The Bible Jesus Read

The Bible Jesus Read

by Philip Yancey


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Philip Yancey has a way of confronting our most cherished but misguided notions about faith. In The Bible Jesus Read, he challenges the perception that the New Testament is all that matters and the Old Testament isn’t worth taking the time to read and understand. Yancey admits that, like many Christians, he usually avoided the Old Testament. After all, why bother with writings that can be so baffling, boring, even offensive to the modern mind? But a surprising discovery awaited Yancey when he began to explore how the Old Testament related to his life today. Those seemingly irrelevant Hebrew Scriptures took on a startling immediacy, portraying a passionate relationship between God and people against the broad backdrop of human experience. Like nothing else, the Old Testament depicts the cries, the complaints, the deep, insistent questionings of the heart, the stuff of life we all must contend with. With his candid, signature style, Yancey interacts with the Old Testament from the perspective of his own deeply personal journey. From Moses, the amazing prince of Egypt, to the psalmists’ turbulent emotions and the prophets’ oddball rantings, Yancey paints a picture of Israel’s God—and ours—that fills in the blanks of a solely New Testament vision of the Almighty. Probing some carefully selected Old Testament books—Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Prophets—Yancey reveals how the Old Testament deals in astonishing depth and detail with the issues that trouble us most. The Old Testament in fact tackles what the New Testament often only skirts. But that shouldn’t surprise us. It is, after all, the Bible Jesus read. The Bible Jesus Read will give you abundant new insights into the heart of God the Father. And as you read with a fresh eye the prayers, poems, songs, and bedtime stories that Jesus so revered, you will gain a profound new understanding of Christ. "The more we comprehend the Old Testament," Yancey writes, "the more we comprehend Jesus."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310245667
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 12/17/2001
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 189,652
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado. Learn more at

Read an Excerpt

My brother, who attended a Bible college during a very smart-alecky phase in his life, enjoyed shocking groups of believers by sharing his life verse. After listening to others quote pious phrases from Proverbs, Romans, or Ephesians, he would stand and with a perfectly straight face recite very rapidly this verse from 1 Chronicles 26: 18: At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar. Other students would screw up their faces and wonder what deep spiritual insight they were missing. Perhaps he was speaking another language?

If my brother felt in a particularly ornery mood, he would quote an alternative verse: ;Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones; (Ps. 137: 9).

In his sassiness my brother had, quite ingeniously, identified the two main barriers to reading the Old Testament: It doesn't always make sense, and what sense it does make can offend modern ears. Why, we wonder, does the Bible spend so much time on temples, priest, and rules governing sacrifices that no longer exist? Why does God care about defective sacrificial animals-limping lambs and bent-winged doves-or about a young goat cooked in its mother's milk, and yet apparently not about people like the Amalekites? Jesus we identify with, the apostle Paul we think we understand; but what of those barbaric people living in the Middle East several thousand years ago?

Because of this, most people simply avoid the Old Testament entirely, leaving three-fourths of the Bible unread, while others extract nuggets of truth from it like plucking diamonds from a vein of coal. That technique can backfire, however-remember my brother's life verses.

Like reading Shakespeare

For a long time I also avoided the Old Testament. Only gradually, once I started reading it in earnest, did I learn to love it. I confess that I began with ignoble motives: I read the Old Testament because I was paid to, as part of my editorial assignment to produce the Student Bible. But long after the Student Bible had been published and stocked on bookstore shelves, I kept returning to the Old Testament on my own. My reading experience parallels one I had with William Shakespeare. In a moment of idealism, I made a New Year's resolution to real all 38 of Shakespeare's plays in one year. To my surprise, fulfilling the task (though I had to extend the deadline) seemed far more like entertainment than work. At first I would have to look up archaic words, concentrate on keeping the characters straight, and adjust to the sheer awkwardness of reading plays. I found, though, that as I kept at it and got accustomed to the rhythm and language, these distractions faded and I felt myself being swept up in the play. Without fail I looked forward to the designated Shakespeare evenings.

I expected to learn about Shakespeare's world and the people who inhabited it. I found, though, that Shakespeare mainly taught me about my world. He endures as a playwright because of his genius in probing the hidden recesses of humanity, a skill that gives him appeal in places as varied as the United States, Japan, and Peru several centuries after his death. We find ourselves in his plays.

I went through precisely that same process in encountering the Old Testament. From initial resistance, I moved to a reluctant sense that I ought to read the neglected three-quarters of the Bible. As I worked past some of the barriers, I came to feel a need to read, because of what it was teaching me. Eventually, I found myself wanting to read it. Those 39 books satisfied in me some hunger that nothing else had-not even, I must say, the New Testament. They taught me about life with God: not how it is supposed to work, but how it actually does work.

The rewards offered by the Old Testament do not come easily, I admit. Learning to feel at home in its pages will take time and effort. All achievements-climbing mountains, mastering the guitar, competing in a triathlon-require a similar process of hard work; we persevere because we believe rewards will come.

A reader of the Old Testament confronts obstacles not present in other books. For example, I was put off at first by its disarray. The Old Testament does not read like a cohesive novel; it consists of poetry, history, sermons, and short stories written by various authors and mixed up together. In its time, of course, no one conceived the Old Testament as one book. Each book had its own scroll, and a long book like Jeremiah would occupy a scroll 20 or 30 feet long. A Jewish person entering a synagogue would see stacks of scrolls, not a single book, and, aware of their differences, would choose accordingly.

Yet I find it remarkable that this diverse collection of manuscripts written over a period of a millennium by several dozen authors possesses as much unity as it does. To appreciate this feat, imagine a book begun 500 years before Columbus and just now completed. The Bible's striking unity is one strong sign that God directed its composition. By using a variety of authors and cultural situations, God developed a complete record of what he wants us to know; amazingly, the parts fit together in such a way that a single story does emerge.

The more I persevered, the more passages I came to understand. And the more I understood, the more I found myself in those passages. Even in a culture as secular as the United States, bestsellers such as The Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore, and The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris, reveal a deep spiritual hunger. The Old Testament speaks to that hunger like no other book. It does not give us a lesson in theology, with abstract concepts neatly arranged in logical order. Quite the opposite: it gives an advanced course in Life with God, expressed in a style at once personal and passionate.

Table of Contents

1. Is the Old Testament Worth the Effort?
2. Job: Seeing in the Dark
3. Deuteronomy: A Taste of Bittersweet
4. Psalms: Spirituality in Every Key
5. Ecclesiastes: The End of Wisdom
6. The Prophets: God Talks Back
7. Advance Echoes of a Final Answer

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Bible Jesus Read 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yancey does it again, and this time on a subject near and dear to me: The Hebrew Cannon (AKA, the Old Testament, or TaNaK). Granted, it is not some great revelation into the theology of Jesus' day, but it was a good insight into how the TaNaK fits in with the B'rit Chadesha (New Testament), and even offers some attempt at bringing the two views of G-d together. Some people don't like the TaNaK because it deals with an angry G-d. To them, I suggest you read 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' by Jonathan Edwards (he was a pastor in the 1750's) and you'll see how recent this 'G-d is coated with sugar and wouldn't hurt a fly' theology is. Then, read Yancey again. Nothing he talks about is really all that easy to come to terms with, but, then again, neither was 'The Jesus I Never Knew' and it was still acclaimed. Perhaps it's the subject matter that trips people up. And because of that, I can't think of a reason not to read it.
Barrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent introduction to the relevancy of the Old Testament to the New Testament as well as insight into Jesus reading from the scrolls (the Old Testament) during his ministry on earth.
ByfordBaptist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this a really interesting and helpful book. The Old Testament is often ignored today, but I loved reading the narratives as a child. Had much less time for the poetry and Job just confused me. This book explains the context of a number of the most confusing books in the Old Testament, and Yancey gives suggestions that helped me understand and want to spend time rereading them.
ebnelson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿When we read the Old Testament ¿ these are the prayers Jesus prayed, the poems he memorized, the songs he sang, the bedtime stories he heard as a child, the prophecies he pondered.¿¿Old Testament is a testimonial letter of Christ, which he caused to be opened after his death and read and proclaimed everywhere through the Gospel¿ Marin LutherWe often poke and prod the text so much we forget to just sit back and allow the text to read us.That¿s what Philip Yancey does in his latest book, The Bible Jesus Read (Zondervan: 1999). After spending much of his Christian walk reading and re-reading the New Testament Yancey discovers the Old. Yancey chronicles his journey with what he felt were some of the hardest books to approach, yet the most rewarding.The wonderful simplicity of this book is that each book is approached on its own terms. Often biblical interpretations come with their own slant or bias. Within a page or two of almost every commentary readers can dismiss a book for being either too literal or too liberal.Never claiming to be a scholar, yet at the same time obviously well-read, Yancey approaches the text much like Prof. Terry Fretheim does in his Pentateuch course. He just looks at the texts as they are found on the page. His personal theological slant is a non-issue because when the Bible is read at this most basic level the issues that divide us never come up. Instead he finds the most basic human/God relational questions and explores them.Calling upon the most ecumenical of authors, e.g., Martin Luther, Thomas Merton, C. S. Lewis, Abraham Heschel, Jack Miles, Kathleen Norris and countless others, Yancey successfully bridges the chasm that denominationally and theologically separates American Christians.If the Old Testament has traditionally been difficult for you there is now a two-part solution. First, to cover the narrative aspects read Walter Wangerin¿s The Book of God (Zondervan: 1996) a modern, easy-to-read novelization of the Bible. Then approach the non-narrative aspects of the Scriptures¿or, if you already have the basic storyline down you can skip to this step¿read Yancey¿s book. Yancey brings his readers through seemingly random placed Psalms and confusing oracles of God to rediscover a God so loving it is no wonder Jesus quoted often from these books.Yancey looks at five books/areas of the Old Testament that are difficult for many Christians and in his very readable way, walks through the themes and issues he finds to be the most basic. The books he looks at are Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Prophets and claims these as his favorites.As he dives into these books he finds that the Old Testament God is in fact the same as the New once given a chance to be known. In fact, Yancey makes it clear to his New Testament biased audience that ¿we cannot understand the New Testament apart from the Old.¿He winnows away at the idea that God as portrayed in the Old Testament is somehow different or harsher than the new. Amazingly he does this without making the reader feel that this is Yancey¿s mission with this book. His only agenda seems to be to pass on the exciting experience he¿s had with the Old Testament in recent years. In fact, his approach to the Old Testament is so enlivening that it is possible for the Old Testament to move from a non-existent topic in your sermon writing to a regular feature.This book makes wonderful devotional reading, easy enough to be read even in the depths of the semester. It would also make a great book to use in a beginners¿ or intermediate level Bible study in the parish. It approaches the Bible in the same way most non-trained parishioners would, but with a responsibility one would expect from a trusted scholar. Yancey is a popular enough author that The Bible Jesus Read is available at almost every bookstore.
jd234512 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book that gives a picture of the holy book that Jesus would have had growing up and an idea of what it meant for the people at the time. Obviously, that world was very different from ours now, but in many respects the struggles that took place then we tend to find ourselves in as well. Yancey does a wonderful job of touching on this in a way that only he can.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yancey discusses the Old Testament, focusing on the books he has wrestled with over the years such as Job, the Psalms, Eccelesiastes, and a couple of others. He discusses the questions these books raised in his mind and some of the answers he has worked through. His style is very accessable and real and thought provoking.
rybeewoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yancey has a way of "communicating on my level". Very often I find that his struggles are my struggles. This book is no different. It's a very easy read, it's simple, and it's quite useful. As a negative, the book is not very in depth, almost simple minded in my opinion.
MarieFriesen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yancey is an astute author who challenges Christians' assumptions without alienating them. In The Bible Jesus Read, Yancey encourages readers to consider how Hebrew Scripture - what Christians call the Old Testament - is relevant to their own lives. His premise is that although many Christians tacitly consider the New Testament more important than the Old, the New Testament was written after Jesus' earthly ministry, making the Old Testament "the Bible Jesus read." Hebrew Scripture was the greatest influence on the mind and spirit of the founder of Christianity, a fact that, in the author's estimation, obligates Christians to know it well.
tntcase12 More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book on the recommendation of a friend who was having struggles with the necessity and relevance of the Old Testament in the lives of "New Testament saints." I read it in order to continue a dialog with her on this subject but was disappointed with it. Mr. Yancey covered five different books of the Old Testament and tried to show the relevance for today, but it was not as comprehensive as I expected and fell short of fulfilling his claim. I was especially disappointed with the chapter he devoted to the book of Deuteronomy and the "dramatization" of what Moses did and what his inner thoughts and motivations were. I recognize that there are some times when an author takes literary license to fill in the gaps of a historical story in order to round out the story, but Mr. Yancey goes beyond that and actually ascribes heart motivations and emotions to Moses that have no biblical foundation. In relaying the narrative of the story, he even states things that outright did not happen as he described and contradict Scripture when the true biblical account is read. It is one thing to take literary license when information is not in the original story description; it is quite another thing to blatantly change the true facts of a story from God's Word. I can understand when Hollywood does things like this, but I would expect someone who is a Christian and who has written other books on the Bible not to misquote/misrepresent what Scripture plainly states. I have recently begun reading a different book on this subject that I feel better covers the topic of the relevance of the Old Testament in light of the New Testament; it is called "Knowing Jesus Through The Old Testament" by Christopher J. H. Wright. I would recommend THIS book instead of the Phillip Yancey book.
VernonM More than 1 year ago
Tremendous book. Most instructive and inspiring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not reader but this book kept my attention. Reading the books of the Bible that are explored in this is good also.
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