“We are meant to take the Bible seriously, not literally.” —from the Introduction
In Even the Devil Quotes Scripture, Robyn J. Whitaker looks to the Bible as a guide to interpreting the Bible, and her findings breathe new life into our understanding and use of Scripture. As it turns out, the uses of Scripture within Scripture are flexible, open to frequent reinterpretation, and rarely literal.
For instance, Ezra and Nehemiah reinterpret laws about whether Jews can marry foreigners in the wake of the Babylonian exile. Their contradiction of earlier traditions found in Deuteronomic law do not invalidate Scripture but rather represent its diverse applications for the prophets’ specific situations. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus presents a more demanding interpretation of Mosaic law in the Sermon on the Mount, while in Mark’s Gospel he all but ignores its prohibition of working on the Sabbath. Yet the common ethos of the two gospels prioritizes compassion over legalism.
Ultimately, Whitaker ascertains one definitive characteristic of inner-biblical interpretation: love. After all, the Old Testament passage most frequently quoted in the New Testament is Leviticus 19:18: “Love thy neighbor.” Thus, Whitaker proposes a hermeneutic of love—a litmus test for the validity of a scriptural interpretation measured in charity. Ideal for any devoted reader of the Bible, Even the Devil Quotes Scripture opens our eyes to the Bible as a living, loving gift of God’s unfolding revelation.
Table of Contents
1. What Is the Bible?
2. Bible Interpreting Bible?
3. Stories That Invite Conversation
4. Scripture Rewriting Scripture
5. Jesus as Interpreter
6. A Hermeneutic of Love
7. Reading the Bible for Love
“Robyn Whitaker’s lucid and highly personal book urges the reader to let the Bible be what it is rather than force it into preconceived categories and to keep in mind that the goal of interpretation is love. This engaging book should be read by any student embarking on the study of the Bible, especially those who come from a conservative background and are anxious about the effects of critical scholarship.”
—John J. Collins
“Whitaker invites us to let the breath of God breathe when we read the Bible, speaking to us today not as propositional one-liners but as an unfolding story of God’s love for humanity. Whitaker deftly shows us the ways in which this hermeneutic of love is modeled for us throughout Scripture and gives us key insights on how to interpret the Bible today. This book is a critically important resource for any Christian who wants to encounter God’s love as it is unfolding in history in our present moment.”
University of Dayton
“This unique book integrates Whitaker’s impressive academic expertise with everyday matters of faith and applies both to reading the Bible and to discerning how God continues to speak to God’s people through this living, dynamic sacred text. Whitaker explores what we can learn about how to interpret the Bible from the Bible itself with the premise that anyone can quote the Bible—even the devil—but that doesn’t mean one is correct. In a world keen on proof-texting and my-way-or-the-highway, Whitaker challenges the ways the Bible is used to condemn and exclude and advocates replacing such use with a hermeneutic of love, inviting readers deeper into conversation with God and following the example of Jesus. This book is a gift and excellent resource for the academy, the church, and, in Whitaker’s words, ‘those hovering around her edges.’”
University of Oxford
“Approachable, engaging, honest, and thoughtful are words I would use to recommend Robyn J. Whitaker’s Even the Devil Quotes Scripture to Christians wanting to know more about biblical interpretation. Drawing upon her own experiences, Whitaker’s invites readers to think about some of the Bible’s most puzzling pieces, such as contradicting stories and multiple versions of the same story. Throughout the book Whitaker models what she describes as a hermeneutic of love, a way of reading the Bible which privileges listening to others, doing no harm, and embracing compassion. This book will be an excellent resource for anyone teaching the Bible in congregational or seminary settings.”
The Englewood Review of Books
“A welcome, well-researched, compellingly argued perspective that is well worth wrestling with, particularly for those of us who come from traditions that, if we are honest, prioritized certainty and rigidity over love.”