June 30, 2010

books: how to read the bible...


On Sunday nights, our little group has started taking a book of the Bible each week and discussing it. Going through the the books in written order, we talk about the book???s history, intent and what its implications are for us today. We decided to do this because several in our group have a precarious relationship with Scripture. Some of of us have very little exposure to it previously. For others it???s intimidating. And some are simply deciding what their relationship to the Bible is.

With this in mind, I was anxious to read Fee and Stuart???s How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. The book provides an overview of how to understand the the tools, terminology and effective approaches to reading and understanding the Bible.

Gordon Fee taught at Regent College, which is known for providing a theological education for lay persons. With this in mind, I was curious as to whether or not this book was really useful to the lay person. The book does requires familiarity with Scripture. I wouldn???t recommend this to someone who does not have previous exposure to Scripture and Christian thought without a dialog partner.

While potentially an unfair expectation, I was interested in whether the authors are able to direct the reader in how to study while allowing the reader to develop their own conclusions This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are several doctrinal issues that the authors clearly couldn???t avoid speaking to. And not always convincingly in my opinion. It may very well be that directing the study of Scripture can???t be done without directing some of the outcomes. Still, should the reader be told what his or her conclusion ought to be if honest study is the goal?

Considering how much has been written on any given book of the Bible, can such a short book cover the subject of biblical study fairly? The authors actually do a superb job of covering the ???basics??? of reading the Bible. Their explanations are concise, provide examples and is, usually, easy to follow. The fact that the book is so comprehensive while so pithy is certainly a testament to the writers??? expertise.

The authors??? confess in the preface that they are admittedly scholars and write as such. Still, it is a comprehensive book for most looking for an introduction to the Bible, how it is assembled and how it ought to be read. I wonder if it is fair not to provide more significant information on differing opinions. But the authors write with conviction and reading the Bible in a manner that does effect our living is often a challenge. I appreciated that Fee and Stuart actually encouraged the reader to respond to Scripture not just in thought but in living as well.


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