Written by Johnson T.K. Lim Reviewed By Pekka Pitkänen

A Strategy for Reading Biblical Texts by Johnson Lim is a defence of an evangelical and canonical text-oriented reading of biblical texts in the light of current hermeneutical theory. The author starts by discussing the current hermeneutical climate, noting especially the impact of postmodern approaches. He then describes and critiques the four main approaches of interpretation, namely author-oriented, text-oriented, reader-oriented and deconstructionist approaches. He subsequently interacts with Hans Frei and especially Brevard Childs in order to speak against historical criticism and for an appropriation of the final from of biblical texts. A chapter that lays out guidelines for a text-oriented approach follows. Lim then makes a brief stand for the reliability of the present from of the OT text by looking at the textual history and the reliability of the Masoretes. Finally, the author suggests a number of guidelines for a positive attitude of reading biblical texts.

As a whole, the book makes a good read. It gives a positive impression, and is occasionally even entertaining. The author has an unashamedly evangelical approach, but this approach is expressed irenically and is unlikely to offend those who would think differently. The description of the various hermeneutical approaches has been done well and can be used beneficially by anyone wishing to get an idea of various approaches to interpretation. The book has many good insights and is very helpful as a guide to reading biblical texts from a religious and canonical perspective in the light of current hermeneutical theory. Also, that the book is short, make it easy to read. On the other hand, it must be said that the argumentation of the book cannot be considered watertight. For example, the author speaks against source criticism based on a text-oriented approach, but, at least for the sake of argument, why could not consider sources as texts? The author is also against extra-textual approaches based on canonicity and intra-textuality, but on the other hand speaks for interpreting texts based on understanding them in original context. These two stand in tension as the understanding of context utilises extra-textuality. In this respect, if the biblical text utilises sources, understanding the context of the sources would also help to understand the context and message of the final form of the text. On a minor note, the book would have benefited from a better copy editing as there are a numerous grammatical errors in the text. These errors make it difficult to understand some of the sentences, even if they do not hamper understanding the book as a whole. In addition, it would have been helpful if the book had included indexes.

Overall, this book makes a good buy for students and pastors who wish to get a better understanding of how to read the biblical texts from a religious viewpoint.

Pekka Pitkänen