The Book Report:Rightly Dividing Biblical History

A journalist makes a case for Scripture's reliability.

Jeffery Sheler's book is not interested in ascertaining whether Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life." But Sheler does want to learn "whether he might have said he is." His book is about the history in the Bible, about the evidence and arguments used to verify that history, about what can be proved, and with what probability. Ultimately, though, it is this commitment to historical inquiry that gives Is the Bible True? a certain apologetic value.

Sheler, a religion writer at U.S. News & World Report for the last nine years and a correspondent for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS, is not a biblical scholar, but he has read widely from most sides of any debate he treats. He brings to his task an admirable ability to write lucid prose without technical jargon. An ordained elder at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., Sheler remains true to his journalistic trade and presents his arguments as the dispassionate observer, the even-handed evaluator.

The book is divided into six parts, beginning with a discussion of canon, as well as authorship and source theories. Sheler tends toward conservative conclusions without being dogmatic. For example, Moses himself is at the core of the Pentateuch, even if some later editors updated some strands of these books. The canonical gospels are formally anonymous, but the early patristic evidence assigning the traditional authors to them cannot be ignored.

Regarding the disputed Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, he notes: "Modern scholarship remains divided over these questions. But barring firm proof to the contrary—proof that to date has not been shown to exist—it seems reasonable to take the letters at their word as having come from the hand, or at ...

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The Book Report:Rightly Dividing Biblical History
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May 22, 2000

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