Bible Handbooks


I notice that there are many “Bible handbooks” that are authored by Protestants that seem to have erroneous, outdated information.

I picked up a copy of “Halley’s Bible Handbook: New Revised Edition” by Henry Halley, a Protestant minister. Mostly, I picked up a copy because someone on another forum had quoted a portion (I forgot which Old Testament book, I believe it was from Judges) that I knew wasn’t really supported by newer archaeological information (to which I responded and gave the reasons why). I was interested to see for myself what was included in this handbook.

For one thing, Halley’s view on Church history is incredibly backwards: He goes into the usual arguments of the so-called “Great Apostasy” and the “paganization” of the Church by Emperor Constantine. He’s also not a big fan of popes or Peter as the first pope. As quoted by him “The Roman Catholic tradition that Peter was the First Pope is fiction pure and simple. There is no New Testament hint, and no historical evidence whatever, that Peter was at any time Bishop of Rome” (PG. 768, Halley’s Bible Handbook). Then another page he claims that for the first 500 years there were no Popes, or at least, no Bishops that claimed the title. He even uses the outdated (let’s face it, non-professional) term to refer to Catholics as “Romanists.”

Granted this information is provided in the “end” of the book, not the main section where he discusses the historical, archaeological, and theological information that is provided in the OT and NT books. I am wondering if there is a bias that is present throughout his descriptions (as it is in his “church history” section) which morphs the archaeological/historical information to fit with his Protestant beliefs.

Bible Handbooks seem to be mostly useless; I would think that a Bible handbook would be more interesting if it just provided archaeological and historical background on specific settings not really a chapter-by-chapter commentary on what the author “thinks” they mean. I haven’t done a full-blown analysis of his handbook but those are the things that stick out to me and what I learned in archaeology courses.

Not really sure what the point of my post is, but I just had to get my thoughts out there.


Don’t ever become a student of biblical theology if you find “opinion” bothersome!


I don’t find it really bothersome though. I had to analyze and write entire essays about others’ biases and opinions (mostly in archaeology, not theology or philosophy), done in an intellectual fashion of course. Of course we are not going to agree completely in an imperfect world. Some opinions though-we have to admit-are downright wacky and un-founded.

I would just be worried about those who have weak faith reading a handbook such as Halley’s, and coming to the conclusion that indeed, his view of church history is correct. Many people do, in fact, but this comes as no surprise to me. I’m sure that just as his handbook has incorrect information, it also has correct information. But for someone with little background in history/archaeology/theology/science, Halley’s book may be the “whole truth.”


At least he said “Romanists” while visiting Scotland a few years ago I was called a Papist , and my answer to this ignorant remark was … not printable.


If this is the same book I’m thinking of, which somebody gave me a copy of, I tore it up and threw it away.

It is so anti-Catholic, and so illogically anti-Catholic, at that.

In one place he was criticizing Catholicism because if the Pope says something he expects people to believe him. Well – DUH – he was writing a book too, wasn’t he? Why would Halley write a book unless HE HIMSELF expected other people to believe it? Why criticize the Pope for exactly what he was doing himself. (Waste of my time)


The handbooks may be new, but the arguments in them are not.


It probably is that same book. When the author claimed in his Church history section that (paraphrased here) “Martin Luther is the greatest man to ever live,” I wondered “isn’t Jesus the greatest Man who ever lived-both fully Man and fully God?”

I would be curious to see the most recent printing (2007 by Zondervan, apparently) of Halley’s handbook and how it compares to the older printings: possibly using the same garbage arguments? I would hope Zondervan would update it but knowing them, the answer would be no. I know the arguments themselves are the “same old, same old” but how can people read the handbook and easily believe such arguments?

Are there any “Bible handbooks” that are authored by Catholics and that reflect proper Church history, as well as the history of the different OT/NT books? I guess the closest I have is “The Jerome Biblical Commentary” and that one is simply too massive/complex to be a “handbook.”


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