In the last couple of weeks I have been posting author interviews… it has been a really fun way to learn more about books and writers and today I have another book recently published by a great friend of ours. Peter Smuts has been a lecturer at the Bible Institute of South Africa for a number of years and recently wrote his first book: Mark by the Book.
If your personal Bible study or your home group has been battling along powering your way through books and you are looking for something to get you excited about reading your Bible again… then this book will most certainly help you and inspire you. As he writes in the introduction often our reading plan is more than a little “hit and miss” and honestly I have found commentaries can just increase our feeling of plodding through. I took the longest time to begin reading this book. I was, to be honest, a little intimidated by it – there are some mighty big words on the blurb and it is a book with a lot to read in it. But I should never have worried, this book is written by someone who has been guiding students through college courses for the last twenty odd years and to be honest it was quite easy reading and I am about half way through it and loving it!!!
The cover claims “A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels.” What that means is he describes an interesting plan for reading and understanding the Gospel Books of the Bible, that is just so different to most books that present a book of the Bible. He begins by explaining the why and how of reading the Bible from different perspectives:
- A Downward Reading: The historical perspective, the context of the book. The when and where, the how and why of the book.
- A Sideways Reading: Take a look at the other Gospels and examine what they wrote to get an alternative view of the story.
- A Backward Reading: Taking a look at the Old Testament scriptures and their influence on the passage.
- A Forward Reading: Is to consider the development of the theme of the passage as it winds through the New Testament.
Once the author has discussed is Multidirectional Method – you are off to explore a number of passages from the book of the Gospel of Mark. Parables, events, predictions and the death and resurrection of Jesus. I like that each chapter begins with the passage written out for the reader… and then you are walked through each of the reading angles. As a group Bible Study this book would keep you busy for a number of weeks and as a personal study… a chapter a week with a different direction of reading for each day and a day to put it all together in the summary makes it a really useful book. All at once this book is a little overwhelming but in bite size chunks it is really readable and enjoyable. I think it has definitely given me food for thought for how I tackle Bible reading in general. This book provides the readers with the tools to dig deeper into the Word for themselves, rather than perhaps just reading what is on the page or what a commentator has said about it.
Se7en + 1 Interview Questions… Asked and Answered
- I have to ask this: Your book introduces you as a lecturer in Hermeneutics… what is that and why should people know more about it?
- Did you always want to write a book or did the years as a lecturer: reading, researching and preparing classes bring the book to mind?
- There aren’t many books, that the layman can read, that discuss how to study a book of the Bible more intensely. When you wrote this book who was your intended reader?
- Would you like to share a bit about why we need to read a passage from more than one angle to get a good understanding of it.
- Tell us a bit about the work behind writing a book like this… a lot of research must have gone into it… Either you spent hours in a library or researching online…
- This book is not short or a quick read, and obviously involved a lot of work. Do you have a tip for aspiring writers that you learnt from writing this book.
- You are a lecturer at a Christian Bible College and you have written a christian book, tell us how you came to be a Christian and how it changed you.
- You are a parent of nearly all grown-up children if you had one piece of advice as a christian father, for our readers that are nearly all parents, what would it be?
Hermeneutics is a technical word that simply describes the process of discovering what the Bible means for us as Christians today. If, as we believe, the Bible is God’s Word written down for the benefit of His people, then it is important that we have a clear and accurate understanding of what the Bible means so that we can obey it.
The book was a direct result of my teaching at Bible college together with all the research that goes into doing that. When I was growing up, I never dreamed of being a published author. However, through the process of writing this book, I have discovered that I really enjoy writing.
I wrote this book for the benefit of my students at Bible college and any other Christian reader who is serious about studying and understanding God’s Word.
The simple answer is that no one angle exhausts the meaning of the text. So if you read the Gospels from an Old Testament perspective, it sheds new light on the Gospel events. Likewise, if you compare one Gospel story to the other Gospel accounts, it will give you fresh and helpful insights. This requires some work on the part of the reader, but the benefits of this approach make the effort more than worthwhile. My book describes a straightforward 4-step process – downwards, sideways, backwards, forwards – that shows the reader of the Bible how to understand the Gospels from these various angles.
This book was really the product of my many years of studying and teaching the Gospels at Bible college. The actual writing process took about 18 months, followed by the labour-intensive work of compiling the various indices at the end of the book.
To complete the writing of a book, you need to build up a certain momentum to ensure you make steady progress. I found this was only possible by making writing part of my busy daily routine.
That could be the topic for another book! But let me give you the brief version. I had a Christian upbringing, but I was only converted as a university student. I came to understand that Christianity wasn’t about being religious, but about having a living relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for my sins on a cross. Consequently, salvation is a gift of God, by faith, not works. These truths transformed by perspective on life. My priority now is to live for the eternal, and not the temporal – to seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness (Matt.6:33) – and to serve God in the present, together with my family, with the prayer that we will do much good for God and His Kingdom during our brief earthly pilgrimage to a certain and eternal glory.
And the Se7en + 1th question…
Strive, by God’s grace, first and foremost to be a growing Christian. This will make you a better husband and father, or wife and mother.
We were given a copy of Mark by the Book: A New Multidirectional Method for Understanding the Synoptic Gospels (Peter W. Smuts) to review and GiveAway, buy our Sunday Snippet Book Donors: Christian Book Discounters. This GiveAway works in the usual way, comment before the end of this coming Sunday, 5 June 2013, and we will draw and publish the winners the following week.
I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway. Our GiveAways are open to everyone, that is worldwide. If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!
I would like to say thank you to Peter Smuts, who spent time answering all our interview questions. As usual we were not paid to write this post and any opinions expressed are entirely our own. I should add that while the book is available online in Kindle and paperback version, it is also available locally from our Sunday Snippet Book Donor: