Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks

We are exhorted all the time to read the Bible. But how does one understand it? Granted, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit one won't understand it (1 Corinthians 2.13) but, even then, how does one go about the process of learning how to learn from the Bible? It's composed of 66 books written from around 1450 B.C. — A.D. 95.

How diverse is it? Do we interpret the prophetical parts, poetic parts, historic parts and the correspondence parts the same way and use the same rules? Can a 21st century Christian dive in without knowing anything of the background culture when it was written? Did ancient Hebrews think any differently than Americans?

I have found a book, the book, for a person's first steps in the biblical waters. It's called Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks, longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and his son, William. Nothing I'm aware of comes close to being as thorough a job at teaching how to begin the lifelong process of interpreting the Bible.

But it's not a stuffy book. It's written for regular folks, not scholars who love phrases like Sitz im Leben, extant manuscripts and Pauline corpus. This book will work if you will work it.

Is Living By the Book the only book you'll need to interpret the Word of God? No, but it will show you exactly what else you need to use as you begin using the skills of Observation → Interpretation → Application.

Let me stress again that biblical understanding takes a lifetime of effort. Don't despise the day of small beginnings. Start today.

UPDATE: You can order it on Amazon here.  As of this writing somebody is selling a used hardback copy for only $. 39 (shipping costs $3.99).  Of course, you can order a brand-spankin' new book from Amazon as well.