What does How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens (Michael Williams, Zondervan Publishers, 2012) promise?

66 chapters, each of which deals with one biblical book in which the author presents ‘the overarching theme of each biblical book along with a discussion of how that theme ultimately finds its focus in Jesus Christ. …then explore how this focus in Christ is subsequently elaborated upon in the New Testament. [and finally a consideration of] 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.’ (pg 10)

What I appreciated.

The structure of each chapter, which includes: thematic material that notes the specific historical context of each book; a memory verse which reflects the identified theme; a Jesus Lens section which relates how material in the book anticipates Christ or how New Testament themes throw particular light on the book; Contemporary Implications which seek to relate those themes to current times; and Hook Questions that challenge whether the reader really is grasping the practical issues raised in their lives.
The scholarship Williams displays in what he writes and how he writes it: given the brevity of the four page chapters, there is a lot that cannot be written. What Williams has written, and what he has chosen not to write, seem indicative of great familiarity with the field of Biblical Studies, both Old and New Testament.
The Hook Questions demand personal introspection, but their answers are outwardly focused toward the areas of loving God, being a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus; bearing the fruit of the Spirit in life and relationships; and the building of the Kingdom in evangelism and Christian growth.
The fact that the premise of the book is that the Bible should firstly be studied from the perspective of its testimony about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What I’m not sure about.

The precise nature of the Jesus Lens itself or the principles behind it are not clearly explained, but assumed. Williams doesn’t lay out a grid of (biblically derived) understandings about the person, work and outcomes of Jesus which would give a Jesus Lens its particular focus. This means there is a lack of transparency in process. Williams starts in the right places, and ends up in some very useful points, but it’s not always evident what process steps he’s taken to get there.
In the introduction he notes a short list of books for further study, but names such as Sidney Greidanus, Graeme Goldsworthy, Dennis Johnson et al are notably absent which disappoints me in that there seems no identified biblical theology or framework of principles by which students can approach biblical texts for themselves and use the ‘Jesus Lens’. Contrast this with Sidney Greidanus’ very inductive work in preaching Christ from the Old Testament.
There is also not an acknowledged transition in the ‘Jesus Lens’ between (and even within) the Old and New Testaments. Old Testament Scripture looks forward in an anticipatory sense to the incarnation, person and work of Jesus; the New Testament Scripture looks back on the incarnation, person and work of Jesus. This differentiation is not particularly acknowledged.
This doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the book (in terms of its stated purpose) or its insights, but it does limit its usefulness as a training tool in inductive Bible study.

Conclusion.

As a one volume (267 page) Bible study/overview which clearly points the reader to the Lord Jesus Christ as the focus of Scripture, How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens is a valuable and accessible resource. In a time when similar studies might focus on the felt needs of the reader or emphasis moralistic applications of Bible teaching (particularly in Old Testament texts), this volume should encourage reading and study of the Bible that avoids trite sentimentalism and is prepared to dig and understand how each book testifies about Jesus and his work, and the relevance of that testimony for disciples of Jesus today.

Review copy of How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens provided by Zondervan Publishers as part of the How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens blog tour.
Provision of the book did not require the publication of a positive review.

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