Need some inspiration for preparing your next Bible study, Sunday school lesson or sermon? Or are you ready to take the next step in your personal Bible study and need some expert guidance? Check out these seventeen volumes of commentary and Bible survey from a master teacher who prepares Bible background materials for the Southern Baptist Convention Sunday School series. These materials are used by churches, prisons, hospitals, military bases, overseas missionaries and ministries, Bible study groups, and many individuals.
As a conference speaker, and former pastor and professor (department of religion at East Texas Baptist University), Dr. Bob Utley is uniquely qualified to write teaching material that will help you understand and present the Bible in a rich and compelling manner. He approaches Bible teaching from an exegetical, verse-by-verse, historical-grammatical point of view. Dr. Utley works to remove his (and our) social, cultural, experiential, and denominational biases. He supports his interpretation from the biblical text in one of five ways: (1) literary context; (2) historical setting of the biblical author; (3) word studies; (4) grammatical relationships; (5) parallel biblical passages and/or (6) genre.
This material is non-technical and walks the reader through the process of exegeting Scripture verse-by-verse and thought-by-thought. Where technical terms are used, they are defined in an appendix. Dr. Utley does not provide an interpretation so much as serve as a knowledgeable guide in the quest to identify the author's intention. He writes, "This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator."
Dr. Utley founded Bible Lessons International in 1976 in Lubbock, Texas. Initially he taught the "Uniform" Sunday School series on local radio and television stations. In 1979, however, Dr. Utley felt the Lord leading him into an expanded media ministry. At that time a non-profit educational corporation was formed which began to produce all three Southern Baptist Convention Sunday School lesson series (Life and Work, Uniform [or International, used by all denominations] and Bible Book). Since that time the ministry has expanded into other areas of ministry both nationally and internationally.
[Excerpted from the commentary on Hebrews.]
Biblical interpretation is a rational and spiritual process that attempts to understand an ancient inspired writer in such a way that the message from God may be understood and applied in our day.
The spiritual process is crucial but difficult to define. It does involve a yieldedness and openness to God. There must be a hunger (1) for Him, (2) to know Him, and (3) to serve Him. This process involves prayer, confession and the willingness for lifestyle change. The Spirit is crucial in the interpretive process, but why sincere, godly Christians understand the Bible differently, is a mystery.
The rational process is easier to describe. We must be consistent and fair to the text and not be influenced by our personal or denominational biases. We are all historically conditioned. None of us are objective, neutral interpreters. This commentary offers a careful rational process containing three interpretive principles structured to help us overcome our biases.
The first principle is to note the historical setting in which a biblical book was written and the particular historical occasion for its authorship. The original author had a purpose, a message to communicate. The text cannot mean something to us that it never meant to the original, ancient, inspired author. His intent—not our historical, emotional, cultural, personal or denominational need—is the key...
The second principle is to identify the literary units. Every biblical book is a unified document. Interpreters have no right to isolate one aspect of truth by excluding others. Therefore, we must strive to understand the purpose of the whole biblical book before we interpret the individual literary units...
Interpreting at a paragraph level—not sentence, clause, phrase or word level—is the key in following the biblical author’s intended meaning. Paragraphs are based on a unified topic, often called the theme or topical sentence. Every word, phrase, clause, and sentence in the paragraph relates somehow to this unified theme...
The third principle is to read the Bible in different translations in order to grasp the widest possible range of meaning (semantic field) that biblical words or phrases may have. Often a Greek phrase or word can be understood in several ways. These different translations bring out these options and help to identify and explain the Greek manuscript variations...
This commentary offers a quick way for the student to check his interpretations. It is not meant to be definitive, but rather informative and thought-provoking. Often, other possible interpretations help us not be so parochial, dogmatic, and denominational. Interpreters need to have a larger range of interpretive options to recognize how ambiguous the ancient text can be. It is shocking how little agreement there is among Christians who claim the Bible as their source of truth.
These principles have helped me to overcome much of my historical conditioning by forcing me to struggle with the ancient text. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you as well.
East Texas Baptist University
June 27, 1996
Dr. Bob Utley is a dynamic and inspirational Bible teacher. He feels that the Lord has given him a gift of relating to all types of people, especially those who have been turned off by "religiosity." Bob was born in 1947 in Houston, Texas. He is married to the former Peggy Rutta and they have three children and three grandchildren. He has earned degrees from East Texas Baptist College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has done post-graduate work at Baylor University, Wycliffe Bible Translators' Summer Institute of Linguistics, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has pastored several churches in Texas. Currently Bob conducts revivals and Bible conferences both in the United States and abroad.