“Scripture is a spring of life-giving, life-altering truth, but when we don’t understand how and why it came to us, we end up misusing it.”
How did we get the Bible? And why does it matter? History reveals that Scripture can be used for both life-giving and destructive purposes. Discovering the Bible’s origins makes all the difference for fostering redemptive interpretation of Scripture. Bringing together both historical criticism and theology, this investigation examines ancient scribal culture through the lens of faith. What we find is a divine-human collaboration that points to the character of God and the value of human agency.
In this concise presentation of a breadth of scholarship usually only found across multiple volumes, Karen Keen offers a vital introduction to the material origins of the Bible, theories of inspiration, and the history of biblical interpretation—with reflections on what this all means for us as we read Scripture today. Through the ins and outs of these important topics, and with the aid of thought-provoking questions and learning activities at the end of each chapter, Keen argues that the Bible and its origins reveal a humble God who invites us to imitate that humility—a humility that is itself the most powerful antidote to the misinterpretation and abuse of Scripture.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Michael Graves Introduction Part One: The Making of the Bible 1. Context: People, Places and Times 2. A Community Project 3. Dynamic, Not Static 4. Bible Variety and Canonization Part Two: Inspiration 5. God and People Working Together 6. Inspiration and the Humility of God 7. Does God Speak Literally? Part 3: Interpretation 8. Interpretive Variety 9. Beyond Chronological Snobbery 10. Who You Are Matters 11. Learning Humility Together Notes Select Bibliography Indexes
Karen R. Keen (ThM, Duke Divinity School) is a biblical scholar, author, and spiritual care provider who has taught biblical and theological studies in both academic and church settings. She currently teaches classes and leads retreats through the Redwood Center for Spiritual Care and Education. You can find her online at karenkeen.com and redwoodspiritualc are.com.
“The Bible did not fall from the sky as a completed revelatory product. Karen Keen has provided a wide-ranging survey of the historical formation of Scripture as a ‘group project’ within the community of God’s people across many centuries. But she offers us something more than a historical overview. She also makes a striking theological proposal: that God’s choice to speak through these humanly written, edited, and transmitted scriptures is a clue about God’s humility (in keeping with Phil. 2:1–8). If so, the historically complex, dynamic character of the biblical canon discloses something crucial about the divine identity. At the same time, it also models how we might continue to receive and interpret these texts in Spirit-led humility and freedom.” —Richard B. Hays, Duke University
“In a market saturated with introductions to the theology of Scripture that reinforce longstanding battle lines through polemic and triumphalism, Karen Keen’s The Word of a Humble God refreshingly offers an accessible, charitable, and clarifying introduction to the origin, inspiration, and interpretation of the Bible. Covering a wide range of historical and theological subjects, Keen offers a creative perspective that will challenge readers across the theological spectrum to think more deeply about the Bible.” —D. Glenn Butner Jr., Sterling College
“As a pastor and church educator, I’ve read scores of books about the nature of the Bible. Karen’s The Word of a Humble God is the book I’ve long been looking for on how we got the Bible! Her book presents the making of the Bible, the nature of inspiration, and principles for interpretation, all in one volume! With an incredible talent for explaining complex topics like the Bible’s formation from oral tradition, initial manuscript traditions, authoritative scriptures, and canons of today, Karen once again does what she is so good at: succinctly explaining her thesis in accessible terms. . . . This book deserves a wide a readership—it’s a ‘must read’ for anyone new to Christianity or wanting to learn how God guided the process of forming his Scriptures! Highly recommended!” —Paul Spurlock, Twin Lakes Church
“Amidst the unsettling and sometimes culturally chaotic landscape of the twenty-first-century Christian religious reformation, Keen’s book offers pastors and teachers a timely and critically important framework for helping Christ-followers to evolve in their approach to biblical interpretation. Her proposal for a ‘Divine Humility View’ of Scripture is brilliant in that it provides the building blocks for that which is desperately needed in our time—a Christian theology of difference.” —Dan Collison, minister and civic leader
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