Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible, by Eric Bargerhuff

Much like he did in The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, pastor and professor Eric Bargerhuff brings clarity and interpretive assistance in The Most Misused Stories in the Bible: Surprising Ways Popular Bible Stories are Misunderstood.  Like a dedicated pastor, Dr. Bargerhuff writes what could be read as a sermon series on stories you probably know, if you have read the Bible or sat through church services and Sunday school.  But if you've been around long enough, you have probably heard some not-so-great teaching on these familiar stories.

Bargerhuff writes from a solidly evangelical, biblical perspective, as you might expect from someone with a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  If your perspective is different, e.g. if you are a Catholic or Pentecostal, you might have some differences with Dr. Bargerhuff, especially in his chapters on the Lord's supper and the Samaritan Pentecost.  For the most part, his take is non-controversial.  For instance, he points out that we don't have any idea how many wise man came to visit Jesus, and that however many came, their visit was closer to Jesus' toddlerhood than to his infancy.

The larger point that Bargerhoff makes throughout the book is that the focus of these stories should be on God, not on the human actors.  The story of David and Goliath is "not about overcoming fear and facing your giants as much as it is about the power and character of God to deliver."  The story of Jonah isn't about Jonah's rebellion as God's rescuing and redeeming Jonah.  The parable of the sower isn't about monetary contributions and financial rewards (as "health and wealth" preachers might teach) but about preaching the gospel and the fruit it bears or fails to bear in the hearers.  The story of Zacchaeus is not primarily about his seeking out Jesus, but about Jesus seeking out Zacchaeus.

Bargerhuff is refreshingly straightforward in his presentation.  He has the tone of an earnest pastor whose heart is for his flock to have a proper understanding of scripture.  He concludes, "Let us never miss the main point God wants us to get lest we make the Bible into a practical how-to guide instead of a book that highlights the glory and character of God and his saving plan for us. . . . Remember that the Bible is primarily a book about God."  I'll buy that.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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