Howard G. Hendricks & William D. Hendricks. Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1991, 2007. 392 Pg. $18.99. ISBN 0-8024-0823-0. Reviewed by Christopher L. Sanchez, Seminary Student.
Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible is both a practical and timeless book aimed squarely at the Bible student who struggles with studying God’s word. First published in 1991 and revised and updated in 2007 by Dr. Howard Hendricks and his son Bill, this book essentially captures the class long taught at Dallas Theological Seminary by Dr. Hendricks (p. 8). The book opens with a thoughtful introduction discussing the reasons people do not study the Bible, why they should, and introducing Hendricks’ process for such study.
After laying the necessary groundwork, the book transitions into the three main sections that are discussed in great detail over the next 300 plus pages: observation, interpretation, and application. Hendricks states without reservation that people no longer know how to read explaining the shift from a word-based society to an image-based society (p. 66). He then presents ten strategies for first-rate reading that his readers should find quite helpful followed immediately by six things the student of the Bible should look for during their study.
The authors move seamlessly from observation to the next section focused on interpretation. In typical fashion, this section opens with a chapter explaining the value of interpretation (p. 199 – 205). Hendricks also reminders readers that differences in interpretation will occur and that it is important to keep in mind that the conflict is not in the Scriptures but in the limited understanding men have of the text (p. 211). He then goes on to provide five very helpful keys to interpretation.
After his treatment of proper interpretation, Hendricks moves on to the section that addresses application. Perhaps the most neglected area of Bible study, application is the evidence of a life transformed. Hendricks wisely spends the time to explain that there are things about a person that remains the same from cradle to grave pointing out that people are God’s workmanship (p. 308).
Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible is written in very a readable style that makes putting the book down difficult. It is rare that this reviewer has been able to make such a statement about a reading assignment during studies at Liberty. It is this readability that is a key strength of the book. Another key strength of the book is the impression the reader has of actually attending a class being taught by Dr. Hendricks. The personal stories used to relate the material are an integral part of the presentation of the material.
Though difficult to critique, the brevity of both the sections on interpretation and application do give this reviewer pause. With observation consuming nearly half of the text, one would expect a treatment of interpretation and application to be as thorough. This is clearly not the case. If length were a concern, the section on observation could easily be shortened without losing the essential strengths of the material allowing for a more in depth treatment of interpretation and application.
Overall, this is a book that is beneficial to seminary students, lay leaders, and new believers alike seeking tools to better understand the Bible. In the opinion of this reviewer, the best use of Living by the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible may be as a primer for those newer to the faith seeking to develop those basic skills for really studying Scriptures. Dr. Hendricks has taught countless students techniques for better understanding God’s word.