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Friday, October 5, 2012

"How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens" (Michael Williams)

TITLE: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
AUTHOR: Michael Williams
PUBLISHER:  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (288 pages).

This book contains one basic premise: Every book in the Bible points us to Christ. Some more direct, others less, but all do point to this central figure. As a member of the NIV translation committee, Williams has the privilege of looking through the Bible in depth, through the lens of scholarship and translation devices. Called a "guide to Christ-focused reading of Scripture," this how-to book covers all 66 books of the Bible on the basis of John 5:39, "These are the very Scriptures that testify about me." There are several advantages in adopting this mode of reading.
  • Unity: It connects both the Old and New Testaments into one big narrative;
  • Eternity in Christ: It keeps readers focused on God's eternal plan through one Person in Christ;
  • Focus: It prevents us from being distracted by contexts in each Bible that can appear out of place, even causing us to wonder why it is there in the first place;
  • Revelation: It increases our appreciation of how the Holy Spirit has revealed God to us through the ages.

How is this done? Williams adopt a consistent four step process. First, he presents the overarching theme of each book, just like most Bible introductory courses. Only when we see the big picture, we can make sense of how Jesus reads the Scriptures during His time. Second, he leads readers through a journey called "The Jesus Lens" to discover the person of Jesus in the Old Testament, and how it is elaborated in the New Testament. This is the main dish. Third, he affirms the revelation of God's Word in Christ and makes a call for readers to learn Christlikeness, through "Contemporary Implications." Four, several "Hook Questions" are provided for readers to do more research and study, for discussion and indepth thining. Williams has provided a link that provides multimedia resources for each biblical book. It is worth taking a look, but users need to register online before it can be used.

My Thoughts

Meant more as a brief guide rather than a full-blown commentary, the book fulfills its purpose by giving readers a brief snapshot of how the Bible can be understood better through the eyes of Jesus. Unique in its kind, it makes the reading of the whole Bible very purposeful and insightful. However, some biblical theologians or inductive readers may not like the way the book straitjackets readers at the onset, to be given the answer of "Jesus" immediately even before reading the book for themselves. In fact, some who prefer to let the Bible interpret or speak for itself may not take kindly to Williams's approach. For example, in the titles of every chapter, there is already an interpretation done for readers, "Separation for Blessing" in Genesis, "Life Purpose" in Ecclesiastes, "Torah Fulfillment" in Matthew, and "Working Faith" in James, seems to over-simplify the particular book. Up to some point, readers may suspect that they are hemmed in to this perspective when they read the Bible.

Having said that, the key way to use this book is as a supplement to our conventional ways of studying the Bible. We can supplement our inductive studies with this Jesus' lens. We can let this book bring additional (not the only) insight to our research. For me, the book is easy to read but a little too brief to do any justification for a really meaty study. I can understand the limitations. That is why the additional resource link will be helpful for such persons. In fact, with the hook questions at the end of each chapter, this book can also be a Bible study material! For me, the big advantage comes with those books that are relatively less read in the Church, like the minor prophets, Song of Solomon, Numbers, etc.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


 This book review is based on a book borrowed from the local library.

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