Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How To Read The Bible Like A Seminary Professor - A Review

A Review

It was during the first day of High School Algebra class that I was introduced to the spiraling didactic method.  The idea is that the same material is repeated multiple times during the term (a year of High School Algebra), but each iteration builds on the material presented in the earlier iteration.  Until stumbling upon the current book, I had not seen this approach applied to any other discipline.  Mark Yarbrough has applied it well to study, understanding, and delivery of scripture.

The chapter titles are useless, except to make the reader curious.  On the other hand, the first chapter starts where one might expect - at the beginning. The author does this by pointing out that there are three basic steps needed to study the scripture:

1. Know It
2. Work It
3. Live It

With that beginning, the author begins in chapter two discussing the basic structure of the English Bible.  The Old Testament is divided into five sections, beginning with "the Torah" and ending with the "Minor Prophets."  The New Testament is presented as four sections, beginning with the Gospels and ending with Revelation.  Though, even this basic review is designed for the believer unfamiliar with the Scriptures, it is presented in such a manner that it serves as a helpful review for the lifelong follower of Jesus.

The next iteration of the book steps back and take a close look at each of the sections identified above.  Beginning, again, with the Old Testament (one chapter) and then the New Testament (a second chapter), the author walks through the entire Biblical history using wide brush for each of the nine sections identified in the second chapter.  Jesus is clearly presented as the Messiah, the answer to the hopes and needs of the Jewish nation as well as that of the whole world.  

Chapter six is a summary of six (coincidence?) doctrinal statements that have defined most of the church for 2000+ years.  They are not as detailed one might expect from a denominational statement of faith or from a seminary - but they are specific enough that most (all?) Christians could not find fault with them.  The author approaches each statement from three perspectives: a brief description of the doctrinal position, a short (not all-inclusive) scripture summary supporting the statement, and a short discussion on the ramifications of the position for the Christian - both in terms of theology and in terms of living the Christian life.  

The next ten or so chapters present the procedures for "working the text,"  in other words, how to do Bible Study.  The material may be too detailed for the new believer, but too general for the established Christian.  Regardless, there is material of value to the Christian grounded in the Scriptures and help that will require rereading (multiple times) for those just beginning the Christian journey.  Questions directly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what to look for when reading the text for the first time) and indirectly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what translation or translations will I want to use as I study the Scriptures).  Tools for making accurate observations, interpretations, and applications are included in these chapters.  Again, material is sufficiently deep to be of interest to both the new and experienced student of the Bible.  The author also makes room for the different genre that comprise the scripture - narrative, poetry, letters, and prophecy, providing guiding questions for understanding the content of each genre.

As a book about hermeneutics, this book stands out because it focuses on the Scriptures rather than the preacher.  From page one, it wants the reader to change because of his or interaction with Scripture - it is not so much about preparing the preacher, but about how the Scripture can and will change the preacher.  

The book would fit well in the library of any serious Christian.  It could be used as an undergraduate text in hermeneutics or as an ancillary text for a graduate level course in seminary.  The book would also serve well as a refresher for the pastor or Christian professor seeking to revitalize his or her time in the Bible.  My prayer is that each reader will feel the desire to dig deeper, to learn more, and become more like the Savior as they read and apply the book's content.

This e-book was supplied as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The reviews are mine alone.

No comments: