Interpreting Scripture is a book published by the Biblical Research Institute in the USA. It is aimed at people who want to understand the Bible better.

Its more than 500 pages contain answers to no less than 107 difficult questions about and from the Bible. Under the coordination of Dr Gerhard Pfandl, 49 authors were asked to contribute. Highly qualified theologians, the authors were challenged to produce content that would be easily understood by the general public. As a result, the chapters are usually just a few pages long, and the interpretations offered are logical, sensible, and deeply grounded in Scripture.

The book is divided into three main sections: questions about the Bible in general, questions from the Old Testament, and questions from the New Testament.

In the first section, the reader will learn: who the author of the Bible is, why some Christians have a larger Bible, or who decided the structure of the biblical canon. There are also questions that some Christians shy away from, such as: Are there errors in the Bible? Why were some prophecies not fulfilled? Is the Bible historically accurate? The last question in this section hits the nail on the head: Why do Christian scholars interpret the Bible so differently?

The next two sections follow the chronology of the Bible. First, the questions deal with creation and the flood: Are we talking about 24-hour days of creation or indefinite periods? What was light in the early days (before the sun is mentioned)? Was the Flood a global event or a local one? How did all the animals fit on the ark? Most of the section deals with questions that relate to most of the major events or characters in the Old Testament: Does God harden people’s hearts? Does God change His mind? Why did He order the destruction of whole nations?

The New Testament section begins with the Gospels and moves through the Epistles to Revelation. The authors tackle difficult issues of great interest to Christians: what it means to be “perfect”, what is unpardonable sin, what is the relationship between law and grace, whether all Jews will be saved, or who the 144,000 are as described in Revelation.

While the title of the book may give the impression of an exhaustive, one-sided and exclusive approach (“This is how Scripture is interpreted, and there is no other way!”), it is worth noting a point made in the book’s preface: “Although the authors […] have worked hard to explain the difficult biblical texts gathered between the covers of this book, they do not consider that they have said the last word on the subjects in question.”

Reading this book has given me a sense of refreshed knowledge, clarification of personal dilemmas, but most of all, a reaffirmation that Scripture is complex and coherent, a living and ever-revealing book.

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