When one first becomes a Christian a basic reading of scripture is satisfying. It helps nourish the soul and propel us to new heights in faith. At some point getting the milk is no longer sufficient. This is not to say that Bible is not sufficient, but we are growing and want something to grab onto in a deeper way. We seek understanding and advice from those teachers and pastors that we have been blessed with. We also delve deeper into scripture, for the meat instead of milk and in doing that we practice hermeneutics.

This is where How to Read the Bible for All its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart comes in. The authors declare that “the aim of good interpretation is simple: to get at the plain meaning of the text[1].” The authors are very accomplished theologians and scholars. Dr. Gordon Fee is Professor Emeritus of New Testament studies at Regent University, and author of multiple books[2]. He also serves as editor of the New International Commentary, and also served on the committee that produced the TNIV[3].

Dr. Douglas Stewart is professor of Old Testament studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and the author and has either written or assisted in writing fifteen publications[4]. The two scholars strive to show that the Bible is accessible to theologians, clergy, and the laity. They do this in an easy to read and very understandable format. The book covers everything from why we need to interpret, finding a good Bible translation, historicity of scripture, and the various views that are out there. The authors also provide a great tool in the appendix which outlines criteria for choosing Bible commentaries.

SUMMARY

The authors waste little time in getting to the heart of the matter. In chapter one they immediately delve into what good interpretation is. In engaging in interpretation we are not trying to discover something new, and if we do it is often because of pride[5]. A proper interpretation should stimulate our mind and move our hearts. They describe the first task in interpretation as exegesis which is comprised of three elements that must be properly understood. To exegete a passage correctly one must understand the historical, literary, and content that the biblical writer was trying to convey. To not take these factors into consideration is to possibly be in error. The authors move into the second task of interpretation which is hermeneutics. They describe it in a way that is not intimidating to the average reader. They describe it as determining the Bible’s meaning in the “here and now[6].” If we wish to understand the Bible then we must strive to understand the original intent. That is a constant message and reminder in this book.

Chapter two is very helpful to the everyday Christian as it discusses various translations of the Bible. According to the authors, since we are already reading a translation then we are involved in interpretation[7]. The discussion of formal and fictional equivalence is brought up, and discussed in a very impartial way. The authors discuss various translations from the King James Version to The Message. For a formal equivalent the authors endorse the NASB, while they greatly support the NIV and the TNIV. In this reviewers opinion this must be looked at objectively as Dr. Fee was on the committee that developed the TNIV. Two Bibles are recommended for the reader. The authors recommend that a person should have a formal and functional translation for better study.

Next comes what can only be described as a shift in the book. Previously Fee and Stuart were discussing Biblical translations, but now they move into using translation and hermeneutic principles with scripture. To do this move directly to the Epistles in chapters three and four. On the surface these books seem very easy to interpret, but the authors show that they are more complex[8]. The authors emphasize the importance of contextual thinking, and introduce various hermeneutic principles to help the reader gain a better understanding of the Epistles.

What comes next is a very quick tour through scripture starting with the Old Testament in chapter five. The authors teach the tools that are necessary to properly understand the Old Testament narrative. The Old Testament is our spiritual heritage and many Christians throughout history have understood the narrative very poorly[9]. The three levels of narrative are described along with what we must do to properly understand them. Chapter six describes the historicity of the book of Acts. Acts is the history book of the early church and describes how the faith was spread in the early days. The authors are careful to explain why Luke wrote it. They also explained that Luke and Acts are a two volume series and that should be considered when reading the text.

In chapter 7-13 the model the authors use is continued as they discuss the Gospels, parables, the law, prophets, Psalms, Wisdom literature, and Revelation. The Gospels prove to be very complex and have many dimensions. This must be taken into consideration when reading them. Chapter eight deals with the Psalms and a very interesting question is brought up by the Authors. The question states, “How do these words spoken to God function as a word from God to us[10]?” The answer being that God inspired the words so we can express ourselves to him. Other interpretive methods are discussed in the chapter on Wisdom literature, and the book finished up with Revelation. The appendix is very useful as it helps one determine a good commentary. The authors also give a very helpful list of commentaries that they have vetted and recommend.

ANALYSIS

How to Read the Bible for All its Worth was a book that was easily understood. The methods set forth made sense and could be easily used to understand scripture more effectively. The whole purpose of the work is to have a source for all Christians to learn how to interpret scripture using exegetical and hermeneutical techniques. In that regard it was a success.

With that being said the authors did show bias to their view at certain points in the work, but to their credit it could have been worse. This is especially seen in chapter two when discussing Biblical interpretations. In Chapter two the authors state, “We would venture to suggest that the TNIV is as good a translation as you will get[11].” With all due respect to Dr. Fee one would hope he would say this. After all he sat on the committee that developed the TNIV. By saying this they say that the formal equivalent is not on par. To their credit the authors do say that one translation method may be better than the other based on what the reading is for. For everyday reading a functional equivalent may be better, but for a word study a formal is superior.

There were times when personal interpretation crept into the text. In the chapter about Acts the authors state many things such as mode of baptism, frequency of the Lord’s Supper, and speaking in tongues are discussed according to their interpretation. Though this student agrees with their interpretation, there are many scholars who do not.

CONCLUSION

Overall this book is very helpful in teaching the rules of interpretation. There are times when personal preference comes out, but that is to be expected in any work in this space. This book would prove to be beneficial in the library of a student of scripture. The authors are very knowledgeable and have many years of experience. The layout of the book is not intimidating to the layman and proves beneficial to the scholar. It is a great benefit for men and women of all denominational backgrounds.

Bibliography

“Gordon-Conwell Faculty,” Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, accessed April 9, 2015, http:/​/​www.gordonconwell.edu/​academics/​view-faculty-member.cfm?faculty_id=​15891&​grp_id=​8946.

“Regent College Faculty,” Regent College, accessed April 9, 2015, http:/​/​www.regent-college.edu/​faculty/​retired/​gordon-d-fee.

Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Third ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, third ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 18.

[2] “Regent College Faculty,” Regent College, accessed April 9, 2015, http:/​/​www.regent-college.edu/​faculty/​retired/​gordon-d-fee.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Gordon-Conwell Faculty,” Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, accessed April 9, 2015, http:/​/​www.gordonconwell.edu/​academics/​view-faculty-member.cfm?faculty_id=​15891&​grp_id=​8946.

[5] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, third ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 18.

[6] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, third ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 29.

[7] Ibid, 33.

[8] Ibid, 55.

[9] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, third ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 89.

[10] Ibid, 205.

[11] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, third ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 52.

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