Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review of Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture by Jeffrey D. Arthurs

Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: The Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word
by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
ISBN 978-0-8254-4219-3
Kregel Publications (Academic and Professional)
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I have a lot of ministry books and articles fly across my desk. Recently I was given a copy of Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture by Jeffrey D. Arthurs. Rarely have I read a book that has such a great combination of being fun and easy to read, accessible, and useful in my day to day ministry. I would recommend this book to be in every seminary bookstore, and on every pastor's bookshelf.

The focus of this book is clear from the title. The author wants to encourage powerful, well-prepared reading of Scripture. Using the metaphor of preparing a meal, he encourages those who read Scripture and who empower others to do so to honor Scripture by having the public reading done well. Dr. Arthurs shares the Biblical and historical foundations of quality Scripture reading. He helps readers overcome common pitfalls. He shares some principles of basic oral interpretation. Then, he shares some tricks to add a little extra something to make one's reading have even more of an impact. A DVD is included as well to demonstrate the principles taught by the Devote Yourself text.

I also loved the metaphor that the Dr. Arthurs brought forward of 'the Bible, indeed all of ancient literature is 'arrested performance', like a musical score" (p.29). He goes on to say, "Public readers of Scripture are organists who play a Bach fugue. They are interpreters, not composers of the music" (39).

The metaphor of musical performance reminds us that we have a role to play, but that the genius of the text read comes not from us, but from God. It also emphasizes how central the reading of Scripture was to the way God's people approached worship.

If I could get people to turn out, I would use this book in my church to do a morning seminar on how to read Scripture, and on the importance of reading Scripture. Our church is more liturgical, which means that we have Scripture readings. Our church chooses to have the lay leaders (liturgists) read Scripture instead of lead other parts of the liturgy. This is disappointing to me at times, because I would love to at least read the preaching text. So, training others on the reading of Scripture is an important step for us at some time in the future.

Thanks Dr. Arthurs for the inspiration!

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