Book Review – Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook by Herbert Bateman IV

Over the years I have really come to appreciate all sorts of interpretive handbooks. One of my favorite is the “Handbook on the… prophets, historical books, wisdom books, etc.” series published by Baker Academic. But recently I was given a review copy of the General Letters volume of the “Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis” series. If the rest of the series is as good as this volume, it will soon become one of my favorite handbook series as well.

Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert Bateman IV, professor at the Cyber-Center for Biblical Studies, provides the reader with a step by step approach for analyzing and communicating the general letters.

The book is divided up into several sections:

  • Two chapters on “background” material to the general letters.
  • A chapter on the theology of the general letters
  • Two chapters on how to interpret the general letters using exegetical methods
  • Two chapters on communicating the general letters through expository writing and preaching
  • A chapter on other sources that can aid the interpreter in the exegetical task
  • An appendix with an annotated selection of NT Commentaries

Especially strong are the first few chapters which provide the background necessary for interpreting these texts. One interesting point that Bateman makes in this section is that Jude is actually written to address the issue of Jewish rebellion that permeated all of Judea and that it was not actually written to repudiate false teachers. In other words Jude is a political text. This was quite a surprising interpretation of Jude. Nevertheless it is an interpretation that is worthwhile thinking about.

Also, another strong part of the text is Bateman’s step by step instructions for moving from clausal analysis to preaching on a Sunday morning. Following his step by step instructions can be tedious and time consuming, but eventually those steps will become second nature for the preacher/teacher. Nevertheless, it was helpful to see those steps clearly explicated.

Overall this handbook for interpretation will be a valuable addition to any pastor, teacher, or student’s library. It is certainly a book that I will recommend to the students in my General Letter’s class. Also, I really look forward to reading the other volumes in this series.

(Note: I received the book for free from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.)

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