Reviewed by Richard W. Medina, graduate student of Semitic languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, Italy.

Manfred T. Brauch wrote Abusing Scripture with evangelicals in mind. Within this tradition, the author identifies, in every chapter, misinterpretations of Scripture along with their negative consequences centered on three matters: (1) the use and justification of force and violence in human affairs; (2) the relationship between men and women in home, church, and society; and (3) the concern for justice and sanctity of life in human relationships, institutions, and cultures.

Chapter 1, “The Nature of Scripture,” presents the intention of Scripture and its incarnational character as the backbone of trustworthy interpretation. According to Brauch, the purpose of the Bible is to proclaim Jesus and His good news, whereas its nature is fully human and fully divine. He appears to use the terms gospel and Scripture synonymously (45). I find his Christological hermeneutic to be problematic, for I believe not all texts can be read through Christocentric lenses—opening the door to Scripture reduction and eisegesis.

Chapter 2, “The Abuse of the Whole Gospel,” speaks of abuse when the two dimensions—personal and social—of the gospel are not accomplished: the first is the proclamation of Jesus as Savior, the second is the social engagement in ministries and acts of compassion.

Chapter 3, “The Abuse of Selectivity,” discusses the misuse of particular texts to justify abusive actions or behaviors linked to submission to governing authorities, the hierarchical model of men over women, and the relationship between obedience and prosperity/blessing.

Chapter 4, “The Abuse of Biblical Balance,” deals with the overemphasis of certain biblical doctrines or teachings: among these are the sins of the flesh, the quest for correct beliefs, and the passion for truth and ethical enthusiasm.

Chapter 5, “The Abuse of Words,” studies words or expressions that have been misunderstood, such as the woman as the man’s helper (Genesis 2), the meaning of “Adam,” the cursedness of pain and toil (Genesis 3), the use of “head” and “flesh” in Paul’s writings, etc. In my opinion, this chapter represents the greatest contribution of the book. As a New Testament scholar, Brauch presents a sound and comprehensive analysis of these difficult terms.

Chapters 6 and 7, “The Abuse of Context” from various perspectives, explore several passages (e.g. Matt. 26:52; Zech. 2:8) that have been misread to justify war or the death penalty in our present time as well as support a theological view (cf. Prov. 29:18; Isa. 61:10; Hos. 4:6; Acts 2:4; etc.). On the other hand, the author attempts to define which Old Testament laws are historically and culturally relevant and irrelevant for the Christian practice today. For instance, he argues that Jesus relativized the observance of the Sabbath law, the ingestion of clean and unclean foods, and retributive justice. Brauch, trapped by his Christological hermeneutic, cannot provide an objective and solid discussion here.

In general, the volume appeals to the evangelical community to rethink their reading of Scripture and agenda focusing on social matters. This book could have been written in fewer pages; it is dense, often redundant. In the same way, I find his suggestions to avoid scriptural abuse in every chapter excessive. For someone interested in how to understand polemical biblical texts, this book can be a starting point.


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Reviewed by Richard W. Medina, graduate student of Semitic languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, Italy.

November 2010

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