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The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts Paperback – September 20, 2012
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I think Davis succeeds admirably in his goal. I found myself stirred up reading the book. He writes well and shows how, even though there are difficult and confusing parts of Scripture, it is not that difficult to find key truths. This is a very encouraging and helpful book. (Ray Van Neste ~ Director, R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee)
"Davis maintains that avoidance of difficult texts gets us and nowhere and impoverishes the church'. His excellent chapter on appropriation/application includes the damming sentence: I hold a reader who does not appropriate and/or a teacher who will not apply Scripture is practising abortion on the Bible' You may or may not want to imitate Davis Style but if you read this book you will want to lift his structures and insights straight off the page. And that is no bad thing for the church." (Ann Benton ~ Author and family conference speaker, Guildford, England)
"There is no more gifted expositor of the Old Testament in our day than Ralph Davis. His book not only brings scholarly research to bear on the subject, but also reflects his many years of preaching week after week through the Old Testament. What a gift to the church to have such a fine book." (Richard Pratt ~ President, Third Millennium Ministries, Orlando, Florida)
This is vintage Dale Ralph Davis - accessible and practical scholarship in a readable and stimulating Style. The Subtitle of the book is 'How to preach from Old Testament narrative and that's exactly what Davis describes. With many examples, and that's exactly what Davis describes. With many examples, and interesting illustrations, he teaches us how to grapple honestly with what sometimes can be intimidating, difficult and uncomfortable portions of Scripture. (Evangelical Times)
"Dale Ralph Davis has written a wonderfully straightforward, readable book entitled, The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts (Christian Focus; pb., 154 pp.). Davis, like Goldsworthy, laments how complicated we have sometimes made biblical interpretation and instead outlines a basic approach to careful, sensible reading which opens up the theology of Old Testament narratives. This is one of those books that makes you want to preach after reading it!" (Preaching.com Bible and Bible Survey Review 2007)
"With many examples, and that's exactly what Davis describes. With many examples, and interesting illustrations, he teaches us how to grapple honestly with what sometimes can be intimidating, difficult and uncomfortable portions of Scripture...This book is not only suitable for preachers and teachers, but can be read with great profit by all Christians who want to get more of a handle on Old Testament narrative." (Evangelical Times)
About the Author
Dale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to that he was pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi.
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Davis believes that there is a prejudice, occasionally spoken but primarily inferred, against preaching from the Old Testament. The biases include the way God can be so easily be perceived as a God of vengeance, the admitted difficulty of wrestling with stories that seem to have little relevance to our day, and the fact that the Bible's hero, Jesus, is at best a hidden actor in the Old Testament. And after acknowledging the validity of these objections, Davis calls preachers to jump feet-first into the waters of the Old Testament, for there are indeed riches to be found there if we would but take the time and make the effort to learn how to handle the narratives well.
Davis deals with the basics of Old Testament narrative interpretation in nine easy-to read chapters. He is not esoteric in any way but is always firmly anchored in the text and practical in method. Rather than stretching for an interpretation, one which may or may not be accurate and relevant, he teaches how to dig a bit more deeply and how to ask penetrating questions of the text, to find the riches God has provided for his people. His book is filled with generous examples and his prose is wonderful to read, using a style that is informal and yet highly informative. I highly commend this book for all preachers of God's word.
Whether he's talking about finding the structure or struggling with a passage that has difficulties, since he actually deals with different texts as example, this helps you understand the concept far more clearly.
So I recommend this book to anyone interested in Old Testament narratives.
If six commentaries strike you as too much for one book review, then the solution is to check out the book Davis produced in 2006 called The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts. While this book does focus on preaching the OT, it also gives a clear outline of Davis' approach to studying the OT, and I believe you'd be hard pressed to find a better overview of OT Bible study anywhere.
This book, like Davis' commentaries, is very readable and not at all heavy-going. Nor, on the other hand, is it lightweight; while Davis doesn't have the room here to work in detail, as he does in the commentaries, he still discusses background and structure.
Davis is no slouch: he not only preaches what he writes, but he's also a full-blown Bible scholar. His footnotes often contain the views of other commentators he disagrees with. While he's never unpleasant towards these other writers, it's plain he's done his homework, and his reasons for saying what he does are valid.
He's also a great storyteller. Both in this book and in his commentaries he backs up his arguments with stories from the American Civil War, or the Second World War (remember there are a lot of battles in the narratives!), or from his own experience. His own stories, like the rest of his writing, are full of wit and good humour.
He treats the text with great respect. If something is there, he sees it as being there for a good reason. If it's obscure he'll do his best to elucidate it, but he won't speculate just so he can give an answer. Sometimes he admits that the answers aren't easy for modern readers.
Perhaps his greatest gift is to remember that the Bible is literature. Time and again he clarifies the layout of a section or chapter by looking to see how the writer has planned the story. This is one of Davis' great skills: to be able to see the structure in the midst of what might appear to be randomness.
This is a book for preachers, teachers and lay people. I can't recommend it highly enough!