In How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets, Peter Gentry hopes to help readers learn how to appreciate biblical prophetic literature as intended by the biblical authors. The author’s main premise is that we often employ a Western perspective to interpret the Bible in a logical manner which inadvertently leads us to draw erroneous conclusions on what the text is saying. Instead, Gentry advises that we should become acquainted with the Eastern background, culture, and language that the biblical authors were immersed in so that we can appropriately comprehend what is trying to be conveyed not only in the individual words but also the literary form of the original text. Instead of being a step-by-step handbook or a scholarly textbook, the book is a short collection of specific topics that the author believes would be instrumental to help readers grasp the basic elements of his suggested approach. The first two chapters involve using a redemptive-historical lens in reading the prophets that centers upon the covenants that God established with mankind that points to the future restoration of all things through Christ. Chapter 3 concerns the repetitive nature of Hebrew literature that serves as the key underlying literary structure in various genres in the Bible but especially prominent in the prophets. Chapter 4 considers the relationship between the oracles concerning foreign nations and how these prophecies connect with God’s grand plan of redemption and restoration. The last three chapters deal with specific issues in understanding future predictions including the use of types and antitypes, apocalyptic language, and short-term/long-term fulfillment of prophecies. The book concludes with an appendix that examines the literary structure of Revelation as a fitting case study to tie in the ideas presented throughout the chapters.
I would gladly recommend this book to all those who struggle in reading the biblical prophets. Although the topic may be relatively dry for most readers, the author is able to keep the concepts simple and illustrations concise so that a wide audience can appreciate the helpful pointers and illustrative examples presented. I concur with Gentry that many contemporary Christians use a Western, post-Enlightenment perspective in reading the Bible that ends up extinguishing the literary beauty and wisdom of God’s written revelation. Moreover, I would argue that in addition to equipping ourselves with the right tools to study Scripture, we need to also foster a love for reading the entire counsel of God with joy, marvel, and expectation as His Word is the primary means by which we can taste and see that the Lord is good.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.