Posts Tagged ‘Biblical interpretation’

Book Review: Reading the Historical Books: A Student’s Guide to Engaging the Biblical Text

August 10, 2014

readinghistoricalbooks

Reading the Historical Books: A Student’s Guide to Engaging the Biblical Text: The title tells you what the book is about and the book, itself, is equally clear. Author Patricia Dutcher- Walls is a professor of Hebrew Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology and she blends her academic knowledge with an ability to write clearly and in an engaging fashion about the historical books of the Bible.

This book is not a commentary, nor a book about ancient near eastern history, nor an introduction to the Old Testament. This book’s purpose is to help readers understand the writing styles, writing conventions,historical context, and the cultural and  theological assumptions of the first audience. Dutcher-Walls explains how the historical books tell us stories which are in some ways similar and in other ways different than modern stories. She shows how the author’s theological point of view is expressed through the stories. The aims and goals of ancient historical writing are not the same as modern historical writing and this book explores and explains those differences. Recognizing that biblical texts are persuasive writing rather than neutral sources of facts is important to reading the historical books well.

Dutcher-Walls uses examples from the Bible and from other ancient texts to illustrate her points. Using other ancient texts helps the reader understand the ways the Biblical authors use the style and writing techniques of their time. She also makes excellent use of modern examples in movies and television to explain important concepts. For example she uses the content of a text message to explain how context and culture affect our ability to understand what we are reading.

This book is well written with a clear and engaging style. There are a few discussion questions at the end of each chapter that are good for church groups and book clubs as well as the classroom. The focus of the book is on the historical books of the Bible- Joshua through Ezra-Nehemiah. However the basic ideas contained in this book will also be helpful when reading other parts of the Bible. This book will enrich your reading of the historical books of the Bible.

 

One note: I received a free digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but no other compensation.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? Book Review

July 5, 2014

As you may know there are many books, blogs and articles that make claims about the unreliability of the Bible. Often Christians have similar concerns because they don’t have sufficient information about the Bible. Craig L. Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions doesn’t break new ground in Biblical studies. He doesn’t offer creative responses or a new apologetic. Rather he very clearly presents information Biblical scholars have known for years in order to lay to rest peoples’ concerns about the reliability of the Bible. This book does not offer reasons to be a Christian but focuses on dispelling misconceptions about the Bible.

The book is organized around six questions which serve as chapter titles and each chapter offers a clear and intelligible response.

1. Aren’t the copies of the Bible hopelessly corrupt?

2. Wasn’t the selection of books for the canon just political?

3. Can we trust any of our translations of the Bible?

4. Aren’t several narrative genres of the Bible unhistorical?

5. Don’t all the miracles make the Bible mythical?

In response to these questions Blomberg discusses textual criticism and talks about the number of manuscripts in use and explains their reliability. He talks about what the canon is and how it came about. He offers a very clear and well written explanation about the process and work of translators, including a thorough discussion on the use of inclusive language. Blomberg explains what scholars mean when they speak of Biblical inerrancy and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t mean. The diversity of genres in scripture is discussed, with particular attention to historical narratives. He explains that ancient writing conventions are not the same as modern practices and then discusses what the biblical authors were doing when they wrote historical narrative. Blomberg’s discussion of miracles explains how miracles function in the text.

Craig Blomberg is a distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and his perspective is solidly evangelical. He refers several times to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics. He is willing to push back against  both Bart Ehrman and extreme conservative Christians to advocate for a biblically faithful and intellectually sound engagement of the Bible. But as a progressive Christian I found myself in substantial agreement with most of Blomberg’s explanations and conclusions.   I particularly appreciate Blomberg’s willingness not to dismiss those who hold different approaches to the Bible.

 

“There are still other approaches to the Bible that Christians can hold without jeopardizing their salvation, even if they might have less than optimal effects on other areas of doctrine and life. My point here is that readers who are not convinced by my defense of inerrancy should not think that I am one of those people who argue in an all-or-none fashion. If I became convinced of a handful of fairly trivial errors in the Bible, I would opt for an infallibilist position instead. If I felt that some of these errors were more serious, I would fall back on neo-orthodoxy. If that became too much of a stretch, I would explore accommodationism or even more liberal Christians epistemologies. I have know too many godly and committed believers in each of these camps over the years ever to countenance jettisoning all Christians options because I found one unconvincing or inadequate. I have never understood why some who deconvert jump directly from fundamentalism all the way to atheism without even exploring the many intermediate positions.”                                                                                                                                                                     Kindle locations 4468-4476

This quote is indicative of the tone of this book. Blomberg knows what he believes and why, but he is also willing to grant others freedom in Biblical interpretation.

Craig Blomberg writes clearly about complex and technical subjects. He defines the terms he uses in understandable language. While he doesn’t assume a high level of Biblical literacy, he also doesn’t talk down to his readers. This book is appropriate for high school age readers as well as adult readers. It may be read individually or in a small group or class setting. It would also be a good addition to a church library.

One note: I received a free digital copy of this book via NetGalley, but no other compensation.


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