Essential Texts for Interpreting Scripture

One of the great myths being purveyed today says that one needs a great number of books in order to properly understand Scripture. This myth is partially fuelled by the belief that the Bible is an enigma in which one needs a secret key in order to unlock its secrets. Certainly, a larger library is better than a smaller one. However, as one who has a large library, I can assure you that it doesn’t take many books to quickly discover that adding one more doesn’t add much additional knowledge. For the law of diminishing returns quickly comes into play.

Fortunately, individuals, who typically don’t have a large book budget, don’t need a large library to help them understand the the central ideas and themes of Scripture. What follows is my suggestion for books every student of Scripture should own.

1. Three modern translations (not paraphrases) of the Bible (eg. RSV, NIV, NRSV, NASB, NASBU, JB, NEB, NLT). While knowledge of Greek and Hebrew are commendable, the fact is most students never develop sufficient familiarity with these languages to help the accurately understand the text. Like a loaded gun in the hands of an inexperienced shooter, biblical languages frequently cause more harm for young exegetes than help. So, using three translations will give you a good sense of whether or not a debate exists among the experts on the translation of a passage. If they all appear to say the same thing, you can be pretty confident there is no great grammatical or lexical debate there.
2. The next two books will help you understand the principles of interpretation. Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth. (Be sure to get the latest edition.) will give you the bird’s eye view of the issues. Walter Kaiser’s, Toward an Exegetical Theology will show you how to actually give you a step by step process in doing exegesis.
3. New Bible Dictionary 3rd. Edition. This is an excellent one volume dictionary written by English and American scholars within the broadly evangelical tradition that is relatively inexpensive. The index in the back of the volume is priceless. If there was one book, I would recommend to all students of the bible, it would be for them to own a good bible dictionary. For a dictionary that is actually used, would save students from a myriad of poor interpretations due to their ignorance of the culture of the ancient world.

I will continue the list next week. In this situation you ought to consider a thought to buy essay papers to benefit from great custom writing help.

© Stephen Vantassel 2007

  1. This is also useful for ordinary church people who read and hear the Bible read frequently, but who would not consider themselves students. Thank you, Stephen.

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