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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 8, 2004
One of Satan's greatest triumphs is in convincing Christians to abandon the Bible, or at least keeping them from really mining its depths. He tries to convince us that the Bible is outdated, unimportant or less important than many other things. He tries to convince us that it is difficult to understand and that we should rely on others to interpret it for us.

R.C. Sproul wrote Knowing Scripture early in his career to address these concerns and out of a desire to see Christians dedicate themselves to a systematic study of the Bible. Written in 1977, this is one of Sproul's earliest but most important and highly recommended books.

Sproul begins with an introduction to why we should read the Bible. He dispels myths regarding Scripture being too difficult to understand or too boring to hold our attention. From that foundation he shows how the principle of private interpretation was a pillar of the Reformation and thus remains a pillar of Protestantism. He explains what private interpretation is and what it is not. He shows, for example, that it does not preclude us from verifying our interpretations against those of others. He also stresses the need for objectivity as we read the Scripture. In short, he keeps us from viewing private interpretation as being a method of forcing Scripture to say what we want it to say.

He dedicates a chapter to an introduction to hermeneutics. Do not be scared by this technical word as it simply means "a list of rules and guidelines for interpreting Scripture." Some of the concepts he introduces are:

* The analogy of faith. This says that Scripture interprets Scripture, or that one passage supports and explains another. It also means that one part of Scripture never corrects another part, for Scripture needs to correction.

* Literal Interpretation. This says that Scripture needs to be scrutinized as literature, paying attention to grammar, word choice and genre. Just because the Bible is a special book does not mean we can ignore standard literal interpretation.

* Genre Analysis. This says that Scripture must be analyzed for genre and it is crucial that we distinguish between genres such as history and poetry.

* Grammatico-Historical. This is a method of interpreting Scripture that focuses on, among other things, grammatical constructions and historical context. This is the traditional and most accurate method of hermeneutics.

* Authorship and Dating. It is important to understand the dating of a particular book or passage as well as its authorship.

The bulk of the book is contained in a chapter that lays out ten rules for Biblical interpretation. They are:

1. Do not change the rules of interpretation for the Bible. Read the Bible just like any other book

2. Seek to empathize with the Biblical characters

3. Narratives must be interpreted by the didactic

4. The implicit is to be interpreted by the explicit

5. Determine the meaning of words using lexicography, etymology and context

6. Note the presence of parallelisms

7. Note the difference between proverb and law

8. Observe the difference between the spirit and the letter of the law

9. Be careful with parables

10. Be careful with predictive prophecy

Each of these points receives careful attention. Though some of them may sound shocking (such as "read the Bible just like any other book") Sproul provides solid reasons for the necessity of each.

The author then turns his attention to a discussion of culture and the Bible. Just I am confined to a specific cultural setting, so were the authors of the Bible. We need to be able to discern the difference between principle and custom in regards to the Bible. Sproul provides several guidelines for doing this.

The book closes with a discussion of some resources that may help in studying the Bible. These range from commentaries to dictionaries and lexicons. If there is an area of this book that shows its age, it is in this section. There are so many more resources at our disposal now, especially on the Internet, that this section loses some of its usefulness. A discussion of modern translations and some of the newer commentaries would be helpful. Perhaps a second edition of this book is in order. One thing I found amusing is that the author says he does not agree with study Bibles, yet years later was the editor of the New Geneva Study Bible (later renamed the Reformation Study Bible). I presume his view changed!

This book does a wonderful job of introducing hermeneutics for the lay person and I would recommend it for any Christian. It presents advanced concepts in a way that it easy to read and understand. My only complaint is that it advances many rules but does not dedicate any attention to the "how's" of hermeneutics. Some examples where the author led us through some difficult passages would have been most welcome and would have helped ensure we not only understood the rules but also understood how to use them.
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on February 11, 2001
_Knowing Scripture_ by R. C. Sproul is my favorite Bible study aid. I use it as a steady reference. I recommend this text not only to Christians but to anyone studying the Bible as a text. This book is very useful for a broad spectrum of Bible students from the beginning Christian reader to the seasoned theologian to the nonChristian approaching the Bible as a historical, literary work.
While Sproul holds that the Bible is the inspired word of God, this is not a fundamentalist text. Thoughtful analysis and interpretation are taken on with an eye to culture, author intent, literary style, and other factors. This book is a priceless vault of information and tools. Common pitfalls in Bible study are dealt with and explained. It is a short, easy read in a friendly conversational style but has great depths of information to plumb...look at is as a key that opens the door to a new level of intelligent Bible study. I cannot stress how well written and very useful this book is. When you hand someone a new Bible, toss in a copy of _Knowing Scripture_, too. I recommend this book with the greatest intensity.
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VINE VOICEon December 1, 2005
I actually listened to the audio version of this book on CD. RC Sproul is a very easy to listen to speaker and he has a gift of making difficult concepts seem easy.

Contrary to a few reviews here, Sproul is not advocating an elitist approach to Scripture where only the "pro" dare to wrestle with Scriptural interpretation and understanding. Quite the opposite. Sproul is seeking to put the tools into the hands of his listeners.

Over and over he provides general principles and approaches that should help to keep the reader from falling into common errors that have been present and prevalent within the Church for many years.

The one proviso that I picked up on, and it isn't so much a criticism as it is an observation is that Sproul is a reformed theologian and he is not afraid to select some passages for use as an example as to how it is possible to "get something wrong." Some of his choices are bravely chosen from those that are among the more controversial, such as women's role in the church and some on the charismatic gifts. Sproul gives a brave rendering as to why these should be understood as he understands them from the traditional reformed position. In doing so he fails to give all the information available from other positions that makes their positions equally viable. In fairness, that may be beyond the scope of his purpose, but in that event I still think it behooves the speaker to be a little more generous and less dogmatic where there are non-cardinal issues being addressed. Perhaps it is asking too much.

Nevertheless this is an excellent resource to get in good layman's terms the most important Biblical Study tools to navigate the Scripture and avoid many of the pitfalls experienced when common fallacies in logic and approach to a literary and historical document are violated, even by well-meaning Christians who hold the text's inspiration and relevance in highest regard.

A very worthwhile read or listen.
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on October 27, 2000
Sproul combines theological insights with his very familar humor in order to teach us some basics in deeper reading of the Bible. Since the Bible is a book that gets deeper as one grows taller, most spiritually "tall" teachers seem to write yet another deep book to daunt the study of scripture. On the contrary, R.C. is an excellent teacher, encourager, and writer who first dispels the fear of studying the Bible. Then he immediately points to the importance of studying the Bible, and does an overview of how to interpret and apply scripture in most biblical way possible. His colorful examples are helpful. I am also thankful for his list of further readings in the last chapter (after reading this book, I felt like buying them all!). In almost all of his books I've read, R.C. seems to struggle in trying to be less scholar-like for the sake of the general audience. But only being human =), he cannot hold back his brilliance; and at times R.C. pushes us to think! But he is gentle and very reasonable. This book is short, but very nice. Thus, for leasure or study in group; for scholars and laymen...I highly recommend this book. Both will learn a lot--if not in content, then in sheer style!
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on August 2, 2000
"Knowing Scripture" is an absolute must for all Christians. The reader will learn how someone is to approach scripture and read it properly. R.C. Sproul takes academic subjects like Hermeneutics and makes them easy to understand, equiping the reader with the right tools to study the bible.
Many Christians, as well as skeptics, are unfamiliar with the rules of biblical interpretation and therefore, regardless on which side of the fence the reader is on religious issues, all groups can benefit from this book.
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on January 13, 2016
Both comprehensive and concise, an amazingly useful and non-biased guide to the subject of knowing Scripture. I got plenty of new insights even though I've been studying Scripture for more than 15 years, yet the material is presented so well that I also got a copy as a gift for a friend who will be reading the Bible for the first time. This updated second edition (2009) contains tons of relevant information not available in the first edition (1977); it seems more of a total rewrite than merely an updated edition. The editor in me flinches when I see errors (a couple of uses of "insure" when the correct word would be "ensure," as on p. 129, and the use of "addition" instead of "edition" on p. 137), but I'm not to cast the first stone when it comes to homophones problems. And there are times it seems Sprouls could make his point more clearly. But overall this is more knowledge presented more accessibly than one could image could be packed into 152 pages.
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on August 12, 2012
This is a great book for me. I come from a Greek Orthodox background and I married a woman recently who comes from a charismatic evangelical background. She and her friends can quote the Bible chapter and verse very well. We both thought we were Christians but soon after we got married we realized there are great differences between the two of us when it comes to Bible interpretation.
I know the Nicene Creed, liturgy, vespers many chants and so on. But I soon realized I did not know the Bible like she and her evangelical friends did. So what to do.
I got this little book on my Kindle and it is a fairly quick read and it has really helped me in "Knowing Scripture". RC Sproul is an excellent teacher and theologian.
The book begins by outlining reasons why to study the Bible: he explodes 2 myths right off the bat. 1-"the Bible is too difficult for the ordinary person to understand". 2-"the Bible is boring". Then he attacks the problem of motivation. He notes early on that the theme of his book "is not how to read the Bible but how to study the Bible". He points out that the reason we don't study the Bible is because it is "work". Make no mistake about it reading RC Sproul's book is work. You learn such words as exegesis, hermeneutics, existentialism, the medieval quadriga, etc. and he introduces 11 rules which you can use for biblical interpretation. So yes reading this book is not an easy read (but it is like I said a fairly quick read) but you will come away with a sound structure for understanding the Bible as you read it. Using these rules and guidelines you will be miles ahead of people who read the Bible and depend on other people to interpret it for them. In chapter 6 he introduces practical tools for Bible study which I found were very helpful if not a little daunting.
So, for those people who want to know the Bible this is a good place to start because it tells you how to get to know the Bible without being influenced by other people who think they know the Bible but really don't. Begin your Bible study here!
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on July 23, 2003
In my opinion, this is one of Sproul's best works. He has written some excellent books, and he also has a great passion for the body of Christ. This book was used as a textbook in my Hermeneutics class at school, because it is an excellent book for Pastors to use to equip the church with the basic principles of Hermeneutics. I like it when Sproul goes into the different translations, and points out the bad KJV translation of 1 John 5:7 (our earliest manuscripts do not corroborate with this translation). Most people in the modern day church do not think Hermeneutics is necessary. They rely on their existential Barthian interpretations. Sproul attacks this prevalent view with this quote, "We don't need Theology, just give us Jesus." Sproul responds, "Who is Jesus?" They give him their answer, and Sproul says, "Thank you for your Theology." I laughed at this, because that is so reminiscent of the Christians of today. Every Pastor should conduct his congregation into the basic principles of Hermeneutics, and this is the book to use.
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on March 5, 2007
If you're a pastor or seminary student who needs a good but basic book on Scripture and hermeneutics then this book is a great place to start. R. C. Sproul Sr. does a good job telling his readers the nature of Scripture and how to interpret it. The reason why Sproul insists that all Christians must have a good understanding of Scripture is because "No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones" (p. 22). What a statement! That statement should be imprinted in the minds of every born-again Christian. In this age where many professing Christians are seduced into false philosophies and depraved ideologies this statement should jolt them into shaking them out of their theological and exegetical complacency. In this book Sproul does a good job showing how we as Christians can have a proper understanding of Scripture.

The book consists of six chapters. The first chapter pretty much goes over the basics of Scripture and why we should study it. Here, Sproul gives us a good summary of how we are to apply Scripture in our personal Bible studies (those immersed in the prosperity or seeker-friendly movements should definitely read his section on "The Sensuous Christian").

The second chapter deals with personal Bible study and private interpretation. In this chapter Sproul helps us to see what kind of pitfalls to avoid when doing personal quiet time. Too often Christians read a particular passage in the Bible in the way THEY want to understand it. Sproul reminds us that such a narrow privatistic interpretation of biblical passages can lead to doctrinal subjectivism (this is a serious problem these days for many Christians).

The third chapter is a short lesson on the meaning of hermeneutics. Though it is not deep and comprehensive for those doing indepth biblical studies, it is still scholarly enough for laypeople to get their feet wet on the issue of biblical hermeneutics. Here, Sproul goes over the basic issues of hermeneutics like the analogy of faith, literal interpretation, the Medieval quadriga, the grammatico-historical method, source criticism, etc. Though the issues discussed in this chapter are topics that primarily biblical scholars are deeply involved with, Sproul writes in a matter so that the layperson can even understand what those issues mean.

The fourth chapter is basically the "meat" of the book. Sproul goes over every issue you can think of in regards to the practical rules of biblical interpretation. This chapter is a must read for seminary students or bible study leaders who want to get a good grasp of how one should read and apply the biblical text. Though it is not extensive and deep, readers will still find this chapter very helpful for their personal use (if one wants a more scholarly book on exegesis he or she should check out the works by Gordon Fee [NT] and Douglas Stuart [OT]).

The fifth chapter deals with the relationship between culture and the bible. Here, Sproul basically tells the reader the two pitfalls common to modern-day Christians: 1) reading the Bible totally outside of its original historical and cultural context, and 2) reading the Bible without any regard for how it can apply to the modern-day Christian. Both extremes are to be avoided if we are to properly interpret and apply Scripture.

The sixth chapter is basically a resource list of what tools (translations, concordances, commentaries, etc.) can aid in proper biblical interpretation. This is the only chapter I had a problem with. The main reason being is that this book was originally published in 1977 and, therefore, many resource suggestions by Sproul will be outdated. I also found it to be too shallow and unhelpful. (Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart do a much better job on exegetical resources in their respective works.)

Overall, I would highly recommend this book for pastors, seminary students, and even laypeople who want to get a good understanding of Scripture and hermeneutics. It is also easy to read and accessible. It will surely help you in your personal bible study and public ministry.
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on November 1, 2015
R C Sproul is hard to top on any biblical topic. This little book has a wealth of careful thought
on the interpretation of Scripture and confronts contemporary and historical departures from
orthodoxy.
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