How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth and Book by Book

November 11, 2014 — Leave a comment



Many people have found their introduction to hermeneutics in How to Read The Bible for All Its Worth. I was not one of them. However, when I saw a new edition of the book (the 4th) was being released earlier this year, I thought it might be a good time to check it out. I was able to get a hold of a copy, as well as the companion volume, How to Read The Bible Book by Book.

This edition was prompted by a need to update the bibliography, but that in turn led to other updates. Specifically, all of the verse references are now parenthetical at the end of sentences and the translations have been updated. Also, commentary recommendations are up to date (for now).

The flow of the book is till more or less the same (since the 3rd edition). The opening chapter explains the need to interpret. Then, readers are guided through selecting a good translation of the Bible for personal study. With the basic tools in place, the remaining chapters each tackle a specific genre of the Bible. This starts with two chapters on the epistles. One covers background issues of history and literary context, while the other introduces the basic hermeneutical questions. Since the epistles are probably the easiest entry point, this seems like a good strategy. The chapters that follow go from Old Testament narrative, Acts, and Gospels (chapters 5-7) to parables (chapter 8), law (chapter 9), the prophets (chapter 10), the Psalms (chapter 11), wisdom literature (chapter 12), and finally Revelation (chapter 13). An appendix explains how to evaluate and use commentaries properly.

After reading through this, I wish I had come across it sooner. I had certainly heard of it, but this was after taking Bible study methods classes in college and seminary. As a single, accessible resource, I think this might become my go-to recommendation to get you grounded. There are other books I like as well, but especially if you couple this book with its companion volume, which is essentially a book by book survey of the entire Bible (that gives an overview, reading advice, and section by section walk-thru for each book), it gives readers a great foundation in reading and studying the Bible for themselves. More advanced books should certainly follow, but these two volumes are an excellent starting point.

If I could make one adjustment though, I would have liked to have either a more extended opening chapter, or perhaps a closing chapter that integrated the insights for studying the Bible into a step by step method. Maybe this could have been a chart, but it was touched on to some extent in the opening chapter. Going genre by genre is incredibly helpful, but I would have liked an integrating chapter. As part of this, I think more could have been said about studying Scripture at the level of words and phrases. I realize this is done in the context of specific genres, so maybe that’s why the integrating chapter would work better at the end after you’ve read all the specific insights you need to keep in mind moving genre to genre.

In the end, I doubt it is worth making a 5th edition to accommodate something like this. Instead, it probably illustrates that even a great introduction to studying the Bible works well with other resources. There is really no stand-alone go-to resource for hermeneutics. But there is wisdom in a multitude of teachers and counselors, and this resource is definitely worth consulting on its own or with its companion volume. If you really want to read the Bible for all of its worth, this is a great place to start.

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its WorthGrand Rapids: Zondervan, June 2014, 304 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How To Read The Bible Book By BookGrand Rapids: Zondervan, June 2014, 448 pp. Paperback, $18.99.

Buy itAmazon

Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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