Monday, June 9, 2014

Basic Primer on Biblical Literacy

Posted on the Confessing Christ Listsev 06-09-2014

Good evening Confessors

I would like to bring to your attention my former Pastor and colleague, Mark Lawson's book titled, Cracking the Code: How to Start Reading the Bible is pastor at the United Church of Bayberry in Liverpool, NY where he has served since 1995. Cracking the Code can also be ordered through the church at
Phone: 315-652-6789
Address: 215 Blackberry Road, Liverpool, NY 13090

Mark (also an adjunct Professor of religious studies at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY) is a superb Bible teacher who has drawn in over 20 members to his many adult Christian education classes, much of which has focused directly on the Bible. It is with the local Protestant mainline congregation in mind that Mark wrote Cracking the Code

The book provides a succinct overview of the entire Bible and provides invaluable historical  and literary background in laying out the original original contexts in which each of the major sections of the OT and NT were written.  The book also addresses the relationship between the two testaments in which the following two passages are particularly illustrative:

"The letter of the Jewish law is not binding on Christians. But the Torah is still the Word of God for Christians, because through the Torah we learn about God's relationship to us" (p. 44).

"For Christians, the Old Testament points toward Christ. For us, Christ stands at the center of all Scripture. His teachings help us determine the relative importance of every other part of the Bible. His death and resurrection displace the exodus as the central event of Scripture. (In fact, Jesus spoke of his death and resurrection as a new exodus accomplishing a new covenant.) (pp. 44-45).

In addition to discussing the original contexts and the genres of the Bible with a light, but evident scholarly touch reflective, largely of mainline biblical interpretation, Mark also brings home the importance of the Bible as the primary and indispensable source of faith for the contemporary believers. In this, his role as a pastor is clearly evident.

In short, there is much in Cracking the Code to recommend for congregational Bible teachers of adults. The book presents a cogent and highly accessible overview of the Bible and has the potential of adding much to the biblical literacy of our congregations. It is an excellent complement to the somewhat more technical, How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart which is aimed more toward evangelical congregations.  Ideally, read together, these two  books have a great deal to contribute to the enhancement of biblical literacy within our various Protestant congregations.  The two texts together could also contribute to constructive dialogue across the Protestant theological spectrum.

After reading Cracking the Code and after having the privilege of participating in several of his Bible studies and related courses, I recommend Cracking the Code: How to Start Reading the Bible as a highly cogent and readily accessible primer for adults and youth on all themes related to biblical literacy.

George Demetrion

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