By Jim Eichenberger
“While we teach, we learn,” noted the 1st century Roman philosopher Seneca. In the 21st century, researchers discuss the protégé effect—increased understanding by students who were tutoring others. Centuries have revealed this simple truth—those who prepare to teach are preparing to learn.
For this reason, the Standard Lesson Study Bible (SLSB) has been designed to encourage Bible students to teach others as they learn more about God’s Word themselves.
Because of time limitations, we teach and learn in chunks—a nine-month school year, a four-year degree program, or an hour-long class. But a teacher must have a big picture understanding of the subject matter.
For example, a Bible study session may focus on Jesus’ healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda. The healing occurred on the Sabbath and sparked persecution of Jesus (John 5:1-47). The “Harmony of the Gospels” chart will show a teacher that this event happened near the same time as other Sabbath controversies (Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23–3:6; Luke 6:1-10), giving a fuller picture of the nature and hostility of these confrontations.
It is easy for Bible students to get stuck on an obscure verse from a less-familiar book and misinterpret it out of context. Simple and easy-to-memorize outlines in the introduction to each book allow the teacher to understand the message of a book as a whole rather than seeing it as a series of unconnected verses. For example the book of Leviticus may seem daunting, but its content is summarized in three words: priests, purity, and parties (Jewish festivals).
A Bible teacher must know when and in what situations certain Bible passages were written. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Romans 8:31), but he also said “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). These statements do not contradict because they were made in different situations and at different times.
The SLSB gives the user chronological helps. The books of the Bible are not only listed in their traditional order, but also chronologically. This is especially helpful in showing the intersection of narrative books such as Genesis–Esther and the prophets with the Psalms as well as the intersection of some of the epistles with the history found in the book of Acts. A 16-page timeline shows the order of Bible events, and also includes events of secular history occurring near the same times.
The perennial student questions are, “So what? How will I ever use this?” Application is of great importance to one who is preparing to answer those questions. The enhanced book introductions in the SLSB include big questions asked today and how the ancient text addresses them. For example, the centuries-old book of Leviticus answers the modern challenge, “Why is my sex life anybody’s business?” Paul’s letter to the Colossians deals with the difference between a Christian and a so-called spiritual person, a distinction that must be made today.
Alongside the Bible text, the reader will find comments, but will also find discussion questions aimed at applying the Bible text. A collection of essays in the SLSB addresses questions that almost every Bible teacher will hear at one time or another. “If God is love, how can there be a Hell?” and “Aren’t all religions basically the same?” and others are answered clearly and succinctly.
What is a great way to grow in Bible understanding? Prepare to teach it! Whether your fellow students are in a classroom, are members of your own family, or are friends sharing a cup of coffee, your protégé effect will be great when you use tools like the Standard Lesson Study Bible.
Jim Eichenberger is the senior editor of Standard Lesson products and helped create the Standard Lesson Study Bible in both King James and New International Version editions.