Do you know the books of the Bible that your pastor (or yourself) never preached on? If you have a hard time spelling them, chances are that they might be the most neglected and least studied books in the Bible. No, it’s not Leviticus. Some people love studying and preaching Leviticus.
As it turns out, most of the neglected books are found about three quarters of the way through the Bible. Any guesses? Here are a few hints. They are in the Old Testament. They are one of the minor prophets. They are short in length. And you have never read or studied them wholly.
In 2014, Jeffrey Kranz analysed data gathered on the usage of Bible Gateway, the free Website and App that offers over 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages. He found that 10 least-read books on BibleGateway.com include 6 minor prophets, namely: Jonah, Joel, Zephaniah, Haggai, Nahum and Obadiah.
With the exception of Jonah, I think it provides a fairly accurate picture. When was the last time your pastor preached on Zephaniah (not Zechariah) or Obadiah? Although the above analysis was based on a sample from a specific data source, it does provide credible insights into what is likely to be true overall.
Your favourite book please?
I remember one professor at Moody Bible Institute asking all students in his class about their favourite book in the Old Testament (OT). Most of the answers were rather predictable: Psalms, Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Daniel, Proverbs to name a few. Then I amused everyone by picking Obadiah. What? Obadiah. Yes, Obadiah. Why?
I put forward three reasons: “1) Obadiah is the least studied and the shortest book in the OT yet contains important messages, 2) It is the only prophetic book written solely about non-Israelites (i.e. Edomites) which is interesting and 3) It serves as a sobering reminder that anyone trusting in people, possessions, power, wealth, knowledge or technology more than God will one day be brought down. No one can escape God's justice in the end.”
The professor replied, “Thanks for sharing. I don’t know if I will ever have another student choosing Obadiah as their favourite book of the OT. It definitely gets looked over by most students.” Indeed. And after these students went on to become pastors and Bible teachers, it continues to get overlooked, because they haven’t really studied enough!
Visual storytelling makes it easy
This year, I had the privilege of speaking at the 2018 Press Service International (PSI)’s Christian Young and Emerging Writers Conference. In my plenary session, I addressed the importance of visual storytelling as our society is becoming increasingly visually-mediated. Many people now comprehend the world by ‘reading’ not words, but images and videos. To this end, I provided an example of Zephaniah, one of the least studied books in the Bible and how it is possible to study and preach in an approachable manner.
Thanks to our friends at the Bible Project, there are already some excellent materials available online that we can incorporate in both studying and teaching of Scripture. I encourage you to check out all the engaging videos, posters and visual study notes on their Website.
Obadiah in 5 minutes
The Kranz study found that Obadiah was the least-read book with the Bible Gateway users. The good news is that it has only 1 chapter and should take 5 minutes to read it. The bad news is that simply reading might not lead to full understanding, especially if the reader is not familiar with the context, key themes and purpose of the book. This is where visual storytelling can come in handy.
I invite you to take a moment to watch this engaging video below about Obadiah. In merely 5 minutes, you might be able to conquer one of the most neglected books of the Bible. Perhaps you might soon be ready to preach or teach the minor prophets?
Click the image to view the video (Source: The Bible Project)
Daniel Jang is a senior advisor with Ministry of Health New Zealand. He is an experienced writer, speaker and mentor to Press Service International (PSI) community. Daniel holds an MA in Applied Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and GradDip in Theology from Laidlaw College.
Daniel Jang's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-jang.html