Toward Understanding the Bible

by Georgia Harkness

Georgia Harkness was educated at Cornell University, Boston University School of Theology, studied at Harvard & Yale theological seminaries and at Union Theological Seminary of New York. She has taught at Elmira College, Mount Holyoke, and for twelve years was professor of applied theology at Garrett Biblical Institute. In 1950 she became professor of applied theology at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California.

Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1954. Copyright, 1952, 1954, by Georgia Harkness. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) A review of the place of the Bible in our culture, examining the crucial question of what is meant by its being the inspired Word of God. Excellent summary of the geographical, social and religious setting within which the Bible emerged, the stages of its development, the literary types in the Old and New Testaments, and the main themes.


  • Preface

    The words of the bible were written by men of deep spiritual insight, and through their words God still speaks to us with a timeless message. If this message is to be most fruitfully grasped, whether for cultural enrichment or the deepening of personal faith, we need to understand the Bible’s structure and content.

  • Chapter 1: The Bible as the Word of God

    Though the Bible is a very human book, it is also a divine book. By common consent the Church for centuries has called it the Word of God. The Bible does not call itself that, for it reserves this term for the message or revelation of God spoken to the prophets and apostles, while in the New Testament the word is "the Word made flesh" to dwell among us as the incarnate Lord. The divine message will shine through with greater richness and power if we understand something of the channels of human fallibility mixed with high insights through which the message comes.

  • Chapter 2: The World of the Bible

    The setting in which the Bible was written: It is necessary to take a glance at the kind of world — physical, psychological, and social — in which the Hebrew people lived.

  • Chapter 3: How the Old Testament Was Written

    The Bible is a "symposium" of works by a number of persons, composed of many writings, written over a period of hundreds of years, some only preserved in fragments, by unknown authors, written on animal skins (for they had no paper as we know it), with no printing presses to preserve the writing…It’s a marvel we have the Bible at all.

  • Chapter: 4: How the New Testament was Written

    The events of New Testament history are traced: (1) the birth of Christianity: (2) Paul’s letters; (3) The Gospel and Acts; (4) the books emerging from persecution (Hebrews, I Peter, Revelations); (5) the other letters.

  • Chapter: 5: The Great Ideas of the Bible

    Great ideas in the Bible are traced: 1. God; 2. As Creator; 3. As Judge; 4. As Redeemer; 5. As Father; 6. The view of man; 7. Eternal life; 8. Jesus as Son of God.