Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review of R. C. Sproul's Knowing Scripture

Car advertisements on TV have progressed (??) from being informative in years past, to idiotic, to truly moronic in modern times. So please pardon me when I borrow an overused phrase from contemporary silly car commercials, but Sproul’s little volume, Knowing Scripture, is truly “best-in-class” for concise books that help the reader interpret the Bible.

Sproul’s writing is warm and friendly, almost whimsical at times, which belies the immensely intelligent, well-schooled, sharp mind behind the volume. The average layman will find this book easy to read, easy to understand, and very encouraging as it admonishes him to read—and interpret—his Bible.

The first chapter explores the motivations and necessity behind the Christian’s obligation to read the Scripture, and the second chapter follows on smoothly with the question of private Bible interpretation. Sproul argues for the idea that private interpretation is necessary and legitimate, but must be informed by the teachers (through history) God has gifted to the Church. He also deals with the matter of objectivity and subjectivity in interpretation.

A wide-angle view of hermeneutics occupies the third chapter as Sproul deals with larger issues such as genre analysis, metaphor, the grammatical-historical approach, source criticism, and how such matters inform literal interpretation.

If chapter three deals with hermeneutics on the “strategic” level, chapter four approaches it from the “tactical” level as the author unfolds and explains eleven rules to guide the interpretive endeavor. Chapter five deals with some of the difficult issues swirling around the question of how both the biblical writer’s and modern reader’s cultural contexts affect meaning.

Finally Sproul lists numerous helpful resources and tools for Bible study in chapter six. As a humorous side note, Sproul thinks it is a simple matter to master the Greek and Hebrew alphabets (well, okay), and a thousand-word vocabulary of Greek (ah, not so simple). Maybe it is simple for him and for other men and women of his intellect, but I found it very challenging (and then found maintaining a hard-earned Greek and Hebrew vocabulary to be nigh unto impossible, since other demands crowd into post-seminary life).

Knowing Scripture is truly the “best-in-class” volume for an introductory look at how to read and interpret the Bible. Highly recommended.

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