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How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture Paperback – January 28, 2012
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“To understand God we look to his Word, and to understand his Word we are dependent on the Old and New Testaments. What we discover is that amid the many stories is an underlying Story, which leads us to Jesus, Immanuel. Michael Williams ably goes book by book, offering suggestive and stimulating ways for us to see Christ as the climax of the Story; from this vantage point he then offers contemporary implications that should inform our lives. Let Williams begin to shape the way you read the whole Bible, seeing it all in light of Jesus the Messiah.” -- Kelly Kapic, Professor of Theological Studies, Covenant College
About the Author
Michael Williams (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. He is the author of Deception in Genesis and The Prophet and His Message, and editor and contributor of Mishneh Todah. His passion is to equip students with knowledge of the Old Testament and its languages so that they may grow in their comprehension and appreciation of redemptive history and be adequately prepared to promote and defend the faith through word and action. Michael resides in Grand Rapids, MI, with his wife, Dawn.
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I am really excited about this book. Michael Williams has written an easy to read guide that is focused on how to read the Scriptures with a focus on Jesus. In 62 short chapters (about 4-6 pages per chapter) Williams covers the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In each chapter there is an introduction to all the Scriptures showing the historical redemptive development that leads us to Jesus. He then gives a short theme for each book. Each chapter has a Scripture memory passage, followed by "the Jesus lens" section, and then contemporary implications from the book discussed, and "hook questions."
The back of the book has a helpful series of charts containing five sections of each book of the Bible with a title for each book, the theme, the Christ-focus of the book, the implications, and the key questions that "hook" you. I am going to make it one of my goals to memorize the charts, along with the memory verses for each book of the Bible by putting them on flash cards. I will be consulting this book regularly and can already say with almost absolute certainty that this will be in my top ten for 2012 (of the 150 books I will read and review this year).
Thank you Michael Williams for your gift to everyone who has been waiting for a book like this: a book that answers what the key theme of each book of the Bible is; a book that shows how all of the Scriptures point to Jesus; and a book that gives us the practical implications of Jesus at the center of the Bible and our very lives. I hope that this book will launch a plethora of books in this genre that help lovers of Christ see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and passionately worship and declare Him so much more from the Scriptures than is currently practiced.
I found the structure of the book to be needlessly restrictive. Each book of the bible is given one chapter, and with very few exceptions, each chapter is four pages long. (which means for a book attempting such a grand goal, its actually quite small) Each chapter gives two pages to an introduction/summary of the book, half a page to "the Jesus lens", half a page to "contemporary implications", and half a page to "hook questions." So the reality is that for each book, there are only two short paragraphs explaining how to read it through "the Jesus lens." It seems a bit arbitrary to impose such a strict template on the book. Why should a chapter explaining Isaiah be the same length as one explaining Ruth?
Secondly, and more seriously, the author never explains what exactly it means to read a book of the Bible "through the Jesus lens." Does it mean finding "types and shadows" in each book? Finding ways that each book "predicts" Christ? Or just finding a theme in each book that relates to Jesus? I believe wholeheartedly in the task of reading the OT (and the NT, for that matter) in a Christ-centered, Christ-exalting way. But I think separating each book into its own chapter without any bigger picture overview can actually distort the overall story of the bible rather than help us see it. I believe we read the OT "through the Jesus lens" by situating each book within the grand overarching narrative, but for Williams, many of the "Jesus lens" connections seemed tangential to the movement of the story.
Giving only two paragraphs to "the Jesus lens" for each chapter seems like an unfortunate choice. How can one explain how to read Exodus or Isaiah in a Christ-centered way in two paragraphs? Why does the Jesus lens for Genesis not include any mention of Genesis 3:15? Why does the chapter on Exodus not mention the passover lamb? Or Moses as lawgiver/mediator? Why does the chapter on Daniel not mention the son of man, or the stone cut without hands? In too many places, the Jesus lens seems only to pick up one theme from a book, relate that theme to Jesus, then move to application. This over-simplification doesn't really help the reader appreciate how the OT is part of Jesus' story, and teaches us about him.