It’s that time of year again. The resolution time of year. ‘This year, I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to eat healthier. I’m going to start a business, get organized, save up a down payment’. My friend Kelsey (name changed for privacy) texted me recently and said that her 2021 resolution had been to read through the entire Bible in a year. She made it all the way to Ruth, which, by my math, is exactly 21.9% of the way there. Sound familiar?

Many of us fall short of our ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, which might be why others have given up making them all together.

Putting the Bible in Context

Resolution-setters or not, January is a common time for people to seek resources for deepening their faith or engaging with scripture in new ways. You might be one of those people. If so, you’re not alone.

In the past week, I’ve received numerous emails from friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, looking for resources to better understand the Bible. Many of my friends ask specifically for book recommendations to help explain the historical and cultural context of the Bible. (That’s why Kelsey texted me in the first place, prompting our discussion of resolutions.) One difficulty in responding to these many questions is tailoring the suggestion to the individual’s educational background and preferences. I have a few go-to recommendations,  (Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Wright & Bird’s The New Testament in Its World, The Bible Project), but different people have different needs.

Courses for Your Level

At N.T. Wright Online, we’re cognizant of this fact, and take seriously the responsibility to make (the insights of) world-class biblical scholarship accessible to students at various points in their respective journeys. When planning courses for development, we aim to produce a mixture of content that will appeal to those just entering the faith, long-time professionals, and everyone in between.

My friend Kelsey isn’t new to the faith, and she happens to be an avid reader, but I ended up recommending one of our beginner-level courses, 15 Essential Texts. Knowing the specific challenges she had in trying to read the whole Bible last year, I knew she would appreciate a course that lent itself to easy engagement, short study sessions between other commitments, and content that was devotional in nature.

When creating our courses, we determine in advance whether it is best described by a Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced label. Not only does this help us produce content for the widest possible audience, it also helps you quickly identify which courses best match your particular needs and interests.

To help students like my friend Kelsey discover courses that fit their individual needs, we’re offering courses from each of our three levels at discounted prices throughout the year. This month, we’re featuring 15 Essential Texts as our beginner suggestion, since it gives an entry point to key Bible verses. Our intermediate option is Themes in the Gospel of John, which tackles important themes like beauty, justice, freedom, and love through a single Gospel. If you’re looking for something even more robust, we think you’ll like The Servant King, which takes a deep dive into Isaiah 40-55.

If you or someone you know has never tried one of our courses before, we offer three free courses to help you get a feel for what it’s like to take an online Bible study course with Prof. Wright. The three courses linked below are a great, low-stakes way to discover how online learning can best work for you.

Faith Working Through Love

Reading Scripture in Public

Paul and His Letter to Philemon

Not Ready for “In-Depth” Study?

All paid courses contain quizzes so that you can check what you’re learning along the way (you can also go back and change your answer if you want that perfect score!). We also develop discussion questions, prompts for reflection, and practical applications for discipleship tied to each lecture.

One more story: I recently received a question from one of our N.T. Wright Online students who is enrolled in our course, The Storied World of the Bible. He asked whether I could recommend a helpful companion resource for someone just starting out reading the Bible. Specifically, he wanted ‘something for people who are not yet ready or willing to take a deep dive into studying the scriptures so in-depth’.

Sometimes you want ‘something for people who are not yet ready or willing to take a deep dive into studying the scriptures so in-depth’. Click To Tweet

A variation of this question is one of the most common that Prof. Wright and we come across. Sometimes it can feel like you need a PhD just to read the scriptures. (Prof. Wright tackles a version of this question in episode 22 of the Ask N.T. Wright Anything Podcast linked here). It’s important for us to affirm that, even though learning the Bible’s historical and literary context can open up worlds of understanding, we believe the scriptures meet every individual where they’re at.

Bible Study for Everyone

Everyone comes to Bible study from different backgrounds, contexts, and circumstances. Our courses aim to meet you at whatever level you wish to engage. You can find our full catalogue of courses at www.ntwrightonline.org/courses. In 2022, our encouragement to you is to simply start wherever you are and then keep going. Best wishes in the New Year!

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Jennifer Loop

Jennifer Loop is Content Developer for the Wisconsin Centre for Christian Studies. Currently, she is working towards her doctorate in the study of practical theology at Durham University, centering her research on forgiveness. Jennifer has served as a leader in Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step recovery program. She is married to Gary and they live in West Bend with their twenty-year-old cat, Caleb.