Bible for Dummies

The PC’s For Dummies book and its sequels have sold in excess of forty-five million copies. It has spawned numerous sequels and imitators, ranging from Windows for Dummies to Chess for Dummies and Gardening for Dummies.

The Bible is the best selling book of all time. Yet, as scientific surveys and the unscientific but amusing “Jay Walking” segments on the Tonight Show illustrate, the percentage of Bible owners who know what to do with their Bibles is certainly much lower than the percentage of PC users who are confused by their new machines. Then there are the folks such as Bill Maher and xxxx, not to mention all the internet posters, who pontificate on the Bible as if they know what they are talking about and actually have no clue. So what kind of book could be written that could reach out to them? Currently available Bible handbooks and commentaries are not designed for neophytes and tend to be dry and boring. How-to-read-the-Bible books are designed for people who already have exposure to the Church and to the Bible. Moreover, they fail to answer the sort of questions a new, unchurched Bible reader would have.

Of course, course, there is already a book called The Bible for Dummies. There’s also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Bible. So perhaps what I have in mind has already been taken care of–except when I look through them, they strike me as being essentially the sort of guides to the Bible that are made for people who already have some idea about what’s going on in it.

I’m thinking of something more for the Bill Mahers or the average person who has never even looked through one before and all he knows about it is what he hears from people around him. I’m thinking for the equivalent of a high school freshman confronted by a Shakespeare play for the first time. He doesn’t know anything about how plays are written or staged, Elizabethan English is beyond him, and he’s barely heard the word Shakespeare before. Now he’s being forced to make sense of Macbeth.

I wonder if there’s a market for an owner’s manual for the Bible for people who may own the book but have no clue what to do with it and who have little if any exposure to the church or Christianity.

I’ve thought of some of the kinds of questions that might need to be answered:

Why are all the sentences numbered?
Does the Bible have an answer for every question in life?
What’s the plot?
How do I find my way around it, keep from getting lost, and make sense of any of it?
Does owning a Bible make me better than other people who don’t?
Who are the Gideons and why do they put the Bible in hotel rooms?
Who the heck is Habakkuk and what in the world is he talking about?
Should I upgrade to a modern translation? Which one?
Why are the names in the Bible so odd and hard to pronounce?
Why are there long lists of these ridiculous names linked together with the odd word “begot”?
Who wrote the Bible?
Why should anyone pay attention to what the Bible says?

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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