Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: God, Language and Scripture

Moisés Silva’s book, God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in Light of General Linguistics was an interesting read. Rarely was there any part that the writer of this review found boring. What was expected to be a book on Hebrew and Greek ended up being a book on how to understand the writers of Scripture better. That is not to say there wasn’t any Hebrew or Greek (or Aramaic) within the pages; there certainly were. However, most of these were illustrations from Silva that proved his points, the main one being that the translator or interpreter of Scripture must keep linguistics in mind. “Every facet of interpretation must be kept in proper perspective, and the more we know about the nature of language, the more likely we are to ‘handle correctly the word of God’ (2 Tim. 2:15).” (P. 15)

In order to bring about this objective, Silva wrote seven chapters, consisting of 145 pages. The first was simply an introduction, helping the reader get acquainted with what was to come. In his second chapter, one will read the author’s perspective on language from the way the Bible presents it. From the very beginning of the Bible there is language. God speaks the world into existence and so communicated with Adam and Eve. He created them in his own image thus making them people of communication. By the third chapter, the one is reading about the scientific study of language. This chapter involves the evolution of language as well as the various humanity, natural and social science studies.

Once one gets to the fourth chapter, he reads of the history of the biblical languages in more depth. Silva describes how Hebrew and Aramaic are similar—linguistic cousins and why those who read Hebrew do not need vowels. Greek also had its history and much of that history impacted the New Testament writers. The fifth and sixth chapters delve into describing the biblical languages. One aspect that was interesting in this chapter was that of languages’ etymology. This has been discussed somewhat in previous sections, but a greater impact can be read in chapter 5. Silva gives an example that the word gossip comes from the same root as godparent. It was the talk that happened during christenings. Yet, no one brings this up except as a piece of trivia.

[T]here are occasions (as in some poetic passages of the Old Testament) when we come across rare words whose meaning is unclear and for which etymological analysis can provide some help. Most words, however, are widely attested and their meaning can be clearly established from the numerous contexts in which they appear. (P. 88)

Another striking point was that rarely do biblical authors seek to be ambiguous, but at times there seems to be some intentionality in doing just that. Silva explained that if the writer was clearer, it would lead the readers down the wrong path, or as found especially in poetry “the purpose was not to confuse but to impress on our hearts the force of the divine message.” (P. 97). Most ambiguity arises from a distance in time and culture, not in the text itself.

What most grammars do not do, that the author sought to make amends for, is show how words work within sentences and paragraphs. That was the focus of chapter six. In this chapter, Silva gave a handy guide to diagraming clauses (not sentences!) so that the reader could make sense of what was being written. This is helpful with many of Paul’s sentences that seem to be endless clauses rolled into one run-on sentence.

The final chapter was an epilogue. The focus was on continuing to pass the Bible on through textual transmission, translation, and teaching. Surprisingly to this writer, Silva believes that linguistically speaking, dynamic translations are the way to go when it comes to understanding the text better. Literal translations are too rigid and often miss the point of what the biblical writer was saying.

Overall, this book deserves to be read by young and old pastors alike, if for no other reason than the fact that there is an overuse of etymology that is pervasive within churches. To use etymology makes the preacher look smart, but it rarely helps the congregation understand the Word better. That being said, the member who has a proclivity for original languages could benefit from this book as well. The lay-member would benefit from reading the epilogue as they may feel shamed by “more studious” members for having a dynamic translation rather than a more literal one. Having read the book, it helps one to understand the overall use of language within Scripture. However, it does very little with helping one understand vocabulary.

Book Review: Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations

Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Florida and Steve Wright, pastor of discipleship and church planting at the same church, teamed up and wrote a short book on evangelism. The title is what caught my eye. Personally, I have a hard time figuring out how to transition from everyday conversations into witnessing opportunities. When I saw the title, I knew I had to buy the book and read it. I am so thrilled to have found it and read it. It took me just a couple of hours to do so, but it has changed my way of evangelizing forever.

I am not going to give too much away in this book review, because I do believe that one should read this 116 page book themselves; it is worth the money if you want to become a better evangelizer (I use the word evangelizer versus evangelist as evangelists are considered professional or “really good” at evangelizing; evangelizers are what every Christian should be).

In seven quick chapters, Scroggins and Wright take us on a journey of evangelism. Because of my wanting to know about how to transition better, I jumped to chapter three (apparently missing that chapter four was titled “Transition to the Gospel”). Chapter three was about “Everyday People and Conversations”. The premise is that if one is having an actual conversation with someone, a problem or unwanted circumstance will eventually come up. That’s the cue to transition to the gospel. “Our conversations are never completely random or altogether open-ended. People are often looking to us to offer meaningful responses,” (p. 52). The only question is: can we give the most meaningful response? With the help of this book, the answer is yes.

The first two chapters of this book deal with the mission field and what the gospel is (don’t forget the resurrection of Christ; there is no hope if He has not risen). Then a quick chapter on how everyday conversations develop in chapter three, and finally in chapter four we find out how to transition those conversations into evangelistic opportunities. When I read how to do it, I literally said aloud, “Really? That’s it!? That’s all I have to do!?” It sounded so simple and yet I had never thought about it.

From that point, you will read about an evangelistic technique called the three circles method. This is so “user-friendly” it is flat out ridiculous. I quickly taught one of the church members that I pastor this method and three days later he led a woman to Christ using it. No evangelism would be complete without offering an invitation and response. That’s what chapter six is all about. And finally, chapter seven about making the new convert a disciple and an evangelizer immediately, without delay.

I only underlined one sentence in this book because it struck me so hard. “Repenting and believing doesn’t fix everything, but it does forgive everything,” (p. 84). There were many good things about this book, but that one line made an impact. In fact, I’ve probably said it to someone at least once a week sense reading this book three weeks ago.

If you get a chance, pick up this book and read it. It was published by B&H Publishing back in 2016. You can buy it on Amazon with Prime shipping for $9.22 or on ChristianBooks.com for $9.29, not including shipping.