There is no shortcut to a knowledge of the Bible. Publishers of and agents for specially-edited Bibles, with fancy trimmings and helps of various kinds, have reaped a considerable profit for themselves by raising false hopes in the minds of the gullible, who would like to have - and imagine [that] they can get - a knowledge of the Book without much hard work. The price tags attached to such wares are far from modest and (in some instances) are so ridiculous that they reflect on the intelligence of the customer. When the Bible with "helps" costs considerably more than twice as much as the same Bible without the "helps", it ought to occur to somebody that too high a value has been placed on human help. Some books of the sort are helpful after a fashion, but they contain no magic that will cause one to absorb knowledge from sleeping with one of them under his pillow. This is true - even of the best ones.
A lot of sectarian and speculative propaganda is spread about with the help of these doctored, high-priced Bibles. Sales resistance is entirely too low among the brethren (and especially the sisters) when some of these talkative vendors ring the doorbell. When one is let in, he should be viewed with enough suspicion to give healthy curiosity a chance to determine what he is and what he has.
A very intelligent sister asked me to inspect a book [that] she had bought from an agent for a financial consideration of several good American dollars. The agent got the money, and the sister was laboring under the impression that she was getting just what the doctor ordered to help her and her household to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. What she got was "Bible Readings For the Home Circle". Sounds good, doesn't it? It was mechanically very pleasing to the eye, and [it] had pictures in it. The agent, of course, did not tell the sister that he was a Seventh-Day Adventist and [that] the book was arranged for the spread of Adventist doctrine. When she found that out, was she mad!
There are a lot of people, too, who do not distinguish between the text of the Bible and the comments made upon it in some of these highly-specialized editions. Some brethren proudly display their "Scofield" Bibles, until somebody tells them that the Scofield part is the most-rotten sort of premillennial propaganda, and then they nearly die from shock. Anybody who buys one of the things without knowing what he is getting is being sadly imposed upon. A lot of men who write Bible "helps" are in need of a liberal amount of help themselves, or [are] past the point where any amount of [help] will do them any good. Brethren can at least take care not to payout good money in exchange for such blindness on paper. "Our" own publishers are not too careful - conscientious or something - sometimes, when it comes to what is said about such works advertised in their catalogs. In one of them, I have seen the "Scofield Bible" praised as though it were almost inspired exegesis, instead of the pitiful, driveling web of fancy [that] it really is.
Brother Larimore was wont to say that a fairly-intelligent human being of either sex was very well-equipped to increase his knowledge of God, if he had a good text of the Bible, a good English dictionary, and a good Bible dictionary. There is some wisdom here. This is no argument against the reading of good books, or the use of any "helps" that are helps. It does add up to this: THERE IS NO WAY TO REALLY LEARN WHAT IS IN THE BIBLE WITHOUT READING AND STUDYING THE BIBLE ITSELF. Few students are capable of passing an examination on any subject (history, for instance) after only one casual reading of text and listening to a few lectures. The text must be read, re-read, and studied. So it is with the books that make up the Bible ... and dealing with the Bible after such a fashion yields tremendous and pleasing results. A student should read the gospels until he knows the life of Christ. He should read the book of Acts until he knows the history of the early church. He should read the epistles until he knows what the Lord expects of His church and His people. If he reads these things often enough, he will know them just like he knows other things [that] he is interested in enough to read about.
Some brethren can tell us where Joe Louis landed every punch on Lou Nova and which fist he used, [but they] can't quote a memory verse at a prayer-meeting. There are two reasons for this: in the first place, they are not at prayer-meeting; and, in the second place, they do not know the memory verse. It isn't lack of ability; it is lack of interest. This is really a serious matter. "Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17). "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Col. 3:16). The prevailing ignorance of the word of God on the part of large numbers in the church is both amazing and appalling. I still think [that] we know more about the Bible than our religious neighbors do, but that just goes to show what I think about how little they know. It is my conviction that if an ignorant brother with a fairly good mind would pick out one book in the New Testament, start with a few interesting facts about it, and then read it over and over until he knew it, he would keep up the good work and really find out what "growth in grace and knowledge" means.
Reading the Bible should not be viewed as a task or drudgery. The pleasure it affords is commensurate with the profit it yields. There is no shortcut to a knowledge of the Bible. The man who knows it was not born that way; he got that way by keeping company with the Book and behaving himself intelligently while he was at it.
--Cled E. Wallace; The Bible Banner Vol.4, #3, p.1, October 1941 www.wordsfitlyspoken.org/bible_banner.html