Understanding Scripture: An Overview Of The Bible’s Origin, Reliability, And Meaning, edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Tomas R. Schreiner
Reading this book was a fascinating sort of experience, in part because the authors themselves sought to define a place for evangelical understanding of the Bible that remained simultaneously distinct from both Catholic thought (which led to some skepticism about the role of tradition) as well as from biblical thought (which led to some inconsistency about the role of biblical understanding from the Hebrew scriptures as well as the Jews in determining the legitimacy of certain practices). This is not a new perspective as far as my reading goes , but it did provide an interesting look at the way in which many evangelical scholars attempt to deal with competing claims that put them between a strict biblical and a strict tradition standard, and I personally find attempts such as that found in this book to mediate between those positions to be immensely fascinating, even if it probably contributes a great deal to the stress of those who hold to such opinions. If this book is not necessarily a reliable guide to understanding scripture, it is at least useful in understanding evangelicals, and that is something.
This book is relatively short at about 200 pages and made up of various short essays by various authors, some of them well known, that seek to provide insight in some area or another of the Bible and its context. The first part of the book contains two short essays on interpreting the Bible, after which there are five essays on reading the Bible in various aspects (theologically, as literature, in prayer and communion, for personal application, and for preaching and public worship). After this there are essays on the canon of the OT, NT, and the apocrypha which give a perspective I personally share. Two chapters give a solid conservative look at the reliability of the OT and NT manuscripts before two more essays give a look at the role of archaeology in improving our understanding of the reliability of the OT and NT as well. The last two parts of the book consist of three chapters on the languages of the Bible and how they work as well as the complexity of the Septuagint, and then a look at a survey of the history of salvation and how the NT quotes and interprets the Hebrew scriptures.
One thing that is easy to note from this book, and certainly easy to criticize, is the way that the authors consistently bifurcate the scriptures into the Old and New Testaments and view them generally in isolation. There appears to be a consistent desire to exaggerate the discontinuity between the two testaments, not least because these authors do not appear inclined to deal meaningfully with the corpus of biblical law. We do find the authors wrestling with personal application, but in a fairly shallow manner, and a great deal of the approach here can be termed as antinomian, not least because the authors repeat discredited and long-refuted views about clean and unclean meats and the Sabbath in scripture and do not deal meaningfully with the continued importance of biblical law in the early Church of God. Again, though, this book does not promote a biblical view of scripture, but rather promotes the evangelical interpretation of scripture that selectively chooses traditions (including unbiblical views of the nature of God) that suit its understanding while dismissing those traditions–including the occasional doctrinal issues of the apocryphal books–that allow it to have an independent place vis-a-vis the Roman Catholic Church. As an outsider to these concerns, I viewed the book as a mixture of fairly obvious truth and fairly lamentable error, but conservative evangelicals will likely find more to appreciate here.
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