I am excited that my friend Dr. Steven Anderson has agreed to be interviewed about his new Bible study resource. This resource, Dr. Anderson’s Interpretive Guide to the Bible, consists of eight volumes covering the entire Bible. The entire series is over 1,200 pages! All of the interpretive guides follow the same basic format and order: a brief introduction to the biblical book; a discussion of introductory issues (such as author, date, writing style, and addressees); a paragraph-level subject outline of the book; an “argument” which traces the flow of thought throughout the book but also deals with macrostructure, theology, and interpretive issues; and an annotated bibliography.
1. How are your interpretive guides different from a standard commentary?
These interpretive guides provide a synthetic overview of each book of the Bible, giving special attention to the development of a book’s argument. Although some interpretive issues are addressed, they are not addressed with the detail of a commentary. As the name “interpretive guide” implies, my books are meant to be a guide or a starting point for developing more detailed interpretations, rather than containing all the details in themselves. My books are also different from other published works because they are the product of my own study of the biblical text, and contain many original ideas and observations.
2. You devote a fair amount of space to addressing introductory issues. Why is it important to deal with issues such as authorship, dating, original audience, etc.?
Understanding the background of a biblical book is the key to understanding the book as a whole. A clear statement of background issues will allow for a consistent and uniform interpretation of individual passages within the book. For example, understanding 1 John as a test of life will result in one way of interpreting individual passages throughout the book, while understanding it as a test of love will result in another way of interpreting these passages. Someone who approaches 1 John without any understanding of its background or purpose would have more difficulty in understanding individual verses within the book, and also in finding a consistent argument made from start to finish.
I would also point out that people who say background issues don’t matter still are bringing many background assumptions to the table. For example, pastors who say that it doesn’t matter who wrote Hebrews are still assuming that Hebrews was written by some apostle or apostolic associate in the first century AD, which gives the book authority for the church. Critical scholars often attack traditional claims about the authorship of biblical books, which is dangerous because these attacks raise questions about the inspiration and authority of these books.
3. Your interpretive guides contain an argument. Can you explain what an argument is and how it helps one to better understand a book of the Bible?
An argument shows how a biblical author’s thesis and message is developed throughout his book. It shows how each section of the book is related to the book’s purpose, and how the different sections relate to each other. For example, in accordance with Matthew’s aim to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah, Matthew 1:1–4:11 describes Jesus’ entitlement to the messianic role. Within this section, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus had messianic genealogical qualifications (1:1-17), a messianic birth and infancy (1:18–2:23), a messianic forerunner (3:1-12), a messianic anointing (3:13-17), and a messianic test (4:1-11).
4. In writing these interpretive guides, what area of Scripture or which book did you find the most challenging and why?
Overall, the Old Testament prophetic books were the most challenging for me. Published outlines and interpretations of these books vary widely, and for some books (e.g., Jeremiah and Hosea) some commentators think there is no logical outline. I felt that I had to dig especially deep to come to a satisfactory understanding of these books.
5. Who are some of the biblical scholars that most influenced and shaped your approach to the Bible?
My major formative influence in Bible interpretation was the late Rev. Raymond Befus, Sr., who was pastor of the church that I grew up in (Bethany Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan). Pastor Befus was a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and an “old school” dispensationalist. We often had speakers from the seminary at the church, such as Charles Ryrie and John Walvoord. When I was working toward my M.Div. and Th.M. degrees at Capital Bible Seminary I formed a close relationship with Dr. Thomas Edgar, who was a major influence on my New Testament exegesis. Of the professors in my Ph.D. program at Dallas Theological Seminary I felt closest to Dr. Stanley Toussaint, who taught the doctoral seminar on Hebrews–Revelation. I also had the privilege of taking the last course that Dr. Harold Hoehner taught prior to his passing, in which he communicated to us his rigorous method of doing scholarly research.
Those interested in purchasing one or all of the interpretive guides can go here You can purchase the interpretive guides in PDF format for $39.99 for the complete series or individual volumes at $5.99 each. You can also purchase print copies for $12.99 to $15.99 per volume. Do check it out.