The 4th and final review of Logos’ “How to Read the Bible” Collection is a review of “Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible” by Richard Schultz. This was the best book in the whole collection. There are a lot of books that cover similar content to this one but this one has two things going for it that the other’s don’t. Books like D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies are excellent but pretty academic. This book can be read and understood by everyone from a beginner to a scholar. That is hard to pull of.
The second thing that makes this book stand out is that Schultz has hundreds of examples of interpretation errors from familiar books and familiar authors. He touches on everyone people like Rick Warren, James Dobson, John Piper, Larry Crabb and many more. What is so great about this is that in no way does Schultz come across like an attack dog. He is very, very humble in his presentation and even concludes the book with a section on his own care for those who make these mistakes in interpretation. The book really makes you respect and admire Richard Schultz. He does it so well and his examples are so good that I am considering buying this book for my Christian Basics class.
The first section of the book deals with some of the most popular works that relied on misinterpreting scripture. Any guesses as to what his main example is? The Prayer of Jabez! He thoroughly and respectfully dissects that book and shows which principles of biblical misinterpretation went into the writing of that once extremely popular book. Second, he deals with the underlying misconceptions of scripture that lead to the common misinterpretations.
Schultz doesn’t just discuss how to do it wrong. Along the way he finds moments of opportunity to introduce correctives to the problems he is outlining. So when he discusses proof texting he also discusses the different types of context and how to identify and use context to assist our interpretation. Here is one example where he emphasizes the use of historical-critical interpretation scripture,
What is important to note here is that biblical interpretation can go wrong at various points. When interpreting textual details, we can adopt a questionable translation of key words or phrases. Furthermore, we can ignore both the historical and literary contexts of the passage, which largely determine how the passage should be understood and how it functions within Scripture. We can also pay too little attention to the formal, structural, and stylistic features of a text and how these shape the communication of divine truth. Further difficulties are involved in the process of application, as we bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and our contemporary world and recommend concrete steps toward affirming and living out the truths and lessons of the Scriptures. Here we can move too quickly in universalizing a specific action or instruction, assuming that what one ancient Israelite experienced can and should be experienced by all contemporary Christians. – Schultz, R. L. Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible p. 19
He deals with so much more…common problems with word studies, understanding genre, failure to read prophesy in its original context (aka finding Jesus everywhere), and errors in application. If you haven’t ever read a book on common ways to misinterpret scripture you really should get this book. So many of the discussions I have seen online would be cleared up if more people understood the even half of the principles laid out in this book.