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Correctly Handling the Word of Truth: An interview with Craig S. Keener


Being a professor of New Testament you obviously are concerned with Biblical literacy. Do you find that most Christians are biblically literate?

Craig Keener: Lack of biblical literacy is my greatest concern. Background study will be of little value to Christians who rarely even read the Bible. Many Christians think they are biblically literate because they are familiar with many Bible verses; but the Bible does not consist of 100 Bible verses with a great deal of blank space in between. God gave us the Bible not a verse here and a verse there, but book by book, and we need to read each book in its context. I really got hold of that as a young Christian, reading 40 chapters of the Bible a day. I am not suggesting that everybody needs to read 40 chapters a day, and I don’t do that nowadays myself; but it helped me to catch the contours of Scripture, the flow of thought through each book of the Bible. Whether we read one chapter or forty, we need to think of each verse in the context of its surrounding paragraphs, and those paragraphs as part of the particular book of the Bible in which they occur.


What are some of the reasons for this?

Craig Keener: A major reason is that in our fast-paced culture we have gotten used to having everything instant—instant mashed potatoes, instant microwave cooking, and the like. That’s not how God wants us to approach the Bible; Proverbs insists that we be diligent in seeking wisdom and knowledge. Instead of studying Scripture carefully, following themes through a book of the Bible, we settle for proof-texts, so we can prove what we already knew anyway. But you never learn anything new in the Bible by just making it teach what you already know. You never get convicted by the Holy Spirit if you just find what you expect to find there.

Most of us know the story of Jim Bakker and the PTL Club. In his book, I Was Wrong, he offers a heartbroken confession of where he went wrong in Bible study. He was so busy in ministry, that he had little time to do his own study of the Bible, so he believed what his friends were teaching, assuming that they had invested the time to study what they were teaching. Once in prison, he read the Gospels carefully and realized to his horror that he had been teaching the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. If we are settling for recycling the way we’ve heard Bible verses used, instead of immersing ourselves in Scripture, we run the same risk.


Can you give a couple of specific examples of common errors that Christians make in Biblical interpretation?

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2007

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. Twitter: @keener_craig

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