BibleBridge Bible Study Lessons is a new series for mature teens and adults who want to work independently. Studies are both intellectual and devotional, challenging students to read, think, and apply lessons to themselves.
Author Les Bridgeman says in the introduction to the first study, Genesis 1-3, that these courses are for those who are looking for:
- “interpretive difficulties addressed honestly and kept in perspective,
- interaction with other parts of Scripture (Old and New Testament),
- exposure to different views, including theistic evolution, without indoctrination on the one right view, and
- personal questions to engage the heart”
There are five studies thus far:
Genesis 1-3: Setting the Stage (23 lessons)
Genesis 4-50: A Faithful God (34 lessons)
Mark 1-7: The Authority of Christ (33 lessons)
Mark 8-16: The Story of Christ Continues (30 lessons)
John 1-21 (40 lessons)
Students fourteen and up can use these studies, but 14- and 15-year-old students should start with the gospel of Mark courses since they are at a slightly lower level than the Genesis courses. These are not beginner courses; students should previously have spent some time in Bible study to be ready for even the Mark courses. Adults interested in serious Bible study should find these courses very worthwhile.
The Genesis 1-3 study is free in PDF format, but all of the studies are available as printed books. Each self-study course includes lessons, quizzes, tests, and an answer key.
Courses use an inductive study method, leading from details to general principles. Students work through three steps with their studies: observe, interpret, and apply, although they might be applying one or two of these steps more in one lesson than another; the lesson formats vary rather than following a set pattern. Some lessons include more information written by the author while others have students work more from scripture as directed by questions. Some lessons concentrate more on personal reactions and applications.
Courses primarily use the NIV of the Bible, pertinent portions of which are sometimes reprinted within each text. Students are sometimes told to search for keywords and repetition. In addition, students are expected to memorize a number of scripture passages.
In each study, students will do a lot of scripture study from many books of the Bible so that they are making connections and seeing the big picture. They will also do a significant amount of writing in response to the questions. They will copy scripture passages, identify and write down key ideas, summarize sections, create charts showing themes or information, and analyze information. They will also reflect and make personal observations and applications. Sometimes there are even creative writing assignments. Students probably need a separate notebook for some of the written work.
Vocabulary words and their definitions are inserted directly into paragraphs, sometimes a bit awkwardly. Still, this saves students from having to look elsewhere for the definitions of words. Note that students will encounter a great many English vocabulary words as well as some Hebrew words and a few Latin phrases.
Students are told to use the biblegateway.com site from time to time, especially to compare different translations for a passage. Occasionally other websites are mentioned as tools or as sources for supplemental information, most often in footnotes.
Genesis 1-3: Setting the Stage might be the most controversial of these studies since it explores various interpretations and theories without promoting any one of them. For example, it tackles the days of creation issue by presenting four views: 24-hour days, age-day, analogical, and literary framework. For each viewpoint, there might be additional notes on support, problems, and possible solutions to problems in regard to that position. In the end, students are asked which position makes the most sense to them and why. They are also challenged to explain whether or not they think their viewpoint on this makes a big difference to a person’s faith, and why or why not. It continues through topics such as the differences between the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis, the origin of the tetragrammaton YHWH and how that has been interpreted over time, the problem of evil, various views on evolution, and the historicity of Adam and Eve.
Questions raised in this study are hugely important, but some of them have no ironclad answers that are accepted by all Christians. For example, on page 59 it poses the following: “Every religion and philosophy must wrestle with the existence of evil. Why do we live in a world where evil things occur? Have you personally struggled with the existence of evil? How so? What was your conclusion?” You can see how this approach can be very thought-provoking and, perhaps, even unsettling.
The second study Genesis 4-50: A Faithful God continues to challenge students to think beyond simplistic explanations. It discusses the genealogies in Genesis, presenting different theories as to their completeness and accuracy. Students do some research of their own here as they work through Scripture to create genealogies for Cain and Seth. The course raises questions regarding such things as the long lives attributed to those living before the flood, the meaning of the term “sons of God” in Genesis 6, the identity of the Nephilim, and the extent of the flood. It asks intriguing questions such as “Do you think Adam and Eve were originally vegetarians?” (p. 29) and “Why is disturbing material included in the Bible?” (p. 53). Lessons in these first two studies sometimes make comparisons or contrasts with other religious worldviews.
Mark 1–7: The Authority of Christ sets the scene with an interesting study of contrasts between the world into which Jesus was born and our modern civilization. This leads into the question: “Do you think Jesus should have been born earlier (or later) in world history? Why or why not? (p. 4). While this (as well as the next study) is a study of one particular gospel, it also expands to the rest of scripture, especially to the other gospels. For example, on page 15 it directs students: “Read the beginning of each Gospel (the first ten to twenty verses) and briefly summarize how each Gospel begins.”
As the study moves into the particulars of Mark’s gospel, it continues to draw from the entire Bible. The lectio divina form of praying with scripture is introduced in this study and appears again in the continuation of the study of Mark's gospel.
Mark 8-16: The Story of Christ Continues is written in the same vein as Mark 1-7. It includes a lesson on the prayer life of Jesus then follows up with some excellent applications to the student’s prayer life. It raises some controversial questions on topics such as divorce and differing views regarding the body and blood of Jesus in communion. However, both studies of Mark’s gospel are unlikely to be as controversial as the first study on Genesis.
I have not reviewed John 1-21 since it was a later addition to this series after my initial review.
The BibleBridge Bible Study Lessons present intellectually challenging studies that go deeper than most other studies. I appreciate that they also ask the so what practical application questions as well so that Bible study doesn't rest only at the intellectual level.