I received this book as book review blogger for Book Sneeze. As one who thoroughly enjoys the topic of inerrancy, this new, hot-off-the-press addition to the divine inspiration library more than peaked my interest. With books like these, Hank Hanegraaff continues his reputation as the Bible Answer Man. I must admit, the cover of this book is pleasing and professional to look at…
…much better than some of the older, albeit well-written, works of the same category that were subject to the more disagreeable cover designs of the ’80s and ’90s.
As for the subject matter itself, this is an oft written subject. As it should be. What one believes to be true about the Bible in relation to God and in relation to its reliability in the truth it claims is foundational to salvation and to one’s approach to the Christian life.
Moving on to the table of contents one can already perceive our apologist’s approach – mnemonics. This can be expected for a book written by one who frequently answers basic questions about Christianity and wants to compile a book that is easy to remember and easy to recall information for apologetic use. This means several things. One, this book will give great, concise proofs for Biblical inspiration through topical acronyms. They won’t be complex or hard to understand. They will be recognizable and real. Two, it is a survey book. The self-same benefit is also a limiting factor. It won’t have extensive/comprehensive information for each of the proofs given for the Bible’s inspiration. They will be short and sweet, will provide some hard-hitting facts and examples, but there wont be much space dedicated to follow up. Further study will require other specialty books.
Now, for the meat and potatoes!
There are four main topics, each with their corresponding acronym: Manuscript (C.O.P.I.E.S.), Archaeology (S.P.A.D.E.), Prophecy (S.T.A.R.S.), and Scripture (L.I.G.H.T.S.).
Part One: Manuscript COPIES
Copyist Practices, Oral Culture, Papyrus and Parchment, Internal Evidence, External Evidence, Science of Textual Criticism.
Part Two: Archaeologist’s SPADE
Steles and Stones, Pools and Fools, Assyrian Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, Epic of Gilgamesh.
Part Three: Prophetic STARS
Succession of Nations, Typological Prophesy, Abomination of Desolation, Resurrection Prophesies, Superstar ABC’s.
Part Four: Scriptural LIGHTS
Literal Principle, Illumination Principle, Grammatical Principle, Historical Principle, Typology Principle, Synergy Principle.
If there was one easy way how to describe the so-called ‘errors’ in the Bible, explaining them through a succession of principles was the best form I can think of. Though ‘easy’ is a misnomer because there is no simple and easy way to academically provide the evidence for the reliability of a historical document. There is no way to give 100% proof to describe away what was actually said or written on our manuscripts. That is because language cannot be nailed to a wall so objectively, not now, not two-thousand years ago. The way people think, talk, and write are governed by the copious principles by which they perceive the world, and such a thing is dramatically different today than it was back in Bible times. But those are the exact factors which we need to examine more closely in order to understand where our perceived ‘discrepancies’ are actually nothing more than preconceived biases. And the four parts of Hanegraaff’s book do well to cover a majority of the salient evidences available. This is the stuff students could spend an entire graduate degree studying, so this summary is valuable to the lay Christian desiring to have a backdrop.
There have been many negative reviews about this book. Some say he bashed other religions and authors too much. That is probably true. It isn’t the place for a survey book to attempt to make any hard-hitting claims about the opposition. It is better to leave that to the academics writing academic books where more detailed and documented evidences can be cited and extracted. As I read through chapter to chapter I found myself feeling a sense of deja-vu because he quotes and re-quotes the opposition ad nauseam. Again, I understand that Hanegraaff decided to take a more apologetic approach to this subject matter, however, the portions where he describes the opposition and makes to refute them were more distracting than helpful in this case, and I think I would have enjoyed the book more had he stuck to the facts and simply integrated dissenting views with brief transitional rebuttals where they fit naturally in the text.
Other reviews complain about the nature of the book, that it is a basic survey book. That is unwarrented. The book had a specific audience and purpose, and it was written to that end. There is no need to criticize that.
As a survey book, this is a wonderful introduction into the Bible’s divine inspiration. Granted, it will require other resources for further research and study. I would recommend the following if you want to dig even deeper after reading Hanegraaff’s book:
1.) Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, by Erwin Lutzer (basic)
2.) Biblical Inspiration, by I. Howard Marshall (basic)
3.) A General Introduction to the Bible: From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations, by David Ewert (medium)
4.) Inerrancy, edited by Norman Geisler (advanced)
5.) Systematic Theology, Part 1 – The Doctrine of the Word of God, by Wayne Grudem (advanced)