Friday, April 08, 2011

book review: Deeper Into The Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent

In Deeper Into the Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament Keri Wyatt Kent explores one hundred words/concepts from the New Testament.

Each entry from “Afraid” to “Yoke” gets about a two-page treatment. Within that space Kent covers a lot of ground and, depending on the word/concept does some or all of the following:

* places the concept into its historical, cultural context;

* names the Greek word or words (including derivatives and permutations) that express the idea in the earliest texts, examples of where they occur, and how often they occur in total within the New Testament;

* quotes other writers who shed light on the concept;

* interjects her personal experience and opinion about the word’s meaning and usage.

She ends each section with an inspirational thought (fulfilling the “Reflections” part of the title).

The 100 entries are followed by an index of Greek words. A several-page section of endnotes completes the volume.

When I received my copy of the book for review, I looked immediately for the author’s qualifications to write about this somewhat technical aspect of the Bible. I found none – unless the nearness of a good library and the knowledge of how to use it count. That, for me, is the biggest weakness of the book as a reference: I’m not sure how reliable the information about language, especially the Greek words and their usage, is (although the book is endorsed by both Scot McKnight and John Ortberg so that should certainly give its scholarship credibility).

Kent’s layperson status may also be a strength in that she doesn’t come to the topic as an academic and thus understands what most of us don’t know, will want to know, and gives us just the right amount of information and in a style that is accessible. And, as she says in the Introduction, as well as using it as a reference volume, it can be used as a "tutorial for how to do what has been traditionally called a 'word study.' By reading a few chapters, you can learn this technique and try it on your own" p. 12.

I found the mixed treatment of the subject matter (factual/commentary along with personal/reflection) somewhat disorienting. To my mind, the book has identity issues. Is it a factual reference book? Or a book of personal reflections?

On the plus side, Kent’s writing style is warm and comradely. She doesn’t talk down to readers but neither does she get bogged in technical theology-speak. Though she does have denominational biases she is frank about them. Sometimes she declares them outright:
“I’m not from a charismatic background…. For more examples and rebuttal to the charismatic position see…” (from the endnotes on “Word,” p. 247.)
At other times she reveals her bias by whom and what she quotes. For example in the discussion of the words “Break/Broken” to shed light on Matthew 16:19 (“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose (luo) on earth will be loosed in heaven”), she quotes a paragraph from Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, and his somewhat controversial conclusion:

“…What he (Jesus) is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible” (quoted on p. 30 from Velvet Elvis, pp. 49-50.)

All in all, the book’s easy-to-understand text and comprehensive handling of so many words/concepts make it a valuable reference. What I like most about it is the explanation of each word/concept within the context of the customs and culture of the day. I can see Deeper Into the Word being a useful addition to the library of the layperson who wishes to deepen his or her understanding of the New Testament’s setting and language.

Title: Deeper Into The Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament
Author: Keri Wyatt Kent
Publisher: Bethany House, January 2011, 247 pages, paperback

  • ISBN-10: 076420842X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764208423

(I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review. Article first published as Book Review: Deeper Into The Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent on Blogcritics.)

Violet Nesdoly / poems
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