God’s Word is ultimately profitable, above and beyond any other text that has ever been written or compiled, and it is the study of this divine text that has for centuries been the source of the Christian’s greatest blessings and the Church’s greatest heartaches. Blessings come when Christians understand not only that God has communicated with and revealed Himself to men over millennia through the same books written thousands of years ago, but also that they must diligently study that communication in order to apply it.
Heartaches come when individuals and churches forego that study and try to apply the Word without ever having understood it or the context in which it was originally written, thereby defiling God’s message and destroying unity amongst believers. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth seeks to guide its readers to a better understanding of God’s eternal message through a methodology of proper exegesis and hermeneutics.As seminary professors, both Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart have given their lives to the study of God’s Word, and through their experiences in teaching and guiding, they have come face to face with many of the misinterpretation pitfalls that have trapped students of the Bible since the Word was first made accessible.The dire need for effective hermeneutics and proper application was the reason this book was written, for the authors, experts themselves, became convinced that individuals must not depend on the results of the careful study of biblical experts, but must instead learn to wield the tool of hermeneutics themselves.As a cohesive means for getting this point across, the authors teach their methodology through the idea of biblical, literary genres (i.
e. Epistles, narratives, psalms, etc.), that each specific genre has its own characteristics which affect how one might discover and apply the principles found within the biblical text. Thus the focus of How to Read the Bible is the methodology of hermeneutics as it relates to each varying genre within Scripture.
CRITIQUEA reader can often make first impressions of a book by reading the table of contents and skimming through the text, but to gain the wisdom collected in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, selective reading will not be sufficient. Two of the most important sections in the text are the two most often overlooked sections in a book—the preface, and the appendix. In How to Read the Bible, the authors have made these two sections essential reading and quite valuable beyond the text itself.As they proceed with the “introduction,” which contains the first two chapters and 20% of the book, itself, the authors give a long, detailed explanation of why it is important to interpret the Bible well, and the basics of a good translation. Explaining their own intentions, the authors pointed out one of the best ways to ‘learn to read the text carefully’ was to read Adler’s How to Read a Book, which is excellent advice.
Adler’s book has become somewhat of a classic in learning how to read literature well and it includes all different genres and forms of literature throughout written history. In fact, Adler’s words from the 1940s compliments the How to Read the Bible text in many ways.Adler points out that “we must know how to make books teach us well. That, indeed, is the primary goal of this book,” also a similar goal of the text in this critique.
Biblical interpretation is a difficult science, which requires some explanation, making this first section well placed and much needed. The second introduction section to the text deals with the complex issue of finding and using a good translation among the literal hundreds available in our modern world.Although this book is not the most comprehensive work on the subject of biblical interpretation, it definitely is the most accessible, readable, and delightful. Fee and Stuart seem to have this ability to communicate complicated truths in a very simple manner. They offer many interpretive tips and discuss many common interpretive misconceptions in a down-to-earth, straightforward way.
There were a few parts of the book that jumped out at me: 1.) Fee’s discussion on the Kingdom of God (pgs 145-148) was ‘out of this world’ (no pun intended). I am still blown away by the amount of content he fit into those three small pages. His explanation of the already/not yet tension was extremely helpful. These three pages would be reason enough to buy the book.
2.) Fee’s discussion on the book of Revelation (pgs. 249-264) was quite fascinating as well.He seems to take some sort of a partial-preterist view of the book of Revelation, which is quite refreshing considering the fact that you hardly ever hear such a view of the book of Revelation, much less with exegetical insight and eloquence.
Especially good was the following quote: “Apocalypses, in general, and the Revelation in particular, seldom intend to give a detailed chronologicalaccount of the future.