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Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible [Paperback]

By Dan McCartney (Author) & Charles Clayton (Joint Author)
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Item description for Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible by Dan McCartney & Charles Clayton...

After laying the necessary foundation, Let the Reader Understand provides examples of how, and how not, to interpret Scrdipture. It suggests ways to understand the BIble's various literary genres: theological history, law, poetry, prophecy, parables, epistles, and apocalyptic. And it demonstrates how to apply Scripture to worship, witness, and guidance. This new edition discusses trends and movements influencing biblical interpretation during the last ten years. The first edition was published by Victor Books in 1994.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: P & R Publishing
Pages   378
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2002
Publisher   P & R Publishing
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0875525164  
ISBN13  9780875525167  

Availability  3 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 08:00.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Dan McCartney & Charles Clayton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! McCartney is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Hermeneutics

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > Study Resources > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible?

Complicated but good...  Mar 25, 2008
I would not recommend this book to someone who is just beginning to explore the science and art of interpreting the Bible. For those who are wanting to start slowly by getting their feet wet, I would suggest Fee and Stuart's "Reading the Bible for all its Worth". They are much better at the initial stage of exploration.

However, when it comes to the practice of interpreting the Bible, McCartney and Clayton do serve a good purpose - it would be for those who are leading Bible studies, seminary students, or pastors who are wanting to hone their skills in this area. Frankly, most of us could use further work and development in this area.

I appreciate that the authors are unabashedly evangelical and committed to a high view of Scripture. Often, the field of interpreting Scripture is littered with so many landmines from higher criticism that it is difficult to navigate without severe difficulty.

Also, this is the first book on interpreting and applying the Bible (that I've encountered) that begins by detailing the importance of our presuppositions. Our often unspoken assumptions about what the Bible is and what it is supposed to do will color how we read and apply it. They do an excellent job of encouraging the reader to examine these assumptions.

I think they did a good job with introducing the reader to the science of Linguistics and the challenges this creates for properly understanding what Scripture is saying. It is a bit technical and detailed, but you should be able to wade through it and catch the main gist, even if Linguistics isn't your favorite study.

My final bit of praise would be regarding their tackling the dubious method of word studies, which is quite prevalent in evangelical circles. (I'm thinking of Beth Moore and Kay Arthur, in particular.) Words are not the basic unit of meaning; this meaning is found in the context that those words appear. Words, in and of themselves, are highly flexible and their meaning needs to be grounded in the sentences in which they appear and the larger context of the paragraph and book.

My primary complaint would be this - after reading "Let the Reader Understand," I was overawed at the high level of complexity required. It seems that an approach like this takes the Bible out of the reader's hands and puts it only in the hands of the biblical expert. That's not actually true, but this is the overwhelming impression I got from the majority of the book. The authors themselves acknowledge this difficulty, yet because of the complexity of the material, they seem unable to cut through the mess.

Let me put it slightly differently - if we, as evangelical Christians, claim that the Bible is God's Word and that it is inspired and infallible, we must also grapple with the fact that we cannot approach the study of it flippantly or lightly. We need to come to terms with the seriousness of our study and, even, the high level of complexity and thought involved. Ordinary, non-seminary-educated Christians should be able to study their Bible thoroughly and effectively. A book like this should encourage greater and more careful thought on this highly important subject.

For myself, I'll probably put it on the shelf for a year or so and let the ideas gestate and then I'll come back to it to challenge myself on my methods and practices of reading and interpreting God's Word.
Stronger on presuppositions than practicality or technique  Feb 18, 2007
And that is right where it ought to be! The first two parts of this book are epistimilogical powerhouses.

The authors start with the varying theories concerning truth and knowledge. "Can we know anything?" They then carry it through those implications and the limitations of language itself. "Is language sufficient to convey truth?" Finally, they wrap the first section with an examination of the locus of meaning. "Where is meaning?..In the text, the author, or the reader?" It will be well worth your while to reread through these first chapters. It is so much to grasp.

In the second part, they cover pre-understandings, presuppositions and a needed Christological framework from which to approach the scriptures. They make a great case for the centrality of Christ as the all-controlling presuppositional necessity from which one needs to work to and from. They show how Jesus and the apostles taught this and used it in their understanding and teaching of the fulfillment of Old Testament writings.

I would have loved to have given it five-stars, but I needed to hold back for a couple of reasons. First, when it comes down to genre reading, they touch on it in brevity. Craig Blomberg's "Introduction to Biblical Interpretation" does a much more thorough job in genre explanation. Secondly, they mention the New Perspective on Paul and say that "the jury is still out on this." I don't think so: it's been handled fairly substansively. For these reasons, I withheld a 5th star.

That all being said, BUY THIS BOOK. It is a great work and worth it for the first two sections alone. The emphasis of the book is about seeing the Old as being fulfilled in the New through/in Christ Jesus. It that respect it is very strong and compelling. It is a very helpful resource that I have already gone back to several times.

Well Organized Approach  Dec 23, 2006
He starts out with a story about a college ministry that had a couple of students who were sleeping together (unmarried). When the campus minister approaches them with scripture verses that condemn their behavior, their response was "that's your interpretation"....hoping this stuns his readers (I'm not sure it stuns as many today as it would have 10 years ago)...he goes on to establish his premise that the bible is not a book with things for us to draw out of it whatever we feel is good for us....but rather a book that actually teaches certain things which comprise truth. From there he logically expands to cover a wide array of topics sequencing through the various issues of what Bible Scholars call 'Hermeneutics'. Biblical Hermeneutics is the art of interpreting scripture correctly.

I find his writing style to be inviting, concise, to the point and well organized. It's a really good book...on a subject that is not as easy to write about as it may first appear.

This book is a good primer for lay leaders as well as college students who are being introduced to the topic for the first time. We are using it to prepare our church leaders for an upcoming seminar on hermeneutics.

One of the things I like about this textbook is that it covers the history
of interpretation in a short period of time (pp 79-118), so the new student can come up to speed on what the history of interpretation has been in crucial time periods of Christianity. For example he focuses on Luther/Calvin hermeneutics and then modernity hermeneutics after that. He covers all the 'turning points' historically of hermeneutics. The quick overview is a really good primer for newbies in biblical hermeneutics.

For a busy pastor/bible teacher who has not had much or has forgotten their hermeneutics training...this book gives you a relatively easy read without sacrificing crucial elements. It will refresh you on the key elements of hermeneutics. If you are studying hermeneutics right now, and your course doesn't use this book, it is a good one to add for additional research or reading.

Five really ought to add this one to your library.
Worthwhile intro to Biblical hermeneutics  Jan 24, 2004
For the last 16 months or so, i have only reviewed books that i have finished, partly to stimulate me to finish more, partly to keep score. I did not finish this book, rather i stopped at part 3, roughly pg 180 out of 294 pages of text. I didn't finish because i scanned the material and it was of a more practical bent, which is not the reason i picked up and read the book. I am preparing to take a side branch on my creation-evolution-debate reading, looking at the hermeneutics of the justification and abolition of slavery. This book is from my pastor's library and was a textbook in a seminary class on hermeneutics, and as such is an excellent choice.

The price of the book and the value of the time spent reading the book is quickly recovered in just the image of the hermeneutical spiral. I now know from further online research that the image is not original to these authors but it is however the first time i have encountered it. As such a fruitful and thought provoking image i am deeply grateful for its introduction and how the authors build systematically around it. For the hermeneutical spiral consciously breaks the circular thinking that is evident in many justifications of inerrancy or in the explanation of the Bible as the word of God, i appreciate this metaphor, for this reason. The additional image of the grid of textual analysis, surrounded by the framework of an individual's thinking, while resting on the foundation of presuppositions has united several motifs i have been aware of but didn't have a handy way to see relationally. For this to i am grateful to the authors. It is a good introduction to the topic of Biblical studies and hermeneutics and rightfully takes its place in seminary and self-study libraries.


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