More times than not I see many people misapplying scripture to aid them in their present context. I’ve encountered several instances where a westernized reading of scripture has fogged the context of the Biblical author’s intended understanding of the text which, unfortunately, consistently leads to misapplication. Optimistically speaking, (or as a pessimist would detest- unrealistically speaking) that the progress of technology continues to make tools and resources easily accessible and readily available to prevent future interpretive errors such as this. Be that as it may, misapplying scripture, whether innocent or intentional, should be addressed with a plethora of grace in all circumstances. Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions is a book seeking to alleviate some of the misunderstanding developed from misinterpretation.
Written by David Croteau (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Professor of NT and Greek in the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University), this is book is both fun and easy to read! Each common misconception is given a chapter, and each chapter is laid out to consist of no more than 5-8 pages. Some of the misconceptions discussed are
- Was Jesus really a carpenter?
- Was Paul a Tentmaker? (should ministers/pastors be paid for ministry?)
- Did Jesus die at age 33?
- Did Jesus really sweat drops of blood?
- Is money evil?
- Was there really no room for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the inn?
There were a few things that stood out to me about Croteau’s work, the first being the unique emphasis on the subject of hermeneutics. I have never read, let alone seen another book out there like this in that the hermeneutical emphasis is ironically subliminal (if that’s possible). By this I mean that Croteau provides historical and cultural understanding to each misconception without marketing the book as a “How To…” book on hermeneutics. The list of misconceptions aren’t new ideas in the world of evangelical scholarship (you could probably find all of them in any commentary, introduction, or survey book); this, however, looks over misconceptions throughout the New Testament, so it isn’t exclusive to a topic, idea, character, or genre as one might find in a commentary or introduction. Additionally, the book’s format provides the reader with an easy way to navigate the arguments of each misconception. To obtain this from commentaries, even the cheapest and most basic of commentaries, the total cost would still be right around $100, whereas this book is only $14.99 from B&H Publishing’s online store, here is a link.
I also enjoyed the annotated bibliography at the end of each chapter. Dr. Croteau provides further resources pertaining to each passage, and comments on each of them so you know if they’re worth purchasing or not. The annotated bibliography is also what led me to further research for my Lukewarm Blogpost (click here if you’d like to read it). B&H does this in their Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament Series as well, which was even more helpful with those considering they deal with the Greek language exclusively. I hope this is something they start including for all of their academic works because the diversity of resources is incredibly beneficial for further Biblical/Theological study.
I found Croteau to be very generous and compassionate towards those who have fallen privy to these misconceptions as well as an exemplar of scriptural integrity. This is the most affordable book I’ve reviewed, and would love to see many engage with its principals. Honestly, I would love to have this book be in the Recommendations section of my blog (if I ever install the menu button for it). Whether you are preparing a sermon, writing a devotional blogpost, or just looking for a passive aggressive gift for your pastor, this book is a very fun read I highly recommend. I am certain you will enjoy it!
***Disclaimer- I received a review copy of this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are my own, and were not influenced by their provisional review copy.