Book Review: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, by N. T. Wright

Scripture and the Authority of GodIn typical, well-articulated fashion, N. T. Wright, in this updated, 2013 edition of Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, tackles questions concerning the nature of Scripture (the Bible) and how it is authoritative, going well beyond the simplistic “it’s the Word of God” statements by addressing deeper application and important questions with much needed nuance. It is impossible to consistently and effectively take Scripture at “face value” without any method of interpretation—even the old adage “let Scripture interpret itself” will fail on a number of levels to withstand our interpretive interaction with passages we hope will help interpret others. So, if “because the Bible says so” isn’t very helpful when the Bible appears to disagree with itself in such superficial readings and the same “obvious” reference is equally used for opposing views, how do we use the text?

Wright fundamentally approaches the Bible as narrative, the story within which we find ourselves, that which has in a number of ways been handed down to us. We must then read everything within its larger context (e.g., verse, chapter, book, style, genre, history, culture, etc.) in order to understand what it meant and what it means. This requires diligent study and scholarship. To ignore this fact is to ignorantly and/or arrogantly dismiss generations of careful work through language translation alone—translation is inherently interpretive—not to mention the centuries (millennia!) of dialogue and debate that have lead to where one may find him/herself in one’s walk with God. (Again, statements like, “I only use the Bible,” and, “If the Bible says it, that settles it,” are not quite that simple, belittle the Godly work of others, and assume one has cornered the hermeneutical [interpretive] market.)

In this edition, Wright includes two case studies at the end of the book to demonstrate the argued biblical interpretation and how he views Scripture as being authoritative on the issues: Sabbath and Monogamy. These are quite helpful in working through some of the pragmatics of Wright’s work.

This only scratches the surface, and I highly recommend this read. For some, keeping a dictionary of theological terms and an encyclopedia of historical moments and movements within Christianity may be help, per Wright’s depth and style, but I suggest the reader allow this to be an opportunity to learn rather than become a barrier or distraction.

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