Book Review: How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens
Author: Michael Williams
Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 97803131650
Before I get into my review and share my opinion, I think it fair to list a few of the technical specifics of this book. First, the book is a survey of sorts and does not dig deep and comprehensively into the Scriptures; it calls itself “A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture.” Second, it is not a discourse in hermeneutics or exegesis regardless that it has been titled “How to Read the Bible…” The format is more akin to an introduction to the Books of the Bible without the technical details (dates, controversies, etc.). Williams follows a consistent format throughout the guide providing a basic and high-level overview or theme of the book discussed, examination through the “Jesus Lens,” perceived contemporary implications, and closes each chapter with what he calls “Hook Questions.” Williams describes his navigation through the book as follows:
“I present the overarching theme of each biblical book along with a discussion of how that then ultimately find its focus in Jesus Christ. I then explore how this focus in Christ is subsequently elaborated upon in the New Testament. Finally, I consider what that fulfillment in Christ must necessarily entail for believers, who are being conformed to his likeness along with ways to communicate those entailments to others effectively.” (Michael Williams; How to Read the bible through the Jesus Lens)
I think it important to know the book is written using Reformed Theology as its doctrinal lens and interprets its views from the Protestant Evangelical perspective. It claims to “Cover every book of the Bible…” but neither reviews nor surveys any of the apocryphal writings considered canon in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches. I make these last few points not to criticize the book, but to temper the lofty claims found in the title and on the front cover (see below).
- Covers every book of the Bible…
- How to read the Bible…
- A guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture
I don’t think these claims are intentionally arrogant, but they do show (in my opinion) how myopic this guide might be when compared to the universal church of Jesus Christ and the various streams and traditions of people included in the Judeo-Christian faith family.
Having acknowledged all of the above, I think How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens, can be a very useful little book. I believe it can be used as a quick survey tool and might be very helpful alongside more comprehensive study tools. There is also a very neat table/chart at the end of the book that distills the entire contents down to a five to six page chart.
My last comment is more in the realm of a personal peeve. I agree the supremacy of Christ is important. I understand this, but the way the information is put forth in this book almost completely mitigates the work of the Trinity. Christ Jesus taught the unity of the Godhead more than he taught his individual supremacy over it. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit and He submitted Himself to the will and plan of the Father. I don’t think the intent of Williams is to disregard this, but the thought comes across, at the very least, subconsciously. Persons who study the Scriptures diligently might not be side-tracked by the omission of Trinitarian unity, but for those “average readers” as Justin Taylor calls them, I think this book could be somewhat disingenuous.