and comprehensive. Having a larger vision of placing Bibles in the hands of believers or potential believers that would include notes that can help quickly explain difficult scriptures and passages and place them in their full biblical context would be immensely useful for personal Bible study as well as a resource for dealing with biblical questions in a timely and effective manner. Having important commentaries as part of the larger biblical framework can also help remove the need to clutter up inspired margins, and can provide a more authoritative base for biblical discussions by placing our interpretive framework in the open in a systematic way.
Another benefit would be to harmonize the two aspects of our organization’s mission statement in a way that is seldom undertaken. A thoughtful and complete biblical apparatus, including a sound exegetical commentary, would both preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and prepare God’s people for that Kingdom. On the one side, the presence and marketing of the Bible itself would help the focus of evangelism because it would provide the truths of God embedded in the very notes present on the pages of a Bible. Assuming that those who have such a Bible are inclined to use it, their own Bible study would lead them into an understanding of sound biblical doctrine in the footnotes, providing a means of preaching the Gospel in a way that is compelling as well as persuasive. Additionally, this means also provides a way of instructing believers in sound doctrine through those same footnotes and commentaries, allowing believers a Bible that affirms our belief system and that provides a strong degree of connection between different passages and verses of the Bible that connects the scripture to our existing but sometimes inchoate interpretation. Such a Bible would inform speakers by prompting reminders of connecting passages, make for more profitable personal and collective Bible study, and greatly aid biblical instruction on the family, congregational, and organizational levels. It is rare when a potential action can so positively affect so many areas of church life.
Yet another benefit, and one that cannot be neglected, is the good such a project would do for the unity and balance of the Church of God. Such a project would help fill an intellectual gap in terms of the writings of the Church of God, by bringing doctrinal understanding to the level of verses and passages. Showing, in a comprehensive way that includes the entire scriptures, how our belief system springs from a sound and consistent understanding of the Bible, through the means of a biblical apparatus, would be a major boost to the intellectual legitimacy of the Church of God. As might be imagined, this is an issue near and dear to my own heart. Additionally, it would provide a means for greater potential unity insofar as the development of a common biblical commentary would also further the development of common ground in terms of interpretation and understanding that is less dependent on individual speakers and more dependent on the entire body of biblical understanding contained by the larger body of believers (and ordained ministers) as a whole. By bringing this entire understanding to bear, we are benefited greatly by a multitude of wise and seasoned counselors who have dedicated their lives to the understanding and preaching of biblical truths.
How do we make such a goal a practical one in light of its ambition. There would appear to be several interrelated tasks that would need to be accomplished for this proposal to be realized. For one, there would need to be the dedication of ministers to the completion of the Bible Reading Program commentary, so that it covers all of the Bible. This commentary, to become part of an official biblical apparatus, would require the approval of the doctrinal committee and would be publicly available in print, and to an even larger extent online to provide even fuller detail, and as a way of connecting the biblical apparatus with other media and evangelism efforts. Additionally, work would need to be done to determine the feasibility of pairing this commentary as the footnotes and supporting material to an existing Byzantine-text (or Aramaic-text) based Bible. Included in this effort may need to be a demonstration of the popularity and desirability of this Bible among brethren in the Church of God community as well as the larger body of readers and coworkers. The feasibility of the project would be increased and the cost decreased if there was sufficient interest in such a Bible, to be sure. What remains to be seen is the will to complete the existing project to provide a commentary of the whole Bible and a way to bring this effort to an audience of believers and potential believers.