There are certainly some puzzling passages in the Bible. We need help in understanding why they are there and what their significance is. Bargerhuff writes, “...surface readings of Bible verses without understanding the culture, context, and communicative methods of that day can be misleading at times.” (20) So he provides those things for us.
He investigates all kinds of passages. He explores apparent contradiction like those of the faith verses works topic. He reveals insights into often misunderstood passages. An example is Luke 14:26-27. Are we really to hate our family members to follow Jesus? Bargerhuff argues that the use of “hate” was a rhetorical device and is not to be taken literally. We are to understand it to mean “love less” in a comparative sense. (20)
He includes spiritual lessons with his explanations. One of my favorites was from the story of Balaam and the talking donkey. Bargerhuff writes, “...not all who claim to speak for God belong to God.” (32) Another favorite was from 2 Chronicles 20 and King Jehoshaphat's actions in the face of the approaching enemy. Bargerhuff gleans a pattern we are to follow when facing uncertainty: worship God, claim his promises, admit our helpless and need, and profess our faith and trust. (112-113)
There were some surprises. I had always assumed that Jesus speaking about eating his flesh and drinking his blood in John 6:54 was referring the coming Last Supper and the institution of communion. Bargerhuff says it is not, arguing that the promise associated with this statement would guarantee salvation for anyone taking communion. It should rather be taken as referring to having faith in his broken body and spilled blood. (195) That made me chuckle later on when Bargerhuff criticized Bible interpreters who “...neglect the literal reading of the text and opt for more of a symbolic or allegorical meaning at the expense of missing the simple truths of the story.” (210) I guess it depends on what you think a passage should say.
Bargerhuff does a good job of giving the setting, the culture and other background information on some of the most puzzling passages in the Bible. His inclusion of spiritual lessons is an added blessing. I recommend this book to those seeking insight into the Bible in general and those puzzling passages in particular.
You can read an excerpt here.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Eric J Bargerhuff (PhD) is professor of Bible and theology and the associate dean of academic affairs at Trinity College of Florida. He served in pastoral ministry for more than twenty years in various states. He received his doctorate in biblical and systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his family live in Trinity, Florida. Photo credit: Shelby Glynn Photography.
Bethany House, 240 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)