Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff

We know stories are powerful. They can convey truth but they can also be misunderstood. Bargerhuff says it is important that we learn how to interpret Bible stories in context using all the aids available along with the power of the Holy Spirit. He has chosen some Bible stories to show how they have been misused and misunderstood.

Most of the misunderstandings, it seems to me, are rather innocent and are not harmful. He tells us that the story of David and Goliath is about trusting God to deliver rather than about fear at facing our giants. The real point of the story of Zacchaeus is that Jesus sought him, not the other way around. He clarifies the identity and timing of those from the east who visited a young Jesus, clarifying some Christmas carols.

Bargerhuff retells each Bible story at length. This is something a new Christian will appreciate. Seasoned Christians who have read the stories many times may find the retold stories redundant. Christians who have studied the Bible much at all will have found most of the material Bargerhuff shares from commentaries or other study books they have read.

Bargerhuff really comes down hard on the prosperity gospel preachers. He calls them con artists with hearts full of darkness. (Loc 954/2093) He clarifies their misuse of the parable of sowing seed. This may be the only story Bargerhuff included that I found to be deliberately misused by some teachers.

He argues that Pentecost was a unique and one time transitional event, as was the later similar experience with Gentiles in Acts 8:14-17. It is a mistake, he says, that we should think that what happened then should be happening now. (Loc 1431/2093) The Book of Acts “was not meant to be a prescription for how the church was supposed to operate today.” (Loc 1440/2093) Because of Bargerhuff's viewpoint, charismatic Christians, like me, may find this book less than pleasing.

I felt his best discussion was on the story about Jesus not being able to heal in his home town. Bargerhuff notes that God sometimes does withhold healing because of lack of faith but that is not always the reason. Keeping in mind Paul's experience, Bargerhuff says that healing (or not being healed) may have nothing to do with faith but is rather in accordance with God's sovereign plan. (Loc 802/2093)

This book is a good resource but I would suggest readers keep in mind that Bargerhuff writes from his own viewpoint and does not present other possible interpretations of the stories.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Eric J. Bargerhuff teaches in the Bible and Theology department and directs the Honors Program at Trinity College in Florida. He served in pastoral ministry for more than twenty years. He received his doctorate in biblical and systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of two previous books. He and his family live in Trinity, Florida.

Bethany House Publishers, 176 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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