Why Not Just Read the Bible?

Jun 3, 2021 9:00:00 AM / by Marc Olson

Reading the Bible can be a bit like traveling. Anyone who has dipped more than a toe into scripture likely has a sense that it’s a different world in there, complete with creatures and characters and language and lands that can sometimes seem foreign or opaque. Just like traversing the wardrobe into Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ books, or walking through the wall of Platform 9 ¾ toward the wizarding world in the Harry Potter novels, entering the Bible’s long, strange story means walking across a kind of border between here and there and between now and then.

This is why we usually go with guides. Whether it’s a translation in language that sits easier on our ears or a study Bible filled with footnotes and helpful sidebars or a professor or pastor who can recite verses or talk about what Mesopotamia was like in 2000 BCE, most of our Bible reading benefits from the gifts of some type of guidance. At best, this will be someone who knows the territory enough to aid our exploration—someone who can point out the panoramic views as well as tiny details that, when noticed, can make what seemed at first like a lonely landscape come alive.

Manna and Mercy isn’t the Bible—and neither is it some kind of graphic novelization of sacred scripture nor a summary of "greatest hits." What this slim and unassuming volume offers is more like a marked-up map, a winding walk through centuries of story accompanied by a generous guide. Daniel Erlander’s deep love and respect for the Bible and the God who meets us there animates the pages of this booklet, inviting us along a unique and lovely and challenging route. Manna and Mercy provides a path through the Bible along a trail that takes seriously what God is doing in this world and invites us to imagine our place and our participation in the unfolding story of God’s mission to mend the entire universe.

If there’s a true north on this hand-drawn map that Dan offers, it’s the verse from Ephesians (1:9-10) that he shares in his introduction to Manna and Mercy:

“God has made known to us the mystery of God’s will, according to God’s pleasure set forth in Christ, as a promise for the fullness of time, to unite everything in Christ, everything in heaven and everything on earth.”

Topics: Daniel Erlander

Marc Olson

Written by Marc Olson

Marc Olson lives and works in St. Paul, MN, where he is an editor, author, and catechist. Marc has written alongside Daniel Erlander's work in the Lutheran Welcomes series of booklets, and is the author of the adult session leader guide in the recently published Manna and Mercy Leader Sourcebook. Marc is also the author of The World Jesus Knew: A Curious Kid's Guide to Life in the First Century, The World of the Old Testament: A Curious Kid's Guide to the Bible's Most Ancient Stories, and The World of the First Christians: A Curious Kid's Guide to the Early Church.

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