A beginners’ guide focuses on the use of scrupulous literary analysis to illuminate Christian Scripture.
In his debut book, Nichols relates the simplest and most direct reason that someone would take up the area of study called hermeneutics, which he defines as “the science of interpretation of literature”: to know which Bible interpretations to trust and why. His embrace of the hermeneutical approach has been lifelong, and in his manual he seems to cede it pride of place, even over the personal inspiration that guides scores of contemporary Christian leaders. “Many people claim to teach the Bible,” he writes, “but when they violate the rules of interpretation, they do not have God’s Word but man’s word.” Yet it quickly becomes apparent in his work that he intends his hermeneutics to be a servant of his apologetics—or, as he puts it, “good hermeneutics is reading the Bible the way God wanted his people to read it.” In Nichols’ view, this type of hermeneutics is not arduous because the Bible text itself is not difficult. Translators or interpreters who throw up obstacles to its clarity are doing so “because they are liars, and they cannot accept the truth, and they belong to Satan.” Accordingly, Nichols deftly examines one biblical passage: Exodus 21:28-32, which lays out the various penalties for the owner of an ox that gores neighbors. In vigorously discussing it, he veers immediately from hermeneutics to preaching. The passage in Exodus is straightforwardly demotic: it is a set of legal instructions. But for Nichols, “Jesus is seen in objects in the Old Testament—in the temple, the ark of the covenant, and even in the altar.” His fellow Christian faithful will encounter no actual hermeneutics in these pages, but they’ll find a great deal of energetic scriptural exhortation written in an engaging style.
A spirited Christian interpretation that branches out from one specific passage of the Old Testament.