Book Review: Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul
In this book, R.C. Sproul sets out to convince us that studying the Bible is not only necessary but profitable for every Christian. He believes that the Bible is the inerant, inspired Word of God. It's message is clear and can be understood by everyone. It is neither dull nor boring. And why should we study it? The simple answer is that it is the Christian duty.
Studying the Bible means more than reading. We must interpret it. Sproul provides three guidelines for interpreting Scripture. First, Scripture is to interpret Scripture. Since Scripture cannot contradict Scripture, our understanding of the difficult verses of the Bible should be shaped by our understanding of the clear verses of the Bible. Second, we interpret the Bible literally. But what does that mean? "To interpret the Bible literally is to interpret it as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context." The Scripture contains various genres and literary techniques. We cannot approach all of them with the same mindset. For example, when the Bible speaks of the hills as dancing and clapping their hands, we do not think that Bible means that the hills themselves were actually dancing. We understand the use of the figure of speech. Third, we must understand the passage we are reading within its historical context. Which we means we need to investigate the author, the date written, and the intended audience.
Sproul spends the second half of the book laying out practical guidelines for interpreting various parts of the Scripture and bridging the cultural gap between us and the original writers. For example, we must not misunderstand proverbs as law. "Proverbs are catchy little couplets designed to express practical truisms... They do not reflect moral laws that are to be applied absolutely to every conceivable life situation." Proverbs 26:4-5 illustrate this point very well. If we read these proverbs as absolutes then we have a clear contradiction in the Bible. Rather, these proverbs teach us that our answer to the fool should differ for particular situations.
This book provides us with a basic foundation, steeped in the Reformed tradition, for interpreting the Bible. R.C. Sproul's style will make it a quick, easy, and engaging read. He does not dive deep into understanding the various sections of the Bible, so the reader will have to turn to other resources for more in-depth study.
Lack of detailed guidance for reading specific Bible sections and books
p.22: "Countless times I have heard Christians say, "Why do I need to study doctrine or theology when all I need to know is Jesus?" My immediate reply is this: "Who is Jesus?" As soon as we begin to answer that question, we are involved in doctrine and theology. No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones. A good theologian is one who is instructed by God."
p.31: "If the Bible were the most boring book in the world, dull, uninteresting and seemingly irrelevant, it would still be our duty to study it. If its literary style were awkward and confusing, the duty would remain. We live as human beings under an obligation by divine mandate to study diligently God's Word. He is our Sovereign, it is His Word and he commands that we study it. A duty is not an option. If you have not yet begun to respond to that duty, then you need to ask God to forgive you and to resolve to do your duty from this day forth."
p.121: "I have discovered that the majority of people who read the first five books of the Old Testament will make it through the whole Bible. Most people fail to read the Old Testament by getting bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers. The reasons are obvious. These books deal with detailed matters of the organization of Israel including lengthy list of case law. So much of the material is foreign to us and makes difficult reading. Yet, the information contained in these books is of crucial importance for understanding the scope of redemptive history. An accurate understanding of the New Testament depends on an understanding of these books. In fact, once a person acquires a general understanding of the whole scope of Scripture, he usually discovers that Leviticus and Numbers are fascinating and delightfully interesting. But without the general understanding, the details seems somewhat unrelated."
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