New book by Plummer provides excellent primer for Bible interpretation

Communications Staff — May 18, 2010

What is the Bible and how should we interpret it? What determines the meaning of the text and can it have more than one meaning? Is the Bible all about Jesus and do the commands of God all apply to believers today? How did we get the books of the Bible?

Have you ever been asked these questions? Or perhaps you have wondered about these issues yourself. If so, Robert L. Plummer, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided a brand new book that will answer all these and many more fundamental questions about God’s Word.

The book, “40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible”(Kregel), was released last week and has already begun to make a major impact in the publishing world: it jumped to No. 1 among hermeneutics books offered on during its first few days of publication.

“I envisioned the book as an introductory textbook for a hermeneutics class,” Plummer said. “In my hermeneutics class at Southern, I use a variety of texts that seek to answer a number of important questions, but I wanted to get all that into one book. I tried to think about the most common questions I get from students or from laypeople. I wanted to get all those into one place in a way that was accessible, clear accurate and manageable in 5 to 10 page answers to questions.

“I also wanted to provide something that could be used in a study group with each chapter having five questions and a bibliography of suggested further reading. I wanted to write a book that would benefit both students and laypeople alike and I definitely think it will.”

The book is divided into four parts and each deals with a major issue of Bible interpretation, including:

  • Text, canon and translation. Here, the book deals with basic issues such as how the Bible is organized, the inerrancy of Scripture, who determined what books would be included in the Bible and choosing the best English translation.
  • Approaching the Bible generally. Here, the author provides helpful sections on how the Bible has been interpreted throughout the history of the church and gives some basic principles on how to interpret Scripture accurately.
  • Approaching specific texts. Key questions in this section include those dealing with different literary genres in both Old and New Testaments.
  • Issues under recent discussion. The author concludes his survey of Bible interpretation by dealing with current issues ranging from issues such as biblical prophecy, Biblical Criticism and “Speech Act Theory” to theological interpretation of Scripture.

Plummer’s works is the second volume in the “40 Questions Series” published by Kregel, a series edited by Southern Seminary graduate Benjamin L. Merkle, who serves on the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Merkle is author of the first book in the series, “40 Questions About Elders and Deacons.” Upcoming volumes include works by two other Southern Seminary faculty members: “40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law” by Thomas R. Schreiner and “40 Questions About Election and Atonement” by Bruce A. Ware.

“40 Questions” is an excellent book for use in a local church setting and will benefit anyone with fundamental questions about the Bible, its history and how to interpret it. Plummer has more than achieved his goal of providing a clear, compelling and accessible volume on understanding God’s Word more accurately. Any book that has that as its goal is worthy of occupying a place in every thoughtful Christian’s library.

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