Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 14:3 (Fall 2010) p. 94
40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible. By Robert L. Plummer. 40 Questions Series, edited by Benjamin L. Merkle. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010, 347 pp., $17.99 paper.
Robert Plummer is Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is not a book about hermeneutics in the generally accepted technical sense of the word, but a guide to biblical interpretation written for any who want to improve their Bible-reading skills. It is immensely practical and written at a level that does not require technical theological or philosophical training, and is thus accessible to the ordinary Christian. Of course, such an ordinary Christian will need to be prepared from time to time to venture into unchartered waters or, as the saying goes, to think outside the box.
40 Questions is arranged in four parts. Part 1 is “Getting Started: Text, Canon, and Translation,” a section that explores the matter of what the Bible is and how we have come to get it in the form we have. “Part 2: Approaching the Bible Generally,” is further divided into two sections: “Questions Related to Interpretation,” and “Questions Related to Meaning.” “Part 3: Approaching Specific Texts” seeks to give guidance in approaching some of the various literary genres of both Old and New Testaments. “Part 4: Issues in Recent Discussion” takes up some matters that have caused controversy or which represent recent developments in the theory of interpretation.
First of all, what does this book not set out to do? It does not claim to deal with all the matters that modern interpreters or Bible-readers might be concerned with. Nor does it aim to give any more than a brief survey of the history of biblical interpretation. It does not primarily aim to refute the claims and counter-claims of non-evangelical positions in interpretation. It does not set out to give exhaustive treatments of the matters it deals with.
So what does it do, and how does it do it? Forty questions is an arbitrary number imposed by the series of which this book is a part. The author, therefore, cannot deal with every significant issue that evangelical Christians may be concerned about when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Furthermore, those matters that are covered are not necessarily explained with as much detail as some might like. Plummer, however, at the conclusion of each chapter, does give guidance for further reading. Also, each chapter (Question) concludes with a few reflection questions that might well be used either by the individual reader or in a group study.
Many Christians are prepared to take the canon of Scripture on trust simply because that is
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