Book Review - He Gave Us Stories

Simon Vibert

The Ten Second Summary

What is it? “He gave us Stories” by Richard Pratt (P&R publishing 1990)  [ISBN: 0-87552-379-X]

What’s it about? How to faithfully interpret and apply biblical narrative

Who’s it for? Preachers concerned to make Bible stories live, or seeking a consistent approach to application; but not for beginners.

What’s it like? Nothing else like it on biblical application, a bit like “The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text” by Sidney Greidanus on insights into narrative.

Best insight? That the OT intends to have informative, directive and affective implications – some of it you will not understand as God intends until you feel it!

Favourite quote? “In a word, contemporary trends in hermeneutics not only take the reader into the world of the Bible, they also strive to bring the Bible into the world of the reader.”

One line summary? Does for hermeneutics what John Frame has done for theology.

How do you rate it? *****

Sell it to me?

Pratt take seriously the reformed concern for the whole of life engaging with the Word of God, and using a framework familiar to those who are fans of John Frame, expounds a triad that lies at the heart of hermeneutics, which most books on the subject do not properly acknowledge.

The first section, a quarter of the book, expounds a theology of preparation, exploring the dynamic between the Holy Spirit’s work and the providences by which God shapes each biblical interpreter uniquely. Arguing for a basic authority-dialogue approach to the text, to avoid the pitfalls of subjectivism or objectivism, but positively acknowledges how Christian living, Christian community and Exegesis provide us with our orientation towards the text.

The second section, taking up half the book, gives an excellent analysis of biblical narrative, exploring the tools by which faithful exegesis may be undertaken, including characterisation, scene depiction, structure, audience and the writer’s intention. These are well illustrated from the text, and a helpful reference for those wishing to understand the real depths of biblical narrative.

The final section, the last quarter, expounds a clear theology of application, relevant not only to biblical narrative, but all biblical preaching. He recognises and articulates the influence of the epochal adjustments, cultural variations, and even the unique providence of our own personal make-up, and how to let these have a right influence and guide in applying the text for the purpose God has for us. It is worth the price of the book just to get preachers thinking through this area theologically.

Overall, while this book is not for the fainthearted, it is well written, systematically presented and will stimulate any serious bible scholar or preacher in their approach to biblical narrative generally, and the need to be faithful in biblical application in particular.