Understanding a work of literature by determining the author’s intent and perspective is a critical element in the study of all primary literature. Any worthwhile teacher would fail a student who assumed the theme or intent of a literary work on his own terms without delving into the author’s purpose in writing the work. We fervently teach that exposition (background information necessary to understanding the work) is required for competent analysis and understanding of literary works as well as speeches, dramatic presentations, and even videos.
But the most important book we have, the Bible, is often treated as passively as the “warming instructions” on a frozen entrée when it comes to studying the author’s purpose in writing. Let me quote from the introductory notes of this book:
“Awareness of the context of the Bible is an antidote to the dangerous dismissal of history that we see too often in both the church and the academy. In our day the postmodern outlook all but rejects history and context. Under the influence of this movement readers simply refuse to hear the writers of Scripture on their own terms and instead assert that it is up to each reader to make whatever he or she will of the ancient texts…The author’s intended meaning is thus rendered irrelevant to the modern reader, who feels free to interpret a text in any manner whatsoever. Such an approach makes a mockery of Biblical authority.” Studying to show ourselves approved means more than just reading Scripture. We must understand the Author’s purpose by knowing as much as we can about the inspiration of the writer in his circumstance and historical context.
This book is not an easy read. It is a study work, with over 2200 pages of history, sociology, geography, political history, maps, chronologies, and genealogies. It comes with an interactive CD-ROM full of color pictures, maps, charts, and other data from the book. There is text concurrent with the history so that one may read Scripture alongside the exposition.