Reading The Bible

Learning to derive meaning out of the Bible can be very difficult, especially if you come from a religious background. I personally spent quite a while trying to get deep meaning out of the Scriptures. Those from a more fundamentalist or dispensationalist heritage will value the actual words of the Scriptures and memorize them. Those from an evangelical background will work with them at a rational level. Charismatics may welcome exciting, but “hyper-spiritual” interpretations. How do we find a method of reading Scripture that is life giving, but does not lead to false interpretations?

 

This is a complex issue, but I recommend a method that values the types and images in the Bible. Recently the trend of “Biblical Theology” has been changing the playing field. This a scholarly approach which has revived and validated the study of types and images because they are part of how the apostles themselves preached. The text that every serious student of the Bible needs to start with is Dennis Johnson’s “Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures.” This masterwork explains it all and demonstrates the principles of apostolic intepretation from the book of Hebrews. This book might be a little academic for those without seminary training, however. If you can get through it, this is definitely the best starting place.

 

Kevin Conner’s Interpreting the Scriptures is the only text I am aware of that really tries to provide an end to end Charismatic approach to reading the Bible. It follows in the a tradition of Bible interpretation going back through J. Edwin Hartill to the early methods of the Moody Bible Institute and A.T. Pierson. Conner attempts to blend mainstream interpretation with the interpretive methods highlighted by George Warnock in his famous “Feast of Tabernacles” book. These methods became the basis for much of contemporary Charismatic movement. Conner has also written a number of other books related to this subject. Conner himself is an amazing Bible interpreter, but it is hard to get from his books to his methods. He has a “key to knowing scripture” seminar where he explains it all, but I had to contact him directly in Australia in order to get it. Get “Interpreting the Scriptures” and work through the principles slowly until you understand it.

 

I explicitly do not recommend the highly popular “How to Read the Bible for all it is Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart because they make too much effort to tell us not to apply the Scripture, when in reality we need to learn how to apply it. As an alternative you can try  “Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind” by Tremper Longman but it is a little more advanced. “How to Apply the Bible” by Dave Veerman, the force behind the Life Application Bible, is a short and helpful treatment of application. As a side note, if you are going to buy a study Bible I do recommend Life Application as one of the few that provides helpful practical insights.

 

 

Once you learn how to read the Scriptures through images and themes, the “Dictionary of Biblical Imagery” by Leland Ryken is a must have. This dictionary is an invaluable resource, perhaps the most important resource on your shelf for discovering what God is saying in the Scripture from beginning to end.

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