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How to Read the Bible: History, Prophecy, Literature Why Modern Readers Need to Know the Difference
Oxford University Press / 2005 / Hardcover
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Bewildered by all of the genres that appear in Scripture: law, history, poetry, gospel, epistle, apocalypse, proverb, oracle, etc.? McKenzie shows how to identify each, explains their significance, then offers a good overall approach to their interpretation. Helps demystify the Good Book. 240 pages, hardcover.
More people read the Bible than any other book. Indeed, many try to live their lives according to its words. The question is, do they understand what they're reading? As Steven McKenzie shows in this provocative book, quite often the answer is, "No."
McKenzie argues that to comprehend the Bible we must grasp the intentions of the biblical authors themselves--what sort of texts they thought they were writing and how they would have been understood by their intended audience. In short, we must recognize the genres to which these texts
belong. McKenzie examines several genres that are typically misunderstood, offering careful readings of specific texts to show how the confusion arises, and how knowing the genre produces a correct reading. The book of Jonah, for example, offers many clues that it is meant as a humorous satire, not
a straight-faced historical account of a man who was swallowed by a fish. Likewise, McKenzie explains that the very names "Adam" and "Eve" tell us that these are not historical characters, but figures who symbolize human origins ("Adam" means man, "Eve" is related to the word for life). Similarly,
the authors of apocalyptic texts--including the Book of Revelation--were writing allegories of events that were happening in their own time. Not for a moment could they imagine that centuries afterwards, readers would be poring over their works for clues to the date of the Second Coming of Christ,
or when and how the world would end.
For anyone who takes reading the Bible seriously and who wants to get it right, this book will be both heartening and enlightening.
Steven McKenzie is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tennessee. A renowned scholar of the Bible, his previous books include King David: A Biography and To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application.
"Thoughtfully considered and ably written, this book is highly recommended for all libraries."--Library Journal
"Steven L. McKenzie offers a fresh take on the ancient texts of the Bible and allows us to see the familiar biblical landscape in wholly new and illuminating ways. How to Read the Bible is authoritative and provocative, often witty and always insightful and illuminating, an essential tool for modern
readers of the Jewish and Christian scriptures." --Jonathan Kirsch, author of God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism and The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible
"In order to determine what the Bible means, we must first determine the intentions of its authors, intentions expressed in the literary genres they used. In his examination of several genres used in the Bible, McKenzie demonstrates through detailed analysis how the identification of genre is as
necessary for the understanding of biblical literature as it is of any literature. An important and insightful book."--Michael D. Coogan, editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition, and The Oxford History of the Biblical World
"How to Read the Bible is a role model of its kind. Steven L. McKenzie, a rising star in our field, has 'squared the circle' and delivered a book that blends serious up-to-date scholarship with a simple, straightforward style aimed at an intelligent but non-scholarly audience. At the same time, I
would add a hint to scholars: We could read the book to advantage and pick up pointers on the latest wrinkles in our field of study, along with ways and means to improve our own presentation. Approaching the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in terms of its types or categories of literature, the author
explains and illustrates from the text of the Bible. While the book is an introductory survey, he samples the literature successfully and treats in detail selected stories and representative passages from the historical, prophetic, and wisdom books of the Old Testament." --David Noel Freedman,
author of The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible
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