While the majority of academics won't - or can't - write for a popular audience, Scot McKnight is willing and able. And in The Blue Parakeet (Zondervan, 2008), he opens the complex issue of biblical interpretation to the uninitiated with a great deal of grace.
Because the issue is complex, I'm going to tackle this review in two parts. In this one, I'll just describe the book. Next time I'll identify what I consider its key strengths and weaknesses.
I'll let the author tell you how the blue parakeet became his metaphor for exegesis. For now, suffice it to say that the bird represents biblical passages (and even personal experiences) that "make us think all over again about how we are reading the Bible." For example, evangelicals tend to be fairly lax about resting on the Sabbath (whether we observe the right day is another question). Yet right in the Decalogue God says, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." Our task as Bible readers is to decide whether this is a valid command for today or a context-specific regulation that we can more or less ignore. How you answer that question says a lot about your understanding of biblical interpretation.
And that appears to be the primary objective of McKnight's book: to help the reader recognize that all of us pick and choose which of the Bible's commands apply to us and which ones do not. In other words, the book is not a how-to manual for exegesis. Instead, it offers insights into three foundational principles of biblical interpretation.
In the first section, McKnight identifies five approaches or shortcuts that cause Christians to misread the Bible. (Skye described these ably in his post on McKnight from Catalyst) McKnight's solution is reading the Bible as story. By this he means that the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation, tells a single story. Each of the 66 books in the middle serves as a wiki-story - an individual, unique retelling of this main story. Reading the Bible this way reminds us that God's revelation is dynamic; he spoke "in Moses' day in Moses' way," and "in Jesus' day in Jesus' way," and "in Paul's day in Paul's way." This is a key principle for McKnight, because it helps us understand why some commands apply for all time and others don't (this becomes clearer in the example below).
In his second section, McKnight explores what it means to "listen" to the Bible. He begins by making the excellent point that Christians must have a relationship with the person of God, not with the Bible itself:
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