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132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning: This Book Will Revolutionize the Way You Read the Bible!
N.T. Wright has made a habit out of taking the Bible and giving it a fresh reading for contemporary audiences. This is most obviously the case with his various works on St. Paul and his doctrine of justification but is also true for his excellent popular commentaries on the books of the New Testament. And now there is "Scripture and Authority: How to Read the Bible...
Published on March 1, 2011 by Fr. Charles Erlandson

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, but sometimes difficult to follow
The author has a deep understanding of the current evangelical culture and its shortcomings with respect to interpreting Scripture. I found his summaries of the different eras of the Church very insightful, though I would have appreciated even more detail, as well as citations and footnotes. The writing style was difficult to follow, but slogging through it slowly was...
Published 20 months ago by r


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132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning: This Book Will Revolutionize the Way You Read the Bible!, March 1, 2011
By 
Fr. Charles Erlandson (Tyler, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
N.T. Wright has made a habit out of taking the Bible and giving it a fresh reading for contemporary audiences. This is most obviously the case with his various works on St. Paul and his doctrine of justification but is also true for his excellent popular commentaries on the books of the New Testament. And now there is "Scripture and Authority: How to Read the Bible Today."

Put simply, this book will revolutionize the way you read the Bible! Most of us actually misread the Bible in a number of ways, to the impoverishment of our souls and of God's Kingdom. "Scripture and Authority" is a wonderful antidote to poor readings of Scripture and moves well beyond the typical, tired debates over the authority of Scripture. Read meditatively, it will assist the Bible in changing your life and the way you see God and His divine purposes.

Wright's thesis, though hard to summarize, is best captured in this most important sentence in the entire work: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked, offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." The rest of the book may be seen as an explanation of this definition which, unfortunately, doesn't show up until Chapter 8.

If you care about reading the Bible more carefully and faithfully, then I highly encourage you to read this book and digest it!

In the Prologue, Wright situates the Bible within 5 contexts, demonstrating the difficulty of any naked appeal to the Bible without any context. While often such an approach is a disguise for denigrating the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, it's good to know that Wright is solidly orthodox and makes use of such contexts because he believes them necessary in order to read the Bible well today. These contexts are: Scripture and Culture, Scripture and Politics, Scripture and Philosophy, Scripture and Theology, and Scripture and Ethics. In the Prologue Wright also draw attention to 3 key underlying questions in discussions of Scripture today:
1. In what sense is the Bible authoritative in the first place?
2. How can the Bible be appropriately understood and interpreted?
3. How can its authority, assuming such appropriate interpretation, be brought to bear on the church itself, let alone on the world?

Throughout the book, Wright is asking us to put aside simplistic understandings of Scripture, either on the liberal or fundamentalist side of things, and to address these 3 crucial questions with faith, intelligence, and integrity.

One of the most important things that Wright says (it would be worth the price of the book if everyone reading it understood this one thing) is that "Authority of Scripture" is a shorthand for "God's Authority Exercised through Scripture." Scripture's authority is a derivative or delegated authority, for all authority truly belongs to God. This mediated authority is different than we often assume. How, for example, can "story," which comprises large parts of the Bible, be authoritative? Ultimately, Wright sees Scripture as God's unfinished story in which we are to act out the final scene, which requires an active participation and not a passive reception of the Word of God, which is all too common among Christians. Wright goes further and says that the Bible is more than just revelation or repository of truths and more than just a devotional aid.

In Chapter 2, Wright relates the Scriptures to God's Kingdom-People, the Church. This is a much needed concept since modern Christians so often read the Scriptures apart from the Church and out of the context of God's people in which the Scriptures were written, interpreted, and lived out. The Scriptures are nothing less, therefore, than the place where and the means by which the people of God discover again and again who God is and how His Kingdom-purposes are being taken forward. Israel and the Church are, therefore, fundamentally a "Scripture-hearing people."

So how does Jesus relate to Scripture? He accomplishes that to which Scripture pointed. Likewise, the Apostolic preaching of the Word in the New Testament is told as "The Jesus-Story Fulfilling the Old Testament Scripture Story." The Word of God in the New Testament becomes the vehicle by which the Holy Spirit exerts His authority over God' people.

Over the centuries, however, God's people began to believe in a distorted view of the Scriptures, which was originally to be seen as "God at work powerfully through Scripture to bring about the Kingdom, by calling and shaping a new covenant people and equipping its leaders to be teachers and preachers." This devolved into the understanding of Scripture as a divine rule book to be referred to or as a resource for private devotions, both useful but very inadequate and distorted views of Scripture.

In Chapter 6, Wright addresses a series of misreadings of the Bible, beginning with the allegorical method of Origen and the medieval Church. But even the Reformers lost sight of the grand narrative of the Scriptures at times and the revelation of God's Kingdom and purposes. He is most forceful when he deals with Enlightenment rationalistic readings of the Scripture. He's right to point out that Enlightenment thinkers had an alternative eschatology, a new view of evil, and of man - views which undermined the authority of Scripture. Wright continues by showing the impotence of the deconstructionist readings of postmodernism.

In Chapter 7, Wright spends an entire chapter continuing the theme of "misreadings" of the Scriptures. In Chapter 8, Wright offers what may be the most important sentence in the entire book: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." That's a mouthful, but in this careful definition Wright preserves an equal emphasis on the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the cosmos. It's a definition meditating on, which is exactly what Wright's book does. Most understandings of the Scripture do not get this balance right and have a much more impoverished view of the authority of Scripture, and for this reason alone "Scripture and Authority" is worth reading. For Wright, the Scriptures ultimately only have authority as they are lived out by God's people in God's Kingdom.

In the end, Wright calls us to a fully contextual reading of the Scripture, including the proper use of tradition and reason. He likens our reading of Scripture as the fifth and final act in a play. Act I is Genesis 1-2; Act II is Genesis 3-11; Act III is the remainder of the Old Testament; Act IV is the decisive and climactic act, which is the story of Jesus; and Act V is the Creator's redemptive drama being lived out in us through the Scriptures and the Church by the Spirit in the midst of a cosmos God is redeeming.

Wright's strategies for honoring the authority of the Scriptures are also wonderful and worth the price of the book. They are:
1. A total contextual reading of the Scripture
2. A liturgically grounded reading of Scripture
3. A privately studied reading of Scripture
5. A reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship
6. A reading of Scripture taught by the Church's accredited leaders

If only Christians would heed all that Wright says, we would honor the authority of Scripture more and act as more faithful ministers in God's Kingdom and players in His cosmic drama!

Wright concludes by applying his understanding of the authority of Scripture to 2 test cases: the Sabbath and monogamy.

Wright tackles his material in 9 chapters and a Prologue:

Prologue

1. By Whose Authority?

2. Israel and God's Kingdom-People

3. Scripture and Jesus

4. The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church

5. The First Sixteen Centuries

6. The Challenge of The Englightenment

7. Misreadings of Scripture

8. Case Study: The Sabbath

9. Case Study: Monogamy
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Revision of The Last Word, March 30, 2011
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This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
N.T. Wright has expanded and revised a previous book on the authority of Scripture and sent it out to be part of his latest series. Scripture and the Authority of God is Wright's argument for why Christians read the Bible.

Wright offers fresh, and helpful statements on the "battles for the Bible" as well as how the Bible has been treated throughout history.

Inside you'll find 8 chapters and 2 new case studies:

By Whose Authority discusses what authority means and how to apply it to Scripture.
Israel and God's Kingdom-People sets the stage for how Scripture was brought about in the Old Testament.
Scripture and Jesus is about exactly what it sounds like.

Then he delves into the historical aspects:

The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church
The First Sixteen Centuries
The Challenge of the Enlightenment

Finally Wright tackles the Misreadings of Scripture and How to Get Back on Track.

He finishes the book with 2 case studies; one on The Sabbath and what Scripture says about how/if we should keep it and one on Monogamy and if it was truly the way God intended.

As with every N.T. Wright book, you will need to give this work your undivided attention. If you have anything going on in the background, you will lose focus and miss the depth of this scholar's teachings.

Even though this is a re-release of a previous title, I enjoy reading whatever Wright authors.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by HarperOne Publishing.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scripture & the Authority of God, May 26, 2011
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This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
Have you ever read a book and wanted to highlight almost everything in it? This was my reaction when reading N.T. Wright's newly revised and expanded book, Scripture and the Authority of God (previously titled The Last Word - 2005).

Wright's thesis is stated clearly in the preface - "The phrase 'the authority of scripture' can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for 'the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture'." By setting the scripture in the larger context that the biblical writers themselves insist upon, we will begin to more fully appreciate the role that scripture ought to have in our lives. A role that includes, and yet transcends, the conveying of information about to one that takes an active part within the ongoing purposes of God. As Wright contends, "Scripture is there to be a means of God's action in and through us." This action enables us to see who God is and who we are in relation to the establishment of God's kingdom. Through scripture, God equips his people to serve to serve his purposes, particularly as he reveals Jesus Christ within its pages.

Wright then provides us with a better way to read scripture - what he refers to as the five-act hermeneutic. This method of reading scripture takes seriously the typical concerns related to genre, setting, literary style, etc, and the very important differences these things make in properly reading the narrative. He then takes it a step further by offering a multi-layered method; one that involves knowing where we are in the overall drama of scripture and what is appropriate within each act. The acts are: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus and the church. They constitute different stages in the divine drama which scripture itself offers.

The primary purpose set out in reading scripture this way is to understand it better and to pay tribute to the differing stages of the overall narrative, while finding our place within it. As a result, we must act in an appropriate manner for this moment in the story, and not another. While we will be in direct continuity with former acts, we will also be living with a sense of discontinuity, in that our ultimate fidelity will belong to the stage in which we live. For example, when we read Genesis 3-11, we read it as a second act in a play in which live in the fifth., with Jesus as its climax and turning point (act four). Wright argues for a developmental approach to reading scripture that honors the Old Testament as it stands in the Christian canon, but one that at the same time moves beyond it to fully embrace our act.

Such a method helps us to better appreciate, understand and practice scripture in ways that are appropriate to where we are within the divine drama. It has the ability to move us toward a more-informed and contextual reading that will likewise enable us to live in a contextual way that is congruent with our stage in the story, rather than trying to act-out stage one or two.

Wright concludes his new edition with two case studies that show us the value of reading scripture this way: Sabbath and monogamy. These two essays are very helpful in fleshing out his proposed method, while at the same time offer us helpful insights into these two contemporary issues.

I highly recommend this book to every christian who desires to read the bible in a more informed and contextual way. I think the five-act model proposed will be immensely beneficial in helping us move through the countless debates in church and culture that often center on inaccurate readings of scripture. By paying careful attention to the whole narrative of the bible, we will place ourselves in a better position to weigh the issues in a more appropriate and biblically faithful way, while at the same time become more effective at living out our part in God's cosmic drama
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars balanced, understandable, insightful, helpful, March 14, 2011
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This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
This book is a new edition of an earlier book called "The Last Word." But it includes 2 new excursuses: one on sabbath, the other on monogamy. Even if you own the first edition of this title, the two additional essays are excellent and worth the price of buying this new edition of the book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I do not know any book that takes the reading, study and importance of scripture more seriously than this book., May 18, 2011
This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
Originally posted at [...] blog

I am a fan of NT Wright. Primarily because I so strongly appreciate his pastoral heart for the church and his desire to serve the church. He can be a controversial figure, in part because of that pastoral heart. He created another dust up last week because of an editorial about the US and Osama bin Laden. And I have heard more than a few people complain that Wright needs to focus on scripture, where he has few peers and leave all other areas of social involvement alone. However, the entire point of much of Wright's writing and speaking is to help people put into practice the living of their lives as Christians. You may disagree with him over politics or theology, but it is clear that his positions are based on his understanding of scripture and he thinks and acts deeply based not on political maneuvers, but on his understanding of scripture.

Scripture and The Authority of God is a reworking of a 2005 book, The Last Word and I think is the most accessible and best book of Wright's that I have read.

The basic thesis of this book is that the authority of scripture is completely dependent on the authority of God. So there is no separate authority of scripture apart from God. This seems fairly uncontroversial, but it is important. The book opens with a fairly long discussion about how we currently understand scripture. This necessarily involves a discussion of the enlightenment, modernism, post-modernism and a variety of other subjects. It is not a wasted discussion and while it may be a little repetitive for people that are fairly conversent with Wright and with his line of thinking, it really cannot be skipped.

The next section is a long discussion of what it means for scripture to have authority and then how we should and should not read scripture. This center section is really the meat of the book. This is the section where I was most impressed and most convicted that the Evangelical world in general, and I in specific, do not spend enough time or effort in scripture itself. Evangelicals like to talk about scripture and we often read it, but we do not often really study and allow scripture to change us. Wright believes that while personal reading of scripture is very important, scripture needs to be the center of our corporate worship. I know my church, and many Evangelical churches, no longer have focused scripture reading. The sermons attempt to be scripture explication, but extended readings of scripture (more than 90 seconds) are just not a part of the average worship service.

The last section is entirely new to this edition of the book. Wright takes Sabbath and the idea of monogamy within marriage as models to help the reader learn how to appropriately read scripture and submit to its authority. He is not asking you to come to complete agreement with his results, but rather to give you a model. This is fairly similar to the final section of Scot McKnight`s book the Blue Parakeet, but I think this was done better.

Overall, this is a book that I think that many should read. It moves far beyond the discussion of `literal reading' of scripture or how we should talk about inspiration. And it does it in a way that is patient and graceful to all sides.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction to Tom Wright's Thought, August 10, 2005
By 
William Varner "dribex" (Newhall, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! I simply cannot say enough about this little gem from the pen of one of the leading evangelical scholars in the world. I understand that this book will come out in the states this Fall under a different title. I couldn't wait and ordered it from the UK. Am I glad I did! It displays the reasons why I am completely taken by the writings of this great man of God. The book, which is about the authority of Scripture, is really a suitable introduction to the entire approach of Tom Wright to the Bible. In marvellously compact language this master teacher guides the reader through a tour of Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Wright indicates his mastery of the literature to those who read him closely. Yet he carries lightly his learning for the average reader. The little volume is really a tightly written introduction to Scriptural hermeneutics, inspiration, authority, the relation of the OT to the NT, and the relation of the Bible to culture. Wright has his critics, and there will inevitably be the gainsayers who quibble about this or that point - some of which I might even agree with! But as an overall introduction to the Bible, this could become a classic.

The rabbis use to say, "turn it over and turn it over, for evrything is in it." While that may be an exagerration if applied to this little book, it may not be far from an accurate description of its impact on the reader. Buy it. Buy multiple copies and give them away. I will.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, but sometimes difficult to follow, May 27, 2013
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The author has a deep understanding of the current evangelical culture and its shortcomings with respect to interpreting Scripture. I found his summaries of the different eras of the Church very insightful, though I would have appreciated even more detail, as well as citations and footnotes. The writing style was difficult to follow, but slogging through it slowly was nonetheless a worthwhile use of time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wright's love letter on Scripture, August 30, 2011
This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
In what is Tom Wright's epistolary love letter to the Scriptures, the scholar and Bishop entreats us to handle Scripture more authoritatively, and challenges us in his usual commanding way to remove Scripture from our subjective, modern (i.e., Western) uses and put it back to the position in which it belongs. The thesis of the book deals with the authority of Scripture, a phrase bandied about in a loose fashion today, from the left and the right. His goal is to set Scripture and the perceived authority into the right place, that of the authority of God. Wright masterfully walks the middle road, and rather than being overly polemic casually takes each side to task, revealing where the too-literalists have left the Reformation-era understanding of being 'literal' and the too-liberal have left Scripture to be taken as a buffet. It is a new edition of a previous work, The Last Word, with two case studies added on to further explain, in methodological detail how to use Scripture today to handle dogmatic issues.

In eight chapters, 196 pages, Wright is able to succinctly develop a sufficient method of treating Scripture properly, which allows in Tradition but focuses on what Scripture actually says. The idea of authority is an interesting one, as it has developed on the political-laced philosophy of the West. To take, then, modern concepts of authority and power, and apply it to Scripture and what role it should play creates a divide between us and Scripture. This is Wright's focus, then, to help repair that breach by carefully examining the history of the position of Scripture. He does so first by repairing causing distrust in the rampant modern notion of distrusting authority. One can almost hear him bellowing from the pulpit as he upholds the ancient canon, urging to stop seeing Church History, and the canon(s) of the Church, through the eyes of the cynic. Following that, he takes us through 1600 years of the use of Scripture, from the pre-Apostolic age to the Reformation. In this, he briefly examines (Wright's brevity holds more information than other's volumes) the role of Scripture in ancient Israel and more especially, by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament. This is of the utmost important to what Wright is trying to do over all, and of course, as one might expect, it revolves around Wright's theology and biblical studies (i.e., narratives and themes). But as he moves into the use of Scripture in the Apostolic Church and then into the long stretch, until the Enlightenment, one gets the sense that Wright is still and will always be a preacher of the Word of God. His care and his love here for that ancient artifact erupts off the page, and with his story-telling style, one can almost see the Apostles themselves, without the New Testament in hand, preaching authoritatively. And then, finally, in Church History, he moves the restoration of the literal sense by the Reformers, something which many of their children have forgotten or corrupted. In this section, chapter 5, Wright begins to explore what Calvin and others did by seeking to understand Scripture first, by exegeting before theologizing, to the ancient sense, and only then allowing Tradition to assert itself, tamely. There is much more to be explored here, especially given the recent concentration on 'plain reading' and Genesis 1, which he barely touches on in one of his case studies.

The final three chapters are going to meet with severe resistance, but they are needed. When he gets to the Enlightenment, is doesn't spare the rod, but pulls us back from the abyss of what that particular age may lead to. He notes, rightly, that we are all touched by the Enlightenment, and operate daily under those principles. He goes on, then, to note the actually more Enlightenment-minded Fundamentalists, which I am sure will be to their detriment, but the fact is, is that those who regularly hold to a woodenly literal, or plain reading, etc... sense of Scripture operate more fully under Enlightenment principles then they perceive. This section serves as a way to remind us that there has been a mental break with Christian Tradition and that we can continue to abuse Scripture, or use it. He ends the original work with a chapter directing us back to the ancient precepts. This section on getting back on track will be helpful for this present generation and offers a way to stave off the eventual harsh course correction Christianity as seen several times, when it has drifted one way or another. Wright also shows, in chapter seven, how both sides of the spectrum has abused Scripture, giving a very detailed list, as if the Bishop has been watching us, perhaps checking it twice.

Added to the previous work are two case studies, one on the Sabbath and another on Monogamy. He has specifically chosen these because they aren't controversial, although he notes that there are fringe elements debating the two topics. The latter is the most informative, but I have to wonder if he has not chosen it in some way to demonstrate a more superior answer, and perhaps get and edge in their rivalry. Regardless, Wright shows how to act out what he has written about in the previous nine chapters, and that is how to use the grand narrative of Scripture to take an issue which is 'in the bible' and come to a Scriptural answer. It is not about proof-texting (something he is against), but about finding out where, using Scripture, Reason, and Tradition to reach into the biblical text, the answer belongs in the continuing narrative of Scripture. Both conclusions are settling and satisfying.

Wright's work is brief, and in a few areas, I wish that there had been more to it, but this was not a catechism on using Scripture, but an entry-level call to stop abusing our narrative. It is a needed study, and would serve well for small groups and for those interested in getting a more biblical grasp on the authority of Scripture.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just classic Tom Wright, March 27, 2011
By 
M. Pope (Hattiesburg, MS USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (Hardcover)
This book is, according to the title page, "a revised and expanded version of Wright's "The Last Word", published in 2005. In this version, Wright adds two chapters that are "case studies" illustrating, according to Wright, "what happens when we factor in Jesus's own redefinition of what 'authority' itself might mean". Those two case studies -- chapters 9 and 10 -- are alone worth the price of the book. I also particularly found chapters 7 and 8 -- entitled "Misreadings of Scripture" and "How to Get Back on Track", respectively -- very helpful. Wright is one of the most lucid and careful biblical scholars I have ever read, and this book does not disappoint. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helped Me Get Past Fundamentalist Readings of the Bible, October 30, 2013
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This book was eye opening for me. I've heard fundamentalist explanations of the authority of the Bible and found them wanting. Wrights explanation is extremely refreshing and helpful. I especially appreciated his answer to the many approaches to reading the Bible, many of which are often misguided and untenable. In the end he offers a way of reading scripture which is fresh, but by no means new, that is most faithful to the text and God's story.

He offers a couple case study's at the end of the book which are helpful in understanding how one can faithfully read the Bible. They weren't particularly exciting, although I think that was one of the reasons he chose them. He wanted to study something that wasn't considered controversial at this time to prove the method rather than a specific "side".
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Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today
Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today by N. T. Wright (Hardcover - March 1, 2011)
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