With Dr Nick Hawkes
Nick Hawkes talks to Rise about how he came to write a summary of the ‘Greatest Book Ever Written’, and how it came to be translated into Hindi.
Grant Franke knew he was in trouble when he overheard one of his teachers insisting that Adam was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. At the time, Grant was Headmaster of Rei dos Reis, a Christian school of 1,500 students in Mozambique. Nick Hawkes met Grant in Sydney when he was exhausted and in much need of a rest. “My heart went out to him so I asked him what would really help him in his ministry. He replied, ‘What I really need is a good summary of the Bible that is accessible to those with limited education. God’s word transforms people. It speaks truth and gives hope. However, there are all sorts of influences waiting to sabotage authentic Christianity in Africa. African theology can be a million kilometres wide and one millimetre deep. I need you to write a super-clear, comprehensive summary of the Bible.’
“I could have wished for a simpler mandate! Writing a summary of the Bible’s 800,000 words – with theologians squabbling over every second verse – is not a task to undertake lightly.”
Before setting out on this massive project, Nick thought he should check with a higher authority.
“I thought I’d test if God really wanted me to do it. I’d ask my friend, Jossy Chacko, if he’d be interested in the project. Jossy heads up Empart, a wonderful organisation that trains indigenous Christians to be church planters in India. Jossy said that he would want such a book. Most of his church planters only have rudimentary village education. He said that he’d have it translated into Hindi and anticipated a first print run of 50,000 copies!”
(Nick’s note to self: Don’t test things out with God unless you’re prepared to act on the result.)
And so, Nick began to write a summary of the Bible that would be given to reputable mission agencies free, without copyright.
Then Nick’s daughter got married. “The relevance of this was that our house was full of wonderful young Christians, some from overseas, who had come for the wedding. They heard of the project and many admitted to being so time poor that they had never actually read through the Bible. Could I please make it available to them also?
“This meant I needed a publisher who would print it for the West. Fortunately, Rhiza Press came to the party.”
When faced with such a momentous task, where do you start?
“The next two years were extraordinarily exciting. I experienced God’s supernatural help and knew just before I wrote each book exactly how to do it. It was just as well. The books of the Bible can be very different. I mean: How on earth do you summarise Proverbs where every verse has two wisdom sayings? How do you summarise the Psalms? How do you help people through the Jewish liturgical proscriptions in Leviticus, or help them through the violence of Judges – let alone the controversy over Genesis and Revelation?
“It was amazing to feel God go before me and prepare the way.
“I started at Genesis and ended at Revelation – all very standard. The fact that I’d spent twenty years writing Bible studies and sermon series on different books of the Bible was, of course, a huge help. There was a sense that God had been training me for decades for this project.”
Nick admits that, when it comes to summarising the Bible, you can’t be sure that you haven’t left anything important out. “You can’t know. What is important for one person may be different for another. However, there obviously has to be some sort of broad agreement. That’s why we asked a lot of people to look at it. In fact, I took twice as long editing it (with my friend, Greg Denholm) as I did writing it.
“Empart also spent a number of months testing it in their training centres across India before releasing the Hindi version.
“Rather wonderfully: the book has been endorsed by some of the world’s leading figures in biblical literature and mission.”
These endorsements have come from people such as Mike Hey, Area Director, East Asia and Pacific, for Operation Mobilisation; Scott Bolinder, President, Global Publishing, Biblica (Publishers of the ‘New International Version’ of the Bible); and Jossy Chacko, Founder and International President of Empart.
Many people want to say they have read the Bible but are intimidated by its size and complexity. According to Nick this book unlocks the Bible to busy and non-theologically trained people. At one-sixth the size of a full Bible, it is the size of a large novel. In fact, many read it as a novel, although each book of the Bible has been summarized in such a way that it can also be studied on its own.
A particular feature of the book is its clarity. Questions, helpful background information, maps and diagrams are provided to help people understand it. Another feature is the inclusion of “memory verses” that can be learned by heart.
Nick assures us that readers of A Summary of the Bible can be confident they have read the essence of the Bible. “It does not leave sections out without comment. All key texts are written in full. The power of Scripture is therefore retained.
“The book will appeal to anyone curious about what the Bible contains. And it will be a valuable tool for pastors, leaders, students… and crucially, for every day Christians” says Nick.
Nick has degrees in science and theology. He is a pastor, writer and broadcaster. www.nickhawkes.net