This book is difficult for me to rate. Rhodes does include some helpful comments. Also his 11 "guiding principles for interpreting scripture, are interesting and mostly helpful. However, principles 1, 6 and 9 seem vulnerable to being reduced to each person doing what seems right in his or her own eyes. Principle #1 states, "when plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense." This sounds good, but who decides what makes good sense? Most difficult passages are difficult precisely because of differences of opinion on what makes the best sense. Also it seems to rest on the idea that simpler is better or more reliable. This does not always seem to be the case. Principle #6 encourages us to "interpret difficult verses in light of the clear verses." Again, this requires a judgment call on which passages are clear. Finally, principle # 9, requires the reader to determine whether a teaching is explicit or implicit. I don't find these three principles to be helpful. To be fair, his other principles provide some balance, and to a degree act as a corrective for these three. Ultimately, many of the comments in the book are well written, helpful and deserving of a higher rating than I have given. But the three principles mentioned above, and their application, force me to rate the book as average.
The Bible covers a lot of ground in 66 books. Written over a period of 1600 years, in a variety of genres by multiple human authors, its readers have often puzzled over its meaning in any number of places within its pages. Ron Rhodes is here to help, with his book "Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses: Clear Explanations for the Difficult Passages".
"Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses" is a mini-commentary covering the entire Bible. It tries to focus on just the sorts of questions the average church-goer would have. The questions are even pulled from Rhodes' own ministry experience as a traveling speaker. Rhodes does an excellent job of providing succinct and simple answer to most of them.
This book can't cover every issue or every question, but the following list provides a sampling of the sorts of points that are covered in this nice little volume.
- Are the 6 days of Creation 24 hour days?
- What was the mark of Cain?
- Who is the "angel of the Lord"?
- How can capital punishment be justified in light of God's command to not murder?
- Should Christians worship on Saturday (the Sabbath) or Sunday?
- What does it mean when the Bible says God "repents"?
- Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise or a principle regarding raising our children?
- What is the new covenant?
- What is the abomination that causes desolation?
- Is it wrong to take oaths?
- Did Jesus really die on Friday?
- Is baptism necessary for salvation?
- Are Christians required to evangelize going house-to-house (or door-to-door)?
- Does God have blood?
- Should I be seeking the gift of tongues?
- What is "baptism for the dead"?
- Are Christians permitted to drink wine?
- Does the Bible condone slavery?
- In Tit. 2:13, is Jesus called "God"?
- Can a Christian skip church?
- Is James really teaching a person is justified by works?
- How are the elect chosen by God?
- Why are Dan and Ephraim excluded from the list of tribes in Rev. 7?
- If Jesus is the beginning of God's creation, is He then a created being?
- What is Armageddon?
Not everyone puzzles over each question, nor are they equally important. But this is just a smattering of the kinds of issues addressed in Rhodes' book. The book is arranged by Scripture reference, so it can be a handy companion to your personal Bible study. If you are in a passage and have a question or can't understand a verse, try out this book. If your verse isn't listed in the book, check the topical index, in case the question is still answered by the book.
Rhodes' approach seems to be from a conservative, dispensational, creationist position. He will address alternate views often, and tries to be fair to other interpretive viewpoints, but the book is clearly biased by his own theological perspective. Then again, which book written by a human author isn't? Sometimes his answers are given as his personal perspective, as in his treatment of the tongues' question. He lists his reasons for believing tongues have ceased. Other times, as with the question of the "baptism for the dead", he is content to give a few positions and not really come down on any one view. With other questions, he presents another view and then details problems with that view. Occasionally, he just gives his own perspective and doesn't discuss an alternate view. On a few points, he is very careful in laying out a systematic case for his view, as in his discussion of the differing positions on election (he prefers the Calvinistic position).
Some of Rhodes' questions would only come from a conservative evangelical or even a fundamentalist perspective. That makes the book perhaps more useful to these readers. He explains how Prov. 22:6 isn't a guarantee that one's children will automatically turn out right if we just do the right thing as parents. He shows how "house to house" was a description of teaching being done from home-group to home-group, not a prescribed method for evangelizing. He discusses that the Bible permits moderate drinking, but holds that wine in Bible times was weaker than it is today.
Sometimes I found myself upset with the simplicity of the answers. Other times I was impressed. For someone who is aware of all the above points of controversy, the book may not be as useful. But for many Christians, it will be a great tool for help in understanding Scripture more. So I'm happy to recommend the book.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Harvest House Publishers for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
In Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses, Ron brings together his many years of experience sharing and interacting with his audiences. During his travels and speaking engagements, it was not uncommon for someone in attendance to ask for further explanation of a Bible verse that they found difficult or troubling. Its the many questions Ron answered over the years that became the basis for this book. The book begins with a section titled Understanding Hard Sayings. While I know some of you may be inclined to skip introductory material, Id encourage you to read this section first. Here Ron lays the groundwork for the rest of the book by explaining eleven principles for interpreting scripture that have served him well over the years. Following the introductory chapter, the book is broken up into brief chapters, beginning with Genesis and in the canonical order of our English protestant Bibles running all the way through Revelation. Each chapter has a select number of questions related to a difficult scripture passage or passages in that particular book of the Bible and its explanation. Following the chapter on Revelation, there is a select bibliography and a very useful topical index.Ive enjoyed working my way through Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses. There are a number of ways one could choose to work through this sort of a book. I chose to read the book straight through. Others may want to keep it at hand as they are doing Bible study and consult the appropriate chapter to see the explanations given for difficult passages. You could also use this book as a reference work for difficult topics in scripture. The topical index allows the reader to selectively browse the material by subject matter rather than book, chapter, and verse. Regardless of how you choose to work through this book, it would make a great addition to your personal library.