EVERETT — Billions of Bibles have been sold, but David Ellingson believes a good number of the good books go unread. They’re collecting dust on shelves.
“It’s the all-time best-selling book on the planet, but it doesn’t get opened,” said Ellingson, an ordained Lutheran pastor and professor at Trinity Lutheran College. “The Bible is this big fat book with lots of funny words in it.”
Ellingson, 66, has written a slim book that explores what he calls biblical “nuggets of wisdom.” He hopes today’s hurry-up readers will take them to heart.
“Biblical Wisdom for a Digital Age,” published late last year, is Ellingson’s personal look at well-known Bible teachings. It contains 50 messages, along with the author’s thoughts, reflection questions and activities related to the readings for teens, adults and families. Each entry ends with a prayer.
Likening the book’s 50 entries to sound bites or digital bytes of information, Ellingson said the approach is in line with the streamlined messages of a technical age. “How do we learn? Attention spans are shorter now,” he said earlier this week.
Nearly all the phrases are from the Bible, but a few are common sayings Ellingson has labeled “Just for fun” or “Not in the Bible.”
Examples of those not in the Bible are “Moderation in all things,” which he credits to Aristotle, and “God helps those who help themselves,” which Benjamin Franklin likely borrowed from earlier versions going back to Greek sources.
“Biblical Wisdom” is unique because of Ellingson’s personal observations about each reading. In some, he looks back to his childhood, lending the book its appeal to young people.
One example is his memory of learning the “Golden Rule” — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” which is taken from Matthew 7:12.
In his book, Ellingson said it was the first Bible verse he learned “by heart.” He recalled thinking that he should “treat my sister’s stuff well, because I expected her to take good care of my toys.”
“The rule is still golden and worthy of our best efforts even though we tarnish it on a regular basis,” Ellingson wrote.
Currently teaching a class in Old Testament prophets, Ellingson has been at Trinity for a dozen years. The Edmonds man has also taught courses in spirituality and environmental ethics, and was active in creating a rooftop garden at the downtown Everett campus.
Now director of the school’s Children, Youth &Family Center, Ellingson was involved in youth ministry for much of his career. He has a master’s degree in divinity from Yale Divinity School and a doctorate from Claremont School of Theology.
Ellingson, whose book is available at Amazon.com, is also the author of “Paddle Pilgrim,” a chronicle of his 2,200-mile kayaking trip down the Mississippi in 2013. A native Midwesterner, he said his kayak journey was partly inspired by Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
“It’s the great American novel,” said Ellingson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Luther College.
The Bible is filled with compelling stories, but also with proverbs Ellingson said have become conventional wisdom.
“All these phrases — ‘Honor your father and your mother’ — have become part of the common vernacular,” he said.
His goal with the book is for people to talk about, think about and act on ancient wisdom he believes is needed in today’s world.
“Make it your own,” Ellingson said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.