Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss
BSac 168:670 (April-June 2011) p. 233
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
The Literary Study Bible (ESV). Edited by Leland Ryken and Philip Graham Ryken. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009. 1952 pp. $64.99.
Leland Ryken, a professor at Wheaton College, has long been regarded for his contributions in the area of literary criticism (e.g., Literature of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974]). He has joined with his pastor son, Philip Graham Ryken, now president of Wheaton College, to provide a study Bible whose purpose is to guide the reader in the use of literary form as foundational to grasping meaning and guiding application.
Their view is that the literary approach is not just another method of Bible study or something to be added to one’s other approaches, but is the very foundation of any correct understanding of the text. Most study Bibles, they point out, are made apart from an understanding of the composition’s form and thus miss the very means by which the author chose to be understood.
Each Bible book is placed within its literary genre (e.g., poetry, narrative, epistolary) to show how that form helps one obtain the specific meaning. For instance the Psalms are introduced with information about Hebrew parallelism, lament and praise structures, and other poetic literary nuances. A helpful glossary is provided at the end of the volume so that readers can orient themselves to literary terms.
Each book is prefaced by its main themes, literary identity, and most importantly the place it holds in the unfolding story of the Bible. To aid the reader, a short discussion of structure is given at the beginning of chapters, sections, and stories. The editors frequently comment on application to help the reader with personal relevance.
This study Bible is also unique in what it does not include. Historical background, language insight, appropriate geographical information, and running commentary are left to others. Because this volume focuses on literary form as foundational, the editors feel other information is to be considered only after the literary form is noted.
In numerous cases, however, the theology that the editors bring to the text overshadows the literary meaning in spite of their stated goal. For instance in Ezekiel 40-48, the prima facie reading makes it a notoriously difficult passage for those who claim there is no future for Israel. Though the discussion acknowledges the literal nature of Ezekiel’s description of the future city of Jerusalem (“a detailed physical and architectural account of a new temple...
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