The Bible Handbook Of Difficult Verses: A Complete Guide To Answering The Tough Questions, by Josh & Sean McDowell
This should be admitted that this sort of book often varies widely based on what verses are considered to be difficult by the author and the situation. It is impossible to understand the Bible if one has no particular abiding interest in obeying it, but the amount of ways that one can go wrong in interpretation are nearly infinite and a book like this, written as it is, cannot help but show the way that the authors think of some scriptures and clear and others as unclear. This book does not cover what I consider to be some basic and obvious scriptures that present difficulties to the author’s worldview, which mainly makes a book like this an attempt by the authors to explain away those scriptures which have frequently been brought to their attention, and does not account for all of the Bible difficulties that even an ordinarily biblically literate person could be expected to find simply by being attentive to the questions and concerns that people have about the Bible and what it says. This book is certainly suitable for a relatively superficial audience, but there are way more difficulties and tough questions that the authors simply do not engage with at all.
This book is divided into seven parts based on the authors’ sevenfold division of scripture. The book begins with an introduction on how to use this handbook. After that the first third or so of the book is taken up by the five books of the law (I), with fifty of those pages devoted to Genesis alone and more than ten pages for Leviticus, which predictably presents some difficulties as well. After this the author breezes through twelve books of the historical prophets (II) in less than 30 pages, showing that they do not consider these books to be especially troublesome, likely because few enough people know them to ask tough questions about them. After that the authors spend only ten pages dealing with difficult passages from Job (!), Psalms (!!), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (!!) and Song of Solomon (!!!), all of which demonstrate that people need to seriously ask some tougher questions about wisdom literature. The literary prophets from Isaiah through Malachi present some challenge that are well worth looking at (IV), and the Gospels + Acts provide more than 40 pages of questions so it is clear where the authors’ focus mainly sits. The letters of Paul also provide enough challenges, though not necessarily the ones that I would consider most obvious (including the non-Trinitarian start to all of Paul’s letters). After closing with the general epistles and Revelation, the book ends with some notes as well as an index by scripture passage as well as by topic.
In reading this book I got the feeling that I was looking at a reasonably competent but by no means spectacular look at difficult scriptures. The authors can be commended for looking at all scripture–and they spend a large portion on the law since the laws of God present the most problems for contemporary antinomian Protestants like the ones the authors are presumably most familiar with. If my own experiences in studying the Bible are far different and the verses that have been presented as problems to solve different, I always appreciate seeing what other people wrestle with even if my own conclusions and interpretations are quite different. The authors, for example, seek to downplay the importance of the Johannine pericope while simultaneously struggling with the question of where the Trinity is mentioned otherwise in scripture, although the authors aver that it is a genuinely biblical idea and not a postbiblical innovation. Whether or not the reader views the author’s discussion and interpretation of various verses, anyone who writes a book willing to wrestle with tough questions is to be commended even if the results aren’t always as successful as one would hope.