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Book Review – How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself

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Richard Mayhue is Dean of Studies at the Master’s Seminary and has sufficient credibility to write a volume about how to properly interpret the Bible. Writing in a simple and straightforward manner, he describes the process of “cutting it straight,” a term he borrows from Paul’s message to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15. Though the passage is most often translated “handling accurately the word of truth” the literal sense is “cutting it straight.” This book is thus divided into three sections. The first deals with how to make straight cuts, the second with avoiding crooked cuts, and the third with living out your cuts.

In the first several chapters Mayhue lays out the proper methods for studying Scripture. He speaks about presuppositions, methodology and rules for interpretation. A significant portion of the section is devoted to recommended study tools – concordances, dictionaries, commentaries and so on.

The bulk of the book contains rules to avoid making poor cuts. In other words, the author discusses many of the common errors in interpretation. The list of errors is extensive, but a few of the topics are: spiritualizing, embellishing, culturalizing, anglicizing and experientializing. They may seem like difficult terms, but they are all explained in sufficient detail and with plenty of examples.

The final chapter provides four pointers for translating straight cuts into a life. Interpreting Scripture properly is just the first step in allowing the Words of God to penetrate and change our lives.

What I most appreciated about this book is that the author provides examples for everything he writes about. When he discusses rules for interpretation, for example, he exposits Psalm 13, showing how he would go about interpreting this passage. He shows the questions that should arise when discussing it and how he would answer each of them. Another strength in this book is the questions at the end of each chapter. So often I find that the questions authors put in their books add little to the subject, but in this case they truly ensure that the reader has read carefully and understood the content of the chapter.

The only shortcoming I found is that the author sometimes does not go into quite enough detail about regular Bible study habits. I would have appreciated some suggestions on how to begin a regular pattern of inductive Bible study.

Despite that small shortcoming, this book is an excellent introduction to the principles of Biblical interpretation and I heartily recommend it. I would suggest that it might be well complemented by a book that specifically covers the inductive method of Bible study, such as Kay Arthur’s “How To Study Your Bible.”

Author: Richard Mayhue
Title: How To Interpret The Bible For Yourself
Published: 2001


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