Friday, June 19, 2020

Review: The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation

For several years I have been trying to find a good Orthodox book on biblical studies that was not just warmed over Protestant scholarship with a little Orthodoxy sprinkled on top, but I could find any such text (at least in English) until now. Dr. Mary Ford's book "The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation," does an excellent job of explaining the Orthodox approach to scripture, in contrast to contemporary Protestant scholarship. It beautifully explains the historic approach of the Fathers of the Church to scripture, and also critically examines the origins and assumptions behind the historical-critical approach to scripture which is most common in contemporary academia.

Discovering the assumptions behind the historical-critical method played a big role in my own conversion to the Orthodox Faith, because even as a Protestant, it was apparent that these assumptions were not Christian in origin. Two texts that I think lay out this history well are "Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700," by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker; and "The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies," by Michael C. Legaspi. I would still recommend both of these books to those who want to really dig into this subject, but with far fewer pages, Dr. Ford makes a similar case, but in a way that is easier to understand for the average reader, and far more likely to actually be read by such people.

Dr. Ford goes on to explain how Orthodox Christians can make discerning use of Protestant biblical scholarship, while remaining faithful to the patristic approach to Scripture. This book is, at least to my knowledge, the best book on the scriptures currently available in English, and one I would recommend to any Orthodox Christian who wants to learn more about how to interpret the Scriptures... which should be everyone.

For more information, see:

Orthodox Biblical Interpretation and Protestant Biblical Scholarship