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Reading the Bible Wisely

Richard S. Briggs, Reading the Bible Wisely: An Introduction to Taking Scripture Seriously, revised edition (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 153 pages, ISBN 9781610972888.

Richard Briggs offers a brief and accessible introduction to the Christian hermeneutical task of reading the Bible theologically. His experience as a teacher is evident throughout the work (he serves as Lecturer in Old Testament at Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College, Durham University, and he formerly taught New Testament). His concern is to demonstrate how Christians can “read the Bible wisely” and how they can “take scripture seriously” (p. 1). These concerns, according to Briggs, are deeper and broader than looking for the “right” interpretation of the Bible.

Briggs addresses his concern in three parts. Part One attends to the hermeneutical importance of context (historical, literary, and theological). Chapter 1 is a study of Luke 24 that serves to introduce the basic idea of biblical interpretation. Chapter 2 uses Luke 18 to show the importance of historical context. Luke 9:51 is the focus of Chapter 3, in which Briggs describes Scripture as a literary work. Utilizing a balanced and nuanced argument, Chapter 4 suggests eight reasons for reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture. Then, as a way of demonstrating how to read the Old Testament, Chapter 5 provides an interpretation of the book of Isaiah.

These five chapters are short on theory and long on practice. The greatest strength of Part One lies in its use of Biblical examples to illustrate the hermeneutical task. However, many important hermeneutical concerns are omitted from the discussion because the bulk of the chapters consists of the interpretation of only a few biblical texts. Briggs is an engaging writer who expresses himself clearly, but he does not attempt to be comprehensive in his description of the hermeneutical process.

Part Two consists of three chapters that present Briggs’s view of Scripture. Chapter 6 examines 2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1:20-21 as a means of expounding on the inspiration of Scripture. For Briggs, the Bible is “filled with the spirit, or breath, of God” (p. 77), but it is also a book that comes to us through the human process of writing, transmission, and translation.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2013

About the Author: Lee Roy Martin, D.Th. (University of South Africa), is Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, TN; and editor of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology. He has served as a Church of God pastor for 27 years and is the author of a number of books and articles, including The Unheard Voice of God: A Pentecostal Hearing of the Book of Judges (Deo Publishing, 2008).

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