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The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible [Paperback]

By Ben Witherington III (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   291
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.3" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 2008
Publisher   Baylor University Press
ISBN  1602580170  
EAN  9781602580176  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In this final installment of his trilogy on the central ordinances of the Christian faith (baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the proclamation of God's Word), Ben Witherington asks: What does it mean to call the Bible "God's word"? In doing so, he takes on other recent studies which downplay the connection between history and theology, or between historical accuracy and truth claims. The Bible is not merely to be viewed as a Word about God, Witherington argues. Instead, he says, the Bible exhorts us to see the Bible as a living Word from God.

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More About Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington, III Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

Witherington has also taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell. A popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in England, Estonia, Russia, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia. He has also led tours to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications.

Along with many interviews on radio networks across the country, Witherington has been seen on the History Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and the PAX Network.

Ben Witherington currently resides in the state of Kentucky. Ben Witherington was born in 1951 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Asbury Theological Seminary.

Ben Witherington has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Companions to the New Testament
  2. Lightfoot Legacy Set
  3. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Rethinking "Scripture" from within  Sep 6, 2008
If you are looking for a book on how to understand the canon and the controversy between denominations over what books to include, this is not the book.

Ben Witherington III mainly addresses the meaning of "inspiration" and what the reasonable approaches to interpretation are. He also gives a few examples of the reliability of the text in places that have traditionally received attacks by Christians and non-Christians unconvinced of the text's historical (and otherwise) accuracy.

The one gap in this text that I found is that Witherington barely touches upon the Bible's source of authority (to some Protestants this may seem an oxymoronic statement). He assumes the definition of canon without even referring one to books on the formation of the canon or arguments for or against the authority of the church in the formation of scriptures. To anyone well-versed in canon history (Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox), it will seem that Ben doesn't even state his point of view on the canon sufficiently.

Nevertheless, Ben is not writing primarily for scholars nor for in depth research. He is merely giving one a taste, a starting point for where to go next in one's thinking about the nature of the Bible. He points out the flaws in some church traditions that try to read the Bible without reference to the historical churches' typical understanding and interpretation. But Witherington doesn't leave it at that. He continues to show why many theological models, such as dispensationalism (he is known to be rather hard on dispensationalism), are deficient, not just for abandoning traditional interpretation, but for not appropriating an historical, critical and contextual hermeneutic in their reading of the Bible. All in all, I highly recommend Ben Witherington III for his acute reasoning, clarity of thought, and plain humor.

To supplement "The Living Word of God" I would recommend two books for those who are interested in understanding why and on what authority we have the books of the Bible that we do: A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future) is not a history of the canon, but a supplement that explores the ancient church's use of the word "scripture" and "canon" and shows clearly how the Bible without the church should make little sense to a Christian. The second book, By What Authority?: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition similarly attempts to expose the void of reasoning involved in explaining the Bible as self-authenticating. Mark Shea, the author, explains his journey to Catholicism with humor, grace, and an appreciation for his Evangelical heritage.
a word of caution  May 26, 2008
Ben Witherington is an excellent New Testament scholar and apologist. I am so happy that we have scholars like Witherington and Tom Wright to counteract the likes of the Jesus Seminar. What you will find in this book is Ben Witherington the apologist. He is a little condescending towards laymen at times, making fun of those who say "Revelations" instead of "Revelation" -- even though we laymen never point out all the typos on his internet blog. This book is very well-written and probably about as good as any defense you will find of the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God. The author is careful to distingush himself from those who think the Scripture is factually inerrant, however. He wants to make sure we take the Bible just seriously enough to understand that we should not embrace the gay movement or the Jesus Seminar! He wants you to know that Genesis 2-3 is metaphor, but believe that Adam and Eve were historical people. He wants you to know The Great Flood was a myth, but believe that Noah was a real person in a real Near Eastern flood drama. This book is worth reading, but not convincing at every point. For example, Witherington explains some of the more violent and hateful verses as the result of "Holy Spirit truth serum." In other words, the Holy Ghost made the Biblical writers reveal the sin in their own hearts, and such verses say nothing about the character of God. I am just not sure I see how this theory helps us more than the theory that the Bible is only a witness to the Word of God?? I think Ben wants to be able to say along with 2 Timothy that "all scripture is God-breathed." But this still leaves us with some disturbing verses (e.g. Ps.137:9) and a band of idiots in this world who think we should still be killing pagans today!!
Time to buy a new highlighter!  Mar 22, 2008
Witherington tackles the difficult, provincial subject of the inspiration and authority of the living word of God ... with emphasis on living word and meaning in the 21st century through the legacy of our 1st century authors.

The book follows the deductive logic of:
1. God is omniscient, omnipresent all powerful, and completely truthful
2. God is able to accurately and truthfully reveal his mind, plan and nature.
3. God has inspired certain human authors to write down his words
4. The authors have accurately done so ... therefore
5. The Bible is the word of God and is accurate and truthful in all it intends to assert.

Then ... Witherington tests it.

The author works both in and between the lines in 1 through 5. He provides the aggressive God seeker with scholarly observations and tools for dealing with the difficulties of meaning and understanding within the framework of sola scriptura and the rational use of the human mind that God provided us to understand the living word. This is not easy. If you have spent years working to grasp the truth in God's word through the writers of scripture, this work will most assuredly provide an expanded perspective and perhaps offer some dissonance with your preconceptions.

I can see that I have highlighted passages in this volume way more than other recent books ... there's much to note in this book. The ideas will take time to play out in my mind. The book is stimulating.

Witherington tells us, that like Jacob ... if you wrestle with the divine long enough, you will walk away with a blessing, but you might have a limp.
One of Ben's Best Books!  Dec 1, 2007
The Living Word of God helps us to think through what is meant when we say that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. Dr. Witherington mostly works with the New Testament, but there are occasional forays into the Hebrew Bible.

In chapter one, Ben talks about the word of God as an oral message (1 Thessalonians 2:12-13), an Incarnate Person (John 1:14), and as an inscripturated text (2 Timothy 3:16). Taking his cue from 1 Samuel 4-6 and 2 Samuel 6, he points out that the Israelites believed God to be active and present with His word.

He also discusses the mystery of God speaking His word through human writers and human personalities so that it became inscripturated. He spends considerable time with 2 Peter 1:16-21 and 1 Peter 1:23, noting that God's word has life giving potential.

In chapter two, Dr. Witherington talks about the timeless nature of Scripture, that it is the true of word of God for all people in all places and times. Here he critiques NT Wright's book "The Last Word." Wright is right in noting that the Bible is God's way of exercising authority over His people. But Wright is wrong in dodging the issue of whether or not God's word is true and what it means for it to be true.

Ben also observes that the Bible does not merely contain the word of God or serve as a witness to the word of God. It IS the word of God! This means that God spoke eternal truths through individuals living in a particular place and time.

In chapter three, Ben critiques Peter Enns' book on the inspiration of Scripture (the title of this chapter is catchy and creative - "The Ends of Enns"). He applauds Enns for teaching us to be appreciative of the diversity in the Bible and for recognizing that the Bible is a historically conditioned document.

But Ben is concerned that he takes the analogy between the Bible and Christ too far. Enns speaks of the Bible's humanity and divinity as parallel to Christ's humanity and divinity, and Ben rightfully responds by saying that books do not have humanity and divinity. We can say that the words are divinely inspired.

Ben is also concerned that Enns is so protective of the diversity of differing scriptural accounts that he doesn't always believe it is possible to know what happened historically.

In chapter four, Ben discusses truth telling as an art form. He stresses the importance of recognizing and correctly interpreting the different kinds of literature in the New Testament. We have ancient biography (the Gospels), narrative (Acts), letters and homilies (letters of Paul and the letter to the Hebrews), and apocalyptic (Revelation). He contends that what the word of God meant to the original hearers is STILL what the word of God means today.

The fifth chapter focuses on certain New Testament texts and shows how these things are historically plausible and probable, and that even apparent contradictions like Mark 2:25-26 (compare with 1 Samuel 21) have logical explanations. Ben also shows that there is nothing inherently implausible with the birth narratives in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, nor is there anything morally repugnant about the household codes in Colossians and Ephesians.

Chapter six shows that the canonical books of the New Testament were settled in the minds and hearts of church leaders by the end of the 4th century, and that thinking on these things actually began as far back as the Apostolic age. Ben also suggests that even though translations might sometimes get it wrong, there are no outright contradictions in the original manuscripts of NT documents.

In chapter seven Ben recommends using an English Bible translation done by a team rather than one person, because no one person can know everything about the biblical languages. My only reply by way of criticism is that sometimes, a team translation will also mean that a certain Greek word in the NT may be translated one way by Douglas Moo in Romans and another way by Gordon Fee in Philippians, and the reader may never know which way was right or wrong.

Ben also discusses the "rules of the road" for biblical interpretation. He stresses that there is a difference between the Bible's meaning and the Bible's significance. There is only one meaning to the text, but it may carry by way of application a significance in the life of the reader that was otherwise not anticipated by the original writer. Ben gives an example from his life: A promise from Ezekiel 36 originally addressed to the Israelite exiles was applied to his life and family by the Spirit. Ben also discusses the importance of sola scriptura, meaning that the Bible alone is authoritative in matters of faith and practice.

There is also a concluding chapter about the art of reading scripture in a postmodern world. Ben highlights the importance of reading the Bible in historical context and allowing it to be authoritative in our lives. He believes that Emergent thinkers such as Rob Bell and Donald Miller are doing this, but that writers such as Marcus Borg and Brian McLaren have more of a pick and choose approach, with McLaren showing some disdain for the orthodox understanding of the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

There is a concluding appendix where Ben answers biblical and theological questions from the online community BeliefNet.

This is a beautifully written book about the Bible. Ben writes for a wide audience, so that scholar and student and layperson and casual reader may benefit. You will come away from this book with a greater appreciation for the inspired, authoritative, living word of God.

Rev. Marc Axelrod


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