A Primer on Biblical Literacy

Cory Marsh is a professor of New Testament at Southern California Seminary. He is concerned about biblical literacy, what it is, why Christians should be biblically literate, and how they can become biblically literate (pp. vii-viii). Starting with the premise that the Bible can and should be understood (p. xv), Marsh makes a case for rampant biblical illiteracy among Christians (p. 24) and some radical consequences (pp. 5-12).

I appreciated that the author did not insist on knowing the original languages as a prerequisite for biblical interpretation. With the many Greek and Hebrew tools available today, knowing the original languages, while certainly useful and preferred, is not necessary in order to have a good knowledge of the Scriptures (pp. 38-40). What is essential is a good hermeneutical approach. Defined as the disciplinary study of the methods and history of interpretation of literature (p. 49), when applied to Scripture the goal of hermeneutics is to determine authorial intent (p. 53) through a literal, grammatical-historical reading (p. 69). Marsh outlines the familiar hermeneutical triad of observation, interpretation, and application (pp. 64-65). Several examples, primarily from the often abused Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13 passages, are given to illustrate good hermeneutical principles (pp. 73-81).

The book concludes with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (pp. 95-104), accompanied by an excellent explanation of many of the terms used in the statement, especially inerrancy and infallibility (pp. 101, 108-109). In addition, Marsh recommends several valuable resources, including websites, apps, books on bibliology, hermeneutics, and reference works.

The author indicates in the preface that Biblical Literacy was intentionally meant to be “accessible for novice and ‘rusty’ Bible students of all levels,” but at the same time reflecting academic influences (p. vii). The reader will appreciate the clarity of the book, yet will recognize that scholarship was not compromised. Keeping in mind this volume is a primer and not an exhaustive study, I highly recommend its use.

by Cory M. Marsh (El Cajon, CA: Southern California Seminary Press, 2022) 130 pp & xx, paper $12.99

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher at Southern View Chapel

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