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Reading the Bible Wisely

In the very succinct and helpful Chapter 7, Briggs discusses the nature and shape of the biblical canon, as well as the process of canonization. He addresses the controversies surrounding the Apocrypha and other non-canonical books (e.g., The Shepherd of Hermas). Briggs argues that the canon provides a “theological framework” that points to the “central story of Jesus” (p. 89).

In dealing with the authority of Scripture (Chapter 8), Briggs insists that Christians must move beyond a simplistic search for “applications” of the text. He states, “In the end, the Bible is not fundamentally about principles to be applied, or about authoritative rules to be obeyed” (p. 91). The Bible is mostly story, and if it is reduced to a list of principles, then it becomes something else entirely. The Bible is the story of God and his people, and in reading the Bible, people meet God and are transformed.

Part Three of the book (“Hermeneutical Perspectives”) includes four chapters that seem to have been tacked on at the end, though they do address hermeneutical issues. The least valuable is Chapter 9, which is a short interpretation of the book of Revelation. Although the interpretation is well done, it would have been more effective if Briggs had shown clearly its implications for hermeneutics. Chapter 10 introduces the reader to the field of speech-act theory and applies it to biblical interpretation. Although the chapter is written clearly and concisely, the space that it occupies could have been used more profitably as a chapter devoted to one or more of the important hermeneutical concepts that are omitted in this short volume (e.g. genre, semantics, biblical languages, poetry, narratology, ideological concerns, the world in front of the text, etc.).

Chapter 11 (“Transformation”) and Chapter 12 (“The Word of Life and the Pursuit of Wisdom”) do not address hermeneutics; rather, they address the goals of biblical study. For Briggs, the reading of Scripture should lead to a transformation of the reader (Ch. 11) and the acquisition of wisdom (Ch. 12). The reader of Scripture “is being changed by persistent encounter” with God (p. 136). Through the reading of Scripture, the reader gains the “wisdom to see the world as God wants us to see it” (p. 141).

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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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