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Irresistible

Irresistible

by Rick Shrader

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Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed from the world.

Zondervan, 2018

By writing this book, Andy Stanley has taken a big step into questionable Bibliology.  He has written with a positive motive:  wanting to win our current generation to Christ, a generation that has either left the faith or will not come to the faith because of their distrust of the Bible.  The reason for this, Stanley says, is that the Old Testament is very difficult for seekers to believe or verify, but also, that the Old Testament (he prefers “Old Covenant”) has ended and Christianity is based on the New Testament (“Covenant”).  The Old Testament, then, is of little to no use for the New Testament believer.

Therefore, Stanley says on page 72 (of 322 pages), “But I hope you’ll be more than disturbed.  By the time we’ve finished our journey together, I hope you’ll be ready to unhitch your faith, your theology, and your lifestyle once and for all from the old  that Jesus came to replace.  And I hope you will fully embrace the new Jesus came to unleash in the world, for the world.”  It is difficult in a short review to retrace all of his steps in this argument, but I will try to give a fair overview of where Stanley takes the reader, give some positives and negatives, and list a few very questionable statements.

■ Stanley prefers calling the Old Testament the old “covenant.”  To him, this refers to the Mosaic covenant with Israel but at times he uses the term to refer to the whole Old Testament.  So by showing that the Mosaic covenant has been done away (and properly so), he ends up saying that the whole Old Testament has been done away.  After quoting Rom. 7:6 that the law had been done away, he writes, “Jews were accountable to a ‘written’ code, the law of Moses.  But under the new covenant, we are accountable to the Holy Spirit.  Big difference” (p. 138).  But then a few pages later he writes, “Bottom line, if Paul had been around in the fourth century when the bishops and theologians were brainstorming titles for the major divisions of what would eventually be called the Bible, I’m pretty sure he would have opted for the term obsolete over old.  It’s not pithy, but it’s accurate” (p. 140).  This becomes a major problem in following what Stanley is saying we should “unhitch.”  Are we to put away the Mosaic covenant or our whole Old Testament?  After all, the Mosaic covenant was only the last 1500 years of a 4000+ year Old Testament.  In addition, the “law” that is done away is contained in only four of the first five books of the Bible.  Should we also do away with the Psalms, Prophets, and History books?  It seems he would say yes.  He writes, “The designation Law and Prophets included the writings not technically considered law or prophecy.  In the first century, this designation included the history and poetic literature as well.  So, if you really want to follow Jesus’ example, drop the Old Testament and start referring to the first half of your Bible as the Law and the Prophets.  If that seems a bit over the top, just go with the Hebrew Bible” (p. 281).

■ Along with confusion over the “old covenant,” Stanley consistently uses the “new covenant” to refer to the New Testament, all of it, and nothing else.  He even quotes most of it (p. 84) from Jeremiah 31.  He doesn’t approach the various views as to what and when the new covenant applies.  He never discusses the future aspect of the new covenant or any prophecy related to it.  To him, the new covenant is equal, across the board, to the New Testament.  This gives him a neatly packaged “old covenant” and “new covenant” which he equates with the entire Old and New Testaments.

■ At times Stanley seems to be able to draw principles from the Old Testament and make good application to the New Testament believer.  But for the most part he does not even feel we should make any application from the Old Testament.  He writes, “If you read Paul’s epistles carefully, you’ll discover that while he considered the old covenant Scripture, he didn’t consider it binding.  Just the opposite.  For Paul, the Old Testament narratives provide new covenant folks with encouragement, context, and hope—but not applications to live by” (p. 202).  In other places he writes, “While the Old Testament is not our go-to source for application, it is a fabulous source of inspiration.  Old Testament narratives are rich in courage, valor, and sacrifice” (p. 167).  “Paul never sets his application ball on an old covenant tee” (p. 168).  “I too, was taught from childhood that every word in the Bible is God’s Word and, consequently, it’s all equally important and applicable” (p. 168).  But Stanley does not differentiate what or how any part is “applicable.”

■ Stanley rightly points the gospel to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  But, he argues, since the first century believers didn’t have the “Bible,” they only evaluated moral and behavioral issues on the basis of “what does love require of me” (p. 233).  He even writes, “When it comes to sexual purity, the Bible is a mixed bag with mixed messages.  The New Testament isn’t.  But the entire Bible, especially the Old Testament, certainly is.  But even the New Testament authors don’t address consensual premarital sex directly” (p. 140).  The New Testament “rule,” according to Stanley, is to ask what love requires of the person toward the other person.  Ironically (I believe) this perspective of moral direction also eliminates the need of the New Testament as well as the Old.  This might be, though Stanley doesn’t use the term, an example of what is today called “redemptive hermeneutics.”

■ If seekers only need to believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus because the miracles of the Old Testament are hard to believe or verify, how can they believe in resurrection?  I would think that would be the most difficult miracle in which to believe.  An unbeliever can only believe in the resurrection because God says in His revelation that it happened.  This is the same basis we believe anything about the Old Testament also, though historical things can often be partly verified by archaeology or other studies.  But it seems inconsistent to say that a person can’t believe in the Old Testament events because “the Bible says,” and then accept the resurrection on the same basis.

■ I want to say that Stanley says some good things.  He does not deny the inspiration of the Old or New Testaments.  He is only talking about the use and application of them.  He properly sees that the law of Moses was done away when the new age came.  His confusion is over what the “old covenant” means.  He criticized the allegorizing by many New Testament scholars in an effort to make the Old Testament law fit the New Testament.  I agree, but he doesn’t deal at all with the prophecies that extend far beyond the New Testament.  I take Stanley at his word that he is concerned about how people hear and receive or reject the gospel.  We all should be.  But it seems to me that Christians for two thousand years have believed the best way to do that is to be absolutely committed to the veracity of the whole Word of God.

■ Stanley also fails to deal with some issues that would be pertinent to his discussion.  What does he do with all of the Old Testament quotations in the New Testament?  One cannot read any book in the New Testament without seeing the author’s appeal to the authority of the Old Testament.  Stanley never deals with prophecy in the Old or New Testaments.  Not only are they quoted often in the New Testament, but these Old Testament prophecies extend beyond the New Testament.  Are they also of no value to the Christian?  Stanley doesn’t delineate clearly the differences among Old Testament covenants, especially the Abrahamic, the New covenant, and the Mosaic, not to mention the Davidic or the Palestinian.

■ I will add some of Stanley’s uncareful statements below.  I believe they are in context though, as you will see, they surely need further explanation.  However, the statements also stand on their own regardless of an explanation.

“It doesn’t help that both covenants are bound together for our convenience.  The majority of people I’ve talked to who’ve abandoned their faith have lost faith in Jesus because they lost confidence in the Bible.  Which part of the Bible? You guessed it—the part that doesn’t apply or include us—the Old Testament” (p. 110).

“Specifically, we don’t not commit adultery because the Ten Commandments instruct us not to commit adultery.  According to Paul, Jesus followers are dead to the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments have no authority over you.  None” (p. 136).

“Jesus treated the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative.  Paul insisted they were God-breathed.  Peter believed Jewish writers were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  But they never claimed their faith was based on the integrity of the documents themselves” (p. 158).

“On the other hand, there are principles, both stated and illustrated, throughout the Old Testament.  Lots of sowing and reaping.  Proverbs is full of common sense cause-and-effect relationships.  Solomon’s financial suggestions alone are worth the price of a genuine leather-bound study Bible.  But for the record, don’t do anything because Simon and Solomon say.  They are not the bosses over you” (p. 166).

“But the Jerusalem Council’s decision represented something else as well.  Something deeper and wider.  In addition to unhitching the church from the law of Moses, their decision unhitched the church from everything associated with the law of Moses” (p. 169).

“Participants in the new covenant are not required to obey most of the commandments found in the first half of their Bibles.  Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant.  Namely:  As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (p. 196).

“Not surprisingly, Paul doesn’t leverage the old covenant to establish the standard for Christian morality.  He leverages the believer’s inclusion in Jesus’ new covenant” (p. 204).

[Paul said], “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”  Stanley says, “His whatever bucket was categorized and organized around the Jewish Scriptures.  Our Old Testament.  Paul dismisses the primary relevance of the Scriptures he grew up with” (p. 208).

“The reason Christians should tell the truth is inexorably linked to the gospel, not a verse in the Bible.  The issue isn’t that it’s written in a religious book” (p. 239).

“If we’re willing to migrate from our The Bible says-based faith and sink our roots into the fertile, blood-soaked soil of new covenant morality, much of what makes us to resistible will eventually evaporate” (p. 274-275).

“Christianity can stand on its own two new covenant, first-century feet.  The Christian faith doesn’t need to be propped up by the Jewish Scriptures” (p. 278).

“Nowhere are we instructed to be prepared to defend a text or convince people to accept an authoritative book before considering the message of Jesus.  Nowhere are we instructed to defend the morality of every event chronicled in the Old Testament.  Just the reason for our hope” (p. 285).

“The foundation of our faith is not an inspired book.  While the texts included in our New Testament play an important role in helping us understand what it means to follow Jesus, they are not the reason we follow.  We don’t believe because of a book; we believe because of the event that inspired the book” (p. 294).

“Your unbelieving friends and family members don’t have to accept the Old Testament as reliable or the new Testament as inspired as a precursor to embracing Jesus as Savior.  Your skeptical unbelieving friends don’t have to accept the authority of a book before accepting the historicity of the resurrection” (p. 299).

“In light of the post-Christian context in which we live, it’s time to stop appealing to the authority of a sacred book to make our case for Jesus.  In the information age, that habit unnecessarily undermines the credibility of our faith.  It makes our message unnecessarily resistible” (p. 303).

“’The Bible says’ establishes the Bible, as in everything in the Bible, as equally authoritative.  It’s not.  If it is, we have a schizophrenic faith because, as we’ve noted, the Bible contains two covenants with two different groups for whom God had two different agendas” (p. 307).

“The trustworthiness of the Bible is defensible in a controlled environment.  It’s not defensible in culture where seconds count and emotions run high.  So I changed my approach along with some of my terminology” (p. 314).

 

 

Matthew Barrett

Matthew Barrett

by Rick Shrader

“Christians through the centuries have affirmed that Scripture, as God-breathed, is first-order language, and our theological formulation is second-order language.  If the interpreter’s theological formulation is based on Scripture, then it is true and trustworthy.”

Matthew Barrett, God’s Word Alone.  p. 138.

 

God’s Word Alone

God’s Word Alone

by Rick Shrader

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Matthew Barrett is the editor of the “5 Solas Series.”  He writes this one on Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).  The others are on grace, faith, Christ, and glory to God alone.  Barrett traces the Scriptures as our only final (and therefore inerrant) authority to the Reformation and then brings that doctrine home for today.  Of the almost 400 pages in the book, the reader would do well in reading the first 150 pages.  There Barrett walks the reader through the Reformation, to Modernism, to Postmodernism.  He shows that we are again at a crisis of authority.  Whereas the crisis in the 1500s was whether the Church and Pope were equal authorities (which Luther stood bravely against), to Modernism when science was exalted above Scripture, to today where individual opinion is supreme above all other authorities.  The rule of any law, but especially God’s law, must not trump the individual’s “right” to do whatever he/she wishes.  Barrett continues the book to establish that God still speaks with ultimate authority, in inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, whether the current culture accepts it or not.   A much needed book today.

 

Stained With Blood

Stained With Blood

by Rick Shrader

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The subtitle of this book is, “A one-hundred year history of the English Bible.”  It is an excellent book and accomplishes that goal in a helpful and scholarly way.  Nordstrom praises the King James Version for being “the greatest Bible ever written” (p. 165) but also “It means we live in a translation era and not in the days of Moses, Jeremiah or Paul.  The original inspired text was inerrant; Bible translations have never been” (p. 229).  Nordstrom comes from a similar background to mine in which the KJV was used and respected but was never taken to be inerrent neither in the English nor in the Greek text from which it was taken.  He quotes the translators extensively in this same vein, “The translators were not being asked to create a new version of the Bible, but rather to revise the established version, removing any blemishes or inaccuracies” (Samuel Ward, a KJV translator, p. 196).  The book is forwarded by pastor Bruce Anderson, a good friend of mine and a scholarly pastor and user of the KJV.

I enjoy English history, especially the one hundred years covered in this book during which the King James Version was translated.  Nordstrom begins with the Latin Vulgate and shows how it was the only accepted version of the Catholic Church at this time.  From Wycliffe to Tyndale, English translations were outlawed, and the translators put to death, because the Bible in the peoples’ language would destroy the hold that the Catholic church had being the only ones who could actually read a Latin Bible.  Ironically, Jerome suffered from the same attitude in his day.  Even the Anglican church under Elizabeth and James discouraged any translation that would take away their power.  However, God in His providence brought the translating genius of Tyndale directly through a number of translations right down to the KJV whether the King realized it or not.  Nordstrom deals some with the manuscripts in the final chapters and concludes, “Why can’t we be eclectic and take the commonality of all, and place the few variatons within the margins?  That way we would have it all!” (p. 247).  A great benefit of these final chapters is the way he shows that the variations of both the Greek manuscripts and the English translations are very minute compared to the great agreement in them all.  In addition, Nordstrom believes that further translation and also comparisons among translations are all good things.  Yet at the same time he upholds the great translation history of the King James Version.  You can buy this book on Amazon for about $20 and it is well worth that.

 

Authorized. The use and misuse of the Ki...

Authorized. The use and misuse of the King James Bible

by Rick Shrader

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This is a 2018 book by Mark Ward, a PhD from Bob Jones University in New Testament Interpretation.  Ward is a writer and trainer for Logos Bible Software.  The point of Ward’s book is that the KJV is a good English translation but is only one of many, and that we as English readers would do best to use multiple translations to get every nuance in English of the Greek language.  Over the years I have read many books on this subject, pro and con, and I do believe Ward treats the subject as fairly and kindly as any I have read.  I do agree with Ward’s major premise that the KJV isn’t the only thing that can be called God’s Word, and also that the KJV is archaic in many ways.  However, I still use and preach from the KJV and the NKJV, while using other translations for comparison and while using the Greek a lot.  I will have to write more on that at another time.

Here are two quotes from Ward that fairly give his position.  “I’ll take up these objections, one by one, while continuing to focus on the major theme of this book:  how changes in English over the last four hundred years make it nobody’s fault that contemporary readers miss more than we realize when all we read is the KJV” (p. 88).  “I want to change the paradigm we’ve all been assuming.  Stop looking for the ‘best’ English Bible.  It doesn’t exist.  God never said it would.  Take up the embarrassment of riches we now have.  Make the best of our multi-translation situation, because it’s a truly great problem to have” (p. 137).  Ward calls old English words “dead friends.”  He means that these are good words but that they don’t give clear meaning quickly and easily to current English readers.  He argues for the use of vernacular translation because the New Testament itself was that and, in fact, the KJV was that to its own generation.

In chapter 6 Ward gives ten answers to common objections.  Rather than quote him at length, I will give (honestly I hope) a brief summary statement of his answer.  1. Why dumb down the Bible?  Ans.  Making it clearer is not dumbing it down (p. 94).  2. The KJV sounds like the Word of God.  Ans.  To the original readers it didn’t sound any different (p. 96).  3. The KJV translators made the KJV purposefully archaic.  Ans. Not so.  The translators called it “vulgar” or common language (p. 98).  4. The KJV preserves the important distinction between singular and plural pronouns.  Ans.  Even though it may, we don’t need it and can’t use it today (p. 104).  5. The English language has been debased since 1611.  Ans. Then why does this objection make sense when the text itself often does not? (p. 106).  6. The modern versions drop the important practice of using italics.  Ans. No translation is word for word and must expand the wording to some degree.  Not even the KJV is fully consistent with this (p. 108).  7. The KJV is easier to memorize.  Ans.  This is because you did so much of it in the KJV when young (p. 110).  8.The KJV is a literal translation; the modern versions are loose.  Ans.  This is true of some and not of others.  All translations are good for further clarity (p. 112).  9. The modern versions are based on inferior Greek and Hebrew texts.  Ans.  This is not the subject but in this case the NKJV (and a few others) ought to be acceptable (p. 116).  10. The problem isn’t as bad as you’re making it out to be.  Ans. Ward thinks it is more common than the average reader realizes (p. 119).  Ward’s answers to these are interesting and mostly satisfying.   He does not deal with the deeper questions of Greek manuscripts though he is capable of doing so.  His argument in this book is for the English user.

This book will become popular because it is timely.  It is recommended by a wide range of names:  John Frame, D.A. Carson, Tom Schreiner, Kevin Bauder, Andrew David Naselli, Mark Minnick.

 

 

Gutenberg Bibles

Gutenberg Bibles

by Debra Conley

Did You Know?

By Debra Conley

            

             The American Bible Society originated in 1816. Its first president was Elias Boudinot, a former President of the Continental Congress. Its second president was our first Chief Justice, John Jay. The Society provided pocket Bibles to the soldiers (on both sides) of the Civil War. The Society is still very active and still provides Bibles to all branches of the military.

During WWI, Bibles were given to all soldiers with inscriptions written by General John J. Pershing and President Theodore Roosevelt. WWII Bibles were inscribed by FDR. President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 the year of the Bible, though Bibles were no longer issued to soldiers but were offered to them. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed Congressional Joint Resolution 164 declaring 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading.

In 1643, during England’s Civil War, Oliver Cromwell gave out The Soldier’s Pocket Bible. During a period of moral decline in 2011, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center created a change in policy, written by Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit,” the policy stated. Iowa Republican Steve King demanded that the Obama administration rescind such policy and it did.

The Gideons, founded in 1899, quickly began placing free Bibles in hotels the following year. They currently distribute in over 200 countries. Recently, the Freedom From Religion wrote to 15 hotel chains requesting them to refuse these Bibles. At least two major chains, Marriott and Wyndham Hotel Group, have obliged. Hotels operated by Arizona State University  and Northern Illinois University have reportedly banned Bibles from their facilities.

Johann Gutenberg is most famous for producing the 1286 page Bible named after him. His other fame came from the invention of moveable type.

Between 1450 and 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was completed. Early documentation states that a total of 200 copies were scheduled to be printed on rag cotton linen paper, and 30 copies on vellum animal skin. It is not known exactly how many copies were actually printed.

As of 2009, 49 Gutenberg Bibles are known to exist, but of these only 21 are complete The last Gutenberg Bible, a complete one, brought $2.2 million in 1978 at New York’s Christie’s Auction.
There are eleven copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States.  One, in the possession of the Library of Congress, is complete and printed on vellum, according to the LOC site. Of the thirty-five vellum copies, only three exist as complete copies. The Library’s copy is one of those three. The others are at the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) and the British Library (London).

Some Terms: Vellum is a type of treated calf skin. A Codex Bible is one bound at only one edge. An Illuminated Bible or manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia) and miniature illustrations. Some illustrated Bibles are only colorful pictures which tell the Bible story and were made for individuals who lacked the skill to read the manuscript. From the Latin words manus (hand) and scriptus, from scribere (to write).

 

Do you want to read the Bible through this year? Look for schedules on Aletheia’s web pages that will help you keep that goal.

 

 

The Savior and the Scriptures

The Savior and the Scriptures

by Rick Shrader

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Here is a good read from a generation ago on the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture and the battles that have been fought over the last 100 years.  Lightner wrote this in 1966 and updated it in 1978.  At the time he was professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Seminary as well as an outspoken advocate of conservative thought and was well known for his 1958 book Neoeangelicalism  which was later published by Regular Baptist Press in 1978 as Neoevangelicalism Today.   This volume was actually a printed edition of Ligthtner’ ThD dissertation at Dallas Seminary.  In it he gives in great detail the Lord Jesus’ view on Scripture from the gospels.  He shows how the Lord endorsed inspiration of the whole Scripture, the parts of Scripture, the very words of Scripture, and also the very letters of Scripture (in the autographs).  Then he deals with three current (in his day) departures from the orthodox view of inspiration:  Neo-orthodoxy, Neo-liberalism, and Neo-evangelicalism, with a final chapter on “Dangers for the Fundamentalist.”  In a “further developments” section at the end Lightner adds warnings of contemporary movements such as Richard Quebedeaux’s The Worldy Evangelicals and Young Evangelicals.  He also shows significant departures form an orthodox view of Scripture by Inter-Varsity, Young Life, Billy Graham Association, and other new evangelical organizations including feminists and charismatics.

I realize that these warnings and evaluations come from a generation ago and by now the evangelical world has fully glossed over such things and also that fundamentalism has been made the boogey man for even criticizing them.  But I think Lightner’s quotation by J. Harold DeWolf (a neoliberal thinker) is very prophetic as to how this all would affect our own generation:  “The insistence of some conservative Christians on a Biblical literalism that is rationally indefensible and an appeal based on the ‘proofs’ of prophecy and miracles, in defiance of the Biblical times, needlessly drives from the Christians faith intelligent young people who will not blind themselves to scientific and historical evidences” (p. 135).  How true this has become in today’s young evangelicals.

 

 

Morning Noon and Night Bible Reading

Morning Noon and Night Bible Reading

by Rick Shrader

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Here is my daily Bible Reading schedule in two formats.  I hope this is a help to you to this year as you begin your Bible reading.  These schedules will take you through the Old Testament once, the Gospels 3 times each, and the rest of the New Testament 12 times. Accept the challenge to read the Bible more this year than ever before.

Morning Noon and Night Schedule

Morning, Noon, and Night Schedule

Morning and Evening Chronological Schedule

Morning and Evening Chronological Schedule

These documents are formatted like a tri-fold brochure.  Click on the pictures above to open the printable PDF files.  

 

 

Trial by Fire, The Struggle to Get the B...

Trial by Fire, The Struggle to Get the Bible into English

by Rick Shrader

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The Rawlings Foundation, Wellington, FL, 2011. This book is very readable while giving the reader an in-depth look at the development of the English Bible, particularly focusing on its history from Wycliffe to the translation of the KJV. Some of the intriguing information included is the influence the creation of the English Bible had on the English language itself. In addition to learning fascinating twists of history influencing the formation of the English Bible, one gains a greater insight into the tortuous path our spiritual ancestors endured to bring us the Word of God in a language English-speaking individuals are able to read and comprehend. The translation of the Bible into English has subsequently been a major force in the further translation of the Bible, in whole or in part, into nearly 3,000 languages.

 

 

Taking God At His Word

Taking God At His Word

by Rick Shrader

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I’ve always appreciated Kevin DeYoung’s style of writing and his solid defense of the Word of God. The sub-title to this book is “Why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough, and what that means for you and me.” DeYoung gives the answer to this statement in eight chapters, followed by an appendix: “Thirty of the best books on the Good Book” in which he recommends, at various reading levels, other good books which defend and support the Word of God. DeYoung writes, “Scripture, because it is the breathed-out word of God, possesses the same authority as the God-man Jesus Christ. Submission to the Scriptures is submission to God. Rebellion against the Scriptures is rebellion against God. The Bible can no more fail, falter, or err, than God himself can fail, falter, or err.” In today’s culture, the believer may easily come in contact with those who question Christianity because they question whether the Bible is really God’s Word. DeYoung offers a great help in forming Biblical answers to such questions from the Scripture itself. The book is not long and can be read by layman and minister alike, and either will profit from the time spent.