30 Days to Understanding the Bible, 30th Anniversary: Unlock the Scriptures in 15 minutes a day

30 Days to Understanding the Bible, 30th Anniversary: Unlock the Scriptures in 15 minutes a day

by Max Anders

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Unlock the treasures of God's Word in just fifteen minutes a day with this classic, simple-to-use guide to Scripture.

If you've ever confused the ark of the covenant with the ark of Noah, or Jericho with Jeroboam, Max Anders' classic book, 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, is for you. In just fifteen minutes a day, you'll learn the Bible's key people, events, and doctrines to get more out of God's Word. This simple-to-use, straightforward guide has been recommended by Bible teachers and pastors for thirty years, and now it's available in an expanded thirtieth anniversary edition—with the most requested topics from the original edition restored and updated for today's readers.

Features include:

  • The “Arc of Bible History” to help you visualize the Bible’s overarching themes
  • The “Story of the Bible” summarizing Genesis through Revelation in just a few pages
  • The core beliefs of the Christian faith, focusing on the teachings that have united Christians for the last 2,000 years
  • 13-week plan that provides teacher’s every creative and effective tool for teaching the Bible in 30 days 
  • Fan-favorite bonus content, previously removed, now restored from the original edition

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785216292
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 62,527
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and is the creator and general editor of the 32-volume Holman Bible Commentary series. He has taught on the college and seminary level and is a veteran pastor.  Max provides resources and discipleship strategies at www.maxanders.com to help people grow spiritually.

Read an Excerpt



Charles Steinmetz was an electrical engineer of towering intellect. After he retired, he was asked by a major appliance manufacturer to locate a malfunction in their electrical equipment. None of the manufacturer's experts had been able to locate the problem. Steinmetz spent some time walking around and testing the various parts of the machine complex. Finally, he took out of his pocket a piece of chalk and marked an X on a particular part of one machine. The manufacturer's people disassembled the machine, discovering to their amazement that the defect lay precisely where Steinmetz's chalk mark was located.

Some days later, the manufacturer received a bill from Steinmetz for ten thousand dollars. They protested the amount and asked him to itemize it. He sent back an itemized bill:

Making one chalk mark $1
Knowing where to place it $9,999

If you know where the chalk marks go, the most overwhelming tasks are easily solved. If you don't, even simple tasks can be impossible.

Learning about the Bible can be much the same. If you don't know much about it, it can be like trying to cross the Sahara Desert blindfolded. Yet if you learn where a few of the major "chalk marks" go, the Bible will unfold itself to you, allowing you to begin to master it.

My own experience bears this out. Many years ago, I decided I was going to master the Bible. I was going to begin with Genesis and read through Revelation, and I wasn't going to put it down until I understood it. I soon became hopelessly entangled in a jungle of fantastic stories, unpronounceable names, broken plots, unanswered questions, and endless genealogies. I stubbed my toe on Leviticus, sprained my ankle on Job, hit my head on Ecclesiastes, and fell headlong into the mud on Habakkuk.

I was defeated. I threw my Bible down, concluding that the Bible was a series of unrelated stories put together in random order!

Then one day I discovered a key. With this key, the fog that enshrouded my understanding of the Bible began to lift. Not that things came into sharp focus, but at least I began to see shapes on the horizon.

The key: Learning the structure of the Bible. If you want to learn architecture, you must first learn how buildings are put together. If you want to learn sailing, you must first learn how ships are put together. And if you want to learn to understand the Bible, you must first learn how the Bible is put together.


The Bible has two major divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament begins with creation and tells the story of the Jewish people up to the time of Christ. It is made up of thirty-nine individual "books" (the book of Genesis, the book of Exodus, etc.) written by twenty-eight different authors and spans a period of over two thousand years.

The New Testament is the record of the birth of Jesus, His life and ministry, and the ministry of His disciples, which was carried on after Jesus was crucified. The New Testament is composed of twenty-seven books written by nine different authors and covers a time period of less than one hundred years. The total number of books in the entire Bible is sixty-six.


Here is the key to understanding the Old Testament. Of the thirty-nine books in the Old Testament, there are three different kinds of books: Historical Books, Poetical Books, and Prophetical Books.

What kind of information would you expect to find in the Historical Books?................................................. history!

What kind of information would you expect to find in the Poetical Books?................................................. poetry!

What kind of information would you expect to find in the Prophetical Books?................................................. prophecy!

If you know what kind of book you are reading, then you will know what kind of information to expect, and you can more easily follow the logical flow of the Old Testament!

In the Old Testament:

... the first seventeen books are historical,

... the next five books are poetical, and

... the next seventeen books are prophetical!


If you want to read the story of the Hebrew nation in the Old Testament, you must read the first seventeen books. These books compose a historical timeline for the nation of Israel.

If you want to read the poetry of Israel, you must read the next five books of the Old Testament.

If you want to read about the prophecy of Israel, you must read the final seventeen books.

This is somewhat oversimplified, because there is some poetry in the Historical Books, and some history in the Prophetical Books, and so on. The point is, however, that each of the books fits into a primary category. If you keep this structure in mind, the Old Testament will begin to take shape for you.

My mistake was in assuming that the whole Old Testament was one long, unbroken story and that the history would flow evenly and consistently out of one book into the next until they were all finished. Now I know the storyline is contained in the first seventeen books.

Of the seventeen Historical Books, eleven are primary Historical Books and six are secondary Historical Books. The history of Israel is advanced in the eleven primary books and repeated or amplified in the six secondary books. The Poetical and Prophetical Books were written during the time period that is constructed in the first seventeen books.

Let's take a look at the historical timeline of the Old Testament in chart form:


As you can see, Job was written during the time period of the book of Genesis, and Psalms during the time of 2 Samuel, while Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon were written during the time of 1 Kings, and so on.

To use an analogy, we constructed a similar chart for U.S. history. Imagine that you read an American history book for the main storyline. The history book would give you the major periods in U.S. history. Some of these periods might be associated with a major poet or writer and a major philosopher. The poets would correspond to the poets of Israel, and the philosophers would correspond to the biblical prophets.



Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, there are also three different kinds of books: Historical Books, Pauline Epistles, and General Epistles. The Historical Books are the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistles are letters written to various individuals and church congregations. The Pauline Epistles are letters written by the apostle Paul. The General Epistles are letters written to individuals and congregations by a number of different people, hence the rather generic name General Epistles. The primary content in all the Epistles is instruction on Christian doctrine and lifestyle.

What kind of information would you expect to find in the Historical Books?................................................. history!

What kind of information would you expect to find in the Pauline Books?..................................................instruction!

What kind of information would you expect to find in the General Epistles?...............................................instruction!

In the New Testament:

... the first five books are Historical Books,

... the next thirteen books are Pauline Epistles, and

... the next nine books are General Epistles!


If you want to read the story of Jesus and the church He established, you must read the first five books of the New Testament. These five books form the historical framework for understanding the entire New Testament!

If you want to read the apostle Paul's instruction to churches and individuals, you must read the next thirteen books.

If you want to read the instruction to churches and individuals by men like the apostles Peter and John, you must read the final nine books of the New Testament.


To find something in the Bible, you use a standard reference system. This consists of the name of the book of the Bible, the chapter number followed by a colon, and the verse number (each chapter is divided into numbered verses). For example:

When you see a reference such as Joshua 1:21, you will either need to memorize the books of the Bible to know where Joshua is, or you can look it up in the table of contents. It is well worth the time to memorize the books, and it is easiest to memorize them according to their categories.

For example, you now know that there are three types of books in both the Old Testament (Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical) and the New Testament (Historical, Pauline Epistles, and General Epistles), and how many books are in each section. Memorize the first seventeen Historical Books. Then, when you have these memorized, learn the five Poetical Books, and so on. This system is much easier than attempting to memorize an unbroken list of sixty-six books.

There is no substitute for reading the whole book for yourself, of course, but it is possible to offer a quick overview. To read "The Story of the Bible," turn to the appendix.


1. There are 39 books in the Old Testament. There are 27 books in the New Testament. There are 66 books in the whole Bible.

2. The Old Testament is the story of God and the Hebrew people, their poets, and prophets.

There are 3 kinds of books in the Old Testament:

17 Historical Books

5 Poetical Books

17 Prophetical Books

3. The New Testament is the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the church He founded, and its growth under the leadership of His apostles after His death and resurrection.

There are 3 kinds of books in the New Testament:

5 Historical Books

13 Pauline Epistles

9 General Epistles

Congratulations! You are off to a fine start. As we move from the general to the specific, you can build your knowledge of the Bible like rows of bricks on a house. In twenty-nine more days, your house will be finished.



The size of our solar system is beyond comprehension. To get some perspective, imagine you are in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats with nothing but tabletop flat ground around you for miles and miles. There you put down a beach ball two feet in diameter, which you use to represent the sun. To get a feel for the immensity of the solar system, walk about a city block and put down a mustard seed for the first planet, Mercury. Go another block and for Venus put down an ordinary BB. Mark off yet another block and put down a green pea to represent Earth. A final block from there, put down a mustard seed to represent Mars. Then sprinkle some grass seed around for an asteroid belt.

We have now walked about four blocks, and we have a beach ball (sun), mustard seed (Mercury), BB (Venus), pea (Earth), mustard seed (Mars), and grass seed (asteroid belt). Now things begin to stretch out.

Continue for another quarter of a mile. Place an orange on the ground for Jupiter. Walk another third of a mile and put down a golf ball for Saturn.

Now lace up your tennis shoes and check their tread. Then step off another mile and, for Uranus, drop a marble. Go another mile and place a cherry there for Neptune. Finally, walk for another two miles and put down another marble for Pluto.

At last, go up in an airplane and look down. On a smooth surface almost ten miles in diameter we have a beach ball, a mustard seed, a BB, a pea, another mustard seed, some grass seed, an orange, a golf ball, a marble, a cherry, and another marble.

To understand our replica of the solar system even better, use another beach ball to represent Alpha Centauri, the next-nearest star to our sun. You would have to go another 6,720 miles and put it down in Japan!

Understanding the size and location of things and the relationships and distances between them gives us perspective. Just as this example gives us perspective about the solar system, a knowledge of geography can give perspective about the events of the Bible. It is helpful to know the names, locations, and relative positions of important places. Otherwise, we skim over information without comprehension or visualization, and this makes the Bible less interesting and less easily understood.

The one who is ignorant of geography cannot know history. The Bible is largely history. So, to begin our mastery of the history of the Bible, we must start with the geography of the Bible.


The primary anchor points for mastering the geography of the Bible are the bodies of water. (As you read each description, go to the Work Map and insert the name of the body of water beside the matching number.)

1. The Mediterranean Sea

The land of the Old Testament lies east of this beautiful blue body of water.

2. The Sea of Galilee

To call this body a sea seems to be an overstatement. It is a freshwater lake that is seven miles wide and fourteen miles long. It lies about thirty-six miles inland from the Mediterranean.

3. The Jordan River

Flowing south out of the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River travels for sixty-five miles, as the crow flies, to empty into the Dead Sea. Many are surprised at how much history has revolved around such a small river.

4. The Dead Sea

Shaped like a giant hot dog with a bite out of the lower third, the Dead Sea lies at the "bottom of the world." It is the lowest point on land, almost three thousand feet below sea level at its lowest point, so that water flows into it, but no water flows out of it. As a result, the water has a very high concentration of mineral deposits and does not support normal plant or animal life. Hence the name Dead Sea.

5. Nile River

Perhaps the most famous river in the world, the Nile flows through the heart of Egypt, spreads out like so many fingers, and empties into the waiting arms of the Mediterranean.

6. Tigris and (7.) Euphrates Rivers

These twin rivers flow for almost a thousand miles each before they join and flow into the Persian Gulf.

8. Persian Gulf

These last three bodies of water — the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Persian Gulf — form the easternmost boundary for the lands of the Old Testament. The Tigris and Euphrates flow through present-day Iraq, while the Persian Gulf separates Iran from Saudi Arabia.


With the geographical framework offered by the bodies of water, we can establish the locations that are relevant to the Old Testament. (As you read the description of each location, insert its name beside the appropriate letter on the Location Work Map that follows.)

A. The Garden of Eden

The exact location of the Garden of Eden, where everything began, is impossible to pinpoint. However, it was near the convergence of four rivers, two of which were the Tigris and Euphrates.

B. Canaan/Israel

This smallish piece of real estate, which lies between the Mediterranean coast and the Sea of Galilee-Jordan River-Dead Sea, changes names throughout the Old Testament. In Genesis it is called Canaan. After the Hebrew people establish themselves in the land in the book of Joshua, it becomes known as Israel. Thirteen hundred years later, at the beginning of the New Testament, the land is known by its regions (from south to north): Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.


Excerpted from "30 Days to Understanding the Bible"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Max Anders.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, vii,
Section 1: The Story of the Old Testament, 1,
1. The Structure of the Bible, 3,
2. The Geography of the Old Testament, 16,
3. The Historical Books, 26,
4. The Creation Era, 39,
5. The Patriarch Era, 46,
6. The Exodus Era, 53,
7. The Conquest Era, 61,
8. The Judges Era, 68,
9. The Kingdom Era, 76,
10. The Exile Era, 83,
11. The Return Era, 91,
12. The Silence Era, 99,
13. The Poetical Books, 108,
14. The Prophetical Books, 118,
Section 2: The Story of the New Testament, 127,
15. The Geography and Structure of the New Testament, 129,
16. The Gospel Era, 144,
17. The Church Era, 153,
18. The Missions Era, 162,
19. The Epistles, 170,
Section 3: Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible, 181,
20. Overview of Bible Doctrine, 183,
21. The Doctrine of the Bible, 190,
22. The Doctrine of God, 198,
23. The Doctrine of Christ, 208,
24. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 216,
25. The Doctrine of Angels, 227,
26. The Doctrine of Man, 236,
27. The Doctrine of Sin, 244,
28. The Doctrine of Salvation, 252,
29. The Doctrine of the Church, 260,
30. The Doctrine of Future Things, 269,
Section 4: NanoSummary of the Bible, 281,
Section 5: How to Master the Bible So Well that the Bible Masters You, 293,
Section 6: Teaching Plan, 307,
Section 7: Bonus Chapters, 339,
31. A Comparison of the Four Gospels, 341,
32. The Parables of Jesus, 348,
33. Miracles in the Bible, 353,
34. Messianic Prophecies, 357,
35. Passover and the Lord's Supper, 362,
36. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 366,
37. Distinctiveness of Christianity, 372,
38. Different Literary Forms in the Bible, 376,
Appendix, 383,

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