Throughout my youth, I had no interest in reading the Bible. It wasn’t that I didn’t like to read; I was a voracious reader. It wasn’t even that I didn’t like the subject matter. What kid doesn’t love an epic saga filled with war, heroes, villains, and the triumph of good over evil? No, I had no interest in the Bible because the Bible didn’t make much sense to me. If there was an epic saga within its pages, I couldn’t find it. What I did find were lengthy genealogies of practically unpronounceable names and hundreds of rituals and laws that seemed irrational and arbitrary.
Then I attended Benedictine College, and with the encouragement of my peers and professors I began to take my faith seriously. For the first time in my life, I understood and accepted that the Bible is inspired by God; it is the Word of God. So I began to read it, but knowing that it was the Word of God didn’t make it any easier. I struggled, page after page, to figure out what God was trying to say to me. What was I missing?
Around the same time, I was reading Catholic for a Reason. It includes an essay by Jeff Cavins that completely resonated with my Bible reading experience. Jeff proposed that when we read the Bible, we can become so focused on the particular details that we lose sight of the big picture.
What Is the Big Picture of the Bible?
Because the Bible is not a single book, but a library of seventy-three books, reading it cover to cover is not really the best way to understand it. If we want to understand the Bible, then it is essential that we know the story that ties it all together. Jeff outlined this story by dividing the Bible into twelve time periods and highlighting fourteen books of the Bible that tell the story from beginning to end.
When I saw Jeff’s outline that arranged the books of the Bible in a chronological chart, it was then, for the first time in my life, that I could see the big picture. It was also then that I began reading my Bible enthusiastically, beginning with those fourteen narrative books. As I continued reading the Bible, I could see how this amazing story is the foundation for our entire Catholic Faith. The liturgical readings began to make sense. I began to understand why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do as Catholics; it all came together!
Soon after I finished my graduate studies, I began working with Jeff Cavins at Ascension. By this time, Jeff had created The Great Adventure Bible study program, and he had developed his original chart into a full-blown color-coded Bible Timeline learning system. God has used this learning system to touch the lives of an astonishing number of people. Through The Great Adventure studies and seminars, hundreds of thousands of Catholics like me have discovered the big picture of the Bible. Many of them have fallen in love with the Catholic Faith for the first time in their lives.
Let The Great Adventure Begin
Some years ago, we discerned that the best way for even more people to fall in love with Scripture would be for us to incorporate the The Bible Timeline learning system into a more user-friendly Bible. So, that is what we did. Working with a team of biblical scholars, including Jeff Cavins, Mary Healy, Andrew Swafford, Peter Williamson, and Fr. Sebastian Carnazzo, we created The Great Adventure Catholic Bible. This Bible literally guides readers through the story that ties all of Scripture together. Each book of the Bible is color-coded, indicating where it fits within the big picture. Commentaries provide an overview of each biblical period, and key event call-outs mark the milestones in salvation history.
This is the Bible I wish I had when I was younger, a Bible that provides the key for making sense of Scripture. That experience I had when I first saw Jeff Cavins’ chart is an experience we hope even more people will have as they read The Great Adventure Catholic Bible.
The Great Adventure Catholic Bible is available at ascensionpress.com.
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About Subdeacon John Harden
Subdeacon John Harden is a senior product manager at Ascension and has served as an adjunct professor of theology at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania. He has a bachelor’s degree in theology from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He, his wife, and their children live in West Chester, Pennsylvania.