Drinking Deeply

Monday, August 28, 2006 at 11:13 AM

Book Review: How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth

As I was sitting at someone's house, I noticed that on their bookshelf they had a book, How to Read the Bible for All it's Worth. Authored by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, I was very glad that I was able to borrow and read it. That book has been one of the more informative books I've read.

The purpose of the book is simply to teach Christians how to read their Bibles and interpret it properly. Pointing out various poor interpretive habits I myself had, it pointed me to understanding different genres in a whole new light. Begining with some basic principles on translation and interpretation, the book proceeded with a chapter on each genre and rules for interpreting them. Particularly informative were the Gospels, Parables, Epistles, Prophecy, and Wisdom chapters. The chapter on Law was not as great, simply because it only presented one (of a few possibile) interpretation of the OT Law.

As I read the book, there certainly were a number of light bulbs that went on over my head. One thing in particular that jumped out at me is understanding the Gospels. For us, we have four Gospels, and my first instinct when I come across a story in the Gospels is to look it up in the other Gospels and come up with a "Grand Unified Story." I had mistakenly assumed that each of the Gospels was part of a whole, an incomplete picture. The book pointed out that each of the Gospels was written for a specific audience, and to accomplish a specific purpose (alongside presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ). So the key to interpreting the story is to compare the stories to see what this Gospel has distinct, and use those distinctions as our interpretive lens through which we understand the author's intent. I was like "whoaaaa ... duh!"

All in all, the book is an excellent read. There are (as with almost all books) a few areas where I would disagree. The chapter on parables uses the common mistake of assuming that the parables were so that the listeners could relate and understand better. Their attempt at explaining away passages like Matthew 13:13-15 are unconvincing. Another issue I had was with the authors' treatment of the women in ministry issue. The authors attempted to deal with the issue as an "example" of utilizing good hermenutics, but they decided to break one of their very first rules and instead of looking at the text first and examining the argument, they decided to go with other texts first and say "well, it obviously couldn't have meant this" and reject the whole command in 1 Timothy 2 as "cultural." I found that rather dissapointing for a book that was so solid otherwise.

Apart from those two exceptions, the rest of the book is definitely a treasure, one that I'm considering buying for my own personal library for reference.

The A-Team Blog also has had a series of posts on Bible interpretation. I'm linking to part 1, and you find links to the other posts within. They're pretty solid. Read through the posts if you want to get a taste for what the book itself is about. It references the book a great number of times.

My recommendation: Own it


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