Book review: You Don’t Understand the Bible Because You Are Christian

by Richard Gist

★★★★★

Definitely a candidate for the Dubious Disciple top ten award this year. I can’t recall when I last enjoyed a book this much. Gist brings the Bible alive as ancient Hebrew storytelling, and though there’s sometimes a bit of speculation involved, the flavor of his interpretation is so fascinating that it must be spot on.

Gist describes himself as a “still growing, though retired, minister, who enjoys what he is continuously learning about the Bible.” He does not pretend to be a biblical scholar, yet he brings a common-sense approach to understanding Jewish literature. One fun example is his discussion of the difference between Hebrew prophecy and Christian prophecy. Hebrew prophets were never future-tellers the way we want to believe they were; they were actually more likely to go around playing music, falling into trances and stripping naked.

So why don’t we understand the Bible the way ancient Hebrews did? Because we’re Christian. Within two or three generations after Jesus, Greek-speaking gentiles took over the church. The early Christians did not understand Jewish literature, they began to distance themselves from Jews, and soon even became enemies. People began to read scripture literally, which buried the subtle messages within. The Jesus movement, instead of promoting the prophets’ dreams, somehow turned into a religion.

Nowhere is this more evident than in comparing two early Christianities, which Gist labels Pauline and Petrine. Pauline Christianity won the race–it’s what we all are familiar with today–but Petrine Christianity is more loyal to its Jewish roots, and thus surely more loyal to Jesus.

So if we’ve been wrong all along, is there hope for us to learn what the Bible really means? Yep, I think so, if we can outgrow this tendency to read scripture like a literal history book, and Gist is the person to help us! His approach is loads of fun, his writing is engaging, his research is fascinating, and most important of all, he simply makes sense.

Buy this one for sure.

FriesenPress, © 2014, 176 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4602-4272-8

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