I remember it well. It was an old Nintendo Entertainment System Cartridge Library. Originally, it was designed to hold 18 NES games on three columns with six slots. It was my first “bookshelf” dedicated to resources of a biblical nature.
At 18 I began to expand my reading to include other literature to inform my studies of the Scriptures. There is no substitute to Bible study, but for a beginning student of the Bible articles and tracts were very helpful in introducing topics and issues to me.
How My Library Began
My modest library began with tracts and booklets. An older preacher encouraged me to collect tracts and booklets on whatever topics I could find. Fortunately for me, church foyers were a robust ally in my quest to stockpile tracts.
I used to sport a green pullover jacket with a kangaroo pouch, and I would always find a way to “smuggle” some tracts out of every church service I attended. The outcome: a pile of tracts began to collect upon my desk.
There came a point when I did not know where to place my cache of tracts and booklets. My family tends to be hoarders, and someone had stumbled upon an this old NES Game Library case.
It served me well, and it fueled my “love affair” of reading studies on a variety of theological topics. I was not much of a reader until I began to study the Bible. Now I read, and read as much as I can.
So it was; I began to organize my little volumes. The tracts that would fit I kept organized within the NES Library, and as my library expanded the more I became resourceful to contain it.
Today, I have several volumes in my library. At times, I am surprised to think that it started with this little box about a foot long by 10 inches tall. Now I have books on shelves and in boxes, journals and magazines in filing cabinets.
In the process I have learned that some books are worth keeping, others reading and passing on, and still others worth discarding. Books are much like selecting fruit; the joy is all in the picking and savoring. But please, toss the rotten ones away!
Everyone Needs a Biblical Library
God intends that His people be readers, thinkers, doers. This ought not to shock any one of us since He has commissioned 66 books to articulate the faith once delivered (Jude 3).
Reading is an essential aspect of our faith. Jesus would ask the religious leaders of his day “have you not read” (cf. Matt. 19.4). This echoes the lament of Hosea, saying his people are destroyed due to a lack of Scriptural knowledge (4.6).
The maintenance of our faith and impact upon our salvation seems also to be accomplished through the “public reading” of the Scriptures. Paul makes this abundantly clear to Timothy (1 Tim. 4.13; cf. Col. 4.16).
And while the Bible is a book that can be understood by the average person, any astute reader of this small library will acknowledge that sometimes we need help to guide us through the text (Acts 8.30-31).
From Geography to regional political backgrounds; or from linguistics to religious thematic studies, etc., – good resources are essential to illuminate the text to promote an accurate understanding.
This principle has been well stated:
[I]t is the epitome of folly to ignore the labors of countless Bible scholars across the centuries who have made available, by mans of the printed page, the results of their research.
There seems to be a connection, then, between being “people of the book” and being “book people”.
Every Christian and Christian home should have a budding romance with good literature which reinforces understanding of God’s word and a Christian worldview.
Build A Library
There is a sense in which we will always be learning. Solomon is right, “of making many books there is no end” (Eccl. 12.12). But we can surround ourselves with helpful resources, despite this paradox.
We will offer five (5) suggestions in the following lines that will help in building a solid biblical library.
(1) Choose materials that respect biblical inspiration and authority.
Moses told the Israelites not to “add” or “take from” the Lord’s word (Deut. 4.2). The Revelation ends with the same sobering warning (22.18-19).
God’s word is to be respected and observed, without any intrusion of human opinion. Every word within the sacred text is from God (2 Tim. 3.16-17). Consequently, it is important to select literature which is in keeping with these truths.
(2) Choose materials that have ongoing usefulness.
Not one can be expected to know everything, not even the expert. One of the keys to learning is to know where to locate information.
For this reason, it is highly recommended to purchase Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and Bible atlas’. Whether it is to refresh oneself, or to begin a study such resources are regularly indispensable, though they are not free of bias at times.
(3) Choose materials that illuminate the biblical text.
There is too much spiritual fluff peddled in the “Christian” markets. They do little to help understand the Scriptures. They may have person inspirational value, but not textual.
It is important to include special background studies which will improve one’s knowledge of the world of the Scripture (archaeology, word studies, culture and religion, etc.). These often contain information which is often inaccessible.
(4) Choose materials that have practical importance for a life of faith.
It is important to obtain practical and useful volumes which address marriage and the family, Christian evidences and apologetics, matters which inform our understanding on how the Bible came to man.
Books on doubt, the problem of pain and suffering, moral issues, or matters of personal nature are also important for faith development; issues which confront our faith daily.
(5) Choose faithful authors who are experts in their field.
An important criterion for selecting books is that they are written by those of proven worth, ability, and faithfulness. Some authors are well known for their knowledge depth on particular matters – experts.
No one would want a self trained novice operating on them; but rather, a board certified surgeon. So it is with those authors we invite into our minds and engage in our studies in the Scriptures.
As we conclude, we pray that our readers will begin to build a useful faith building library. It does take time and money to accumulate the needed volumes, but the results of such an investment are tremendous. As Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536) once said, “When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes“. Only someone who knew the value of study and learning could make such an irrational statement.
In the shadow of Paul’s final days, he asks Timothy to have John Mark accompany him in Timothy’s visit to the imprisoned apostle in Rome (2 Tim. 2.11). Among the items Paul requests is a cloak (phere), “the books” (to biblia), and “the parchments” (tas membranas; cf. 2 Tim. 2.13).
There is no telling exactly what “the books” are but evidence shows that the apostle was quite familiar with a wider world of literature (cf. Acts 17); yet, “the parchments” is a unique technical term referring to a codice (a bound volume like a book) which retains copies of letters – probably his letters.
The point we conclude with is that as Christians we have a long tradition of reading and studying. Let us not lose sight of this noble task. Let our homes be a place where we may have access to resources to better inform our faith in order that we may do the most important work ahead of us – understanding and applying Scripture.
- Wayne Jackson, 1986, A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge (Stockton, Calif.: Apologetics Press, Inc.), 83.
- Desiderius Erasmus, “Desiderius Erasmus Quotes”, ThinkExist.com.
- E. Randolph Richards, 1998, “The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul’s Letters”, Bulletin for Biblical Research 8: 159-62.