How to Read a Book Better

Kindle-Reading

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren have done us a tremendous favor in supplying us with several excellent rules for reading.

They are as follows:

  1. Classify the book according to the kind and subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about with the upmost brevity.
  3. Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author has tried to solve.
  5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words.
  6. Grasp the author’s leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences.
  7. Know the author’s arguments, by finding them in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences.
  8. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and of the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.
  9. Do not begin criticism until you have completed your outline and your interpretation of the book. (Do not say you agree, disagree, or suspend judgment, until you can say “I understand.”)
  10. Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously.
  11. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make.
  12. Show wherein the author is uniformed.
  13. Show wherein the author is misinformed.
  14. Show wherein the author is illogical.
  15. Show wherein the author’s analysis or account is incomplete.

Bonus: The four questions you should ask of any book.

  1. What is the book about as a whole?
  2. What is being said in detail, and how?
  3. Is the book true, in whole or part?
  4. What of it?

All of these rules and questions are wonderfully illuminated in their classic work How to Read a Book. Check it out.

Fallen Angels in Genesis

This post is overdue. I’ve been meaning to write it. I just haven’t.

SONY DSC

Honestly, it’s a strange topic. But here we go…

I have changed my understanding of Genesis six and the question of angels having sexual relations with humans.

What I Thought

The passage in question reads this way:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4 ESV)

In a previous post, which, interestingly enough, has become the most viewed post of all-time at Hobo Theology (probably in part because of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah movie), I said:

The details from the text are so scant that it seems excessive to read into this brief allusion a story of demonic, half-breed angel children. This interpretation would also introduce all kinds of theological complications with regards to materiality/immateriality of angels and the fate of these offspring. As renowned Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch point out, “the expression ‘sons of God’ cannot be elucidated by philological means, but must be interpreted by theology alone.5 In other words, there’s more to consider here than just vocabulary and grammar. We must consider if our interpretation is in keeping with the theology of the whole Bible.6

So who were the Nephilim? It seems most likely the Nephilim were not giants or superhumanish angel offspring. They were simply a mighty warrior clan.

But there was a problem with my reading of the text. I was reading it independent of Jude.

What I Now Think

Nearly a year later, I found myself preparing to teach Jude for a college retreat. As I immersed myself in Jude, I became convinced my previous interpretation of Genesis six could not be right. This is a great example of “Me versus the Bible.” Sometimes I want the Bible to say something else, but I can’t with intellectual integrity get it to bend. As much as I’d prefer a neater, less weird explanation, I can’t get there, not reading Jude at least.

Jude writes:

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:6-7 ESV)

So several details became apparent in looking at Jude. Thomas Schreiner in his commentary of Jude provides an excellent summary of these points (my formatting):

We can be almost certain that Jude referred here to the sin of the angels in Gen 6:1-4. The sin the angels committed, according to the Jewish tradition, was sexual intercourse with the daughters of men. Apparently Jude also understood Gen 6:1-4 in the same way. Three reasons support such a conclusion. First, Jewish tradition consistently understood Gen 6:1-4 in this way (1 En. 6-19; 21; 86-88; 106:13-17; Jub 4:15, 22; 5:1; CD 2:17-19; 1QapGen 2:1; T. Reu. 5:6-7; T. Naph. 3:5; 2 Bar. 56:10-14; cf. Josephus, Ant. 1.73). Second, we know from vv. 14-15 that Jude was influenced by 1 Enoch, and 1 Enoch goes into great detail about the sin and punishment of these angels. Jude almost certainly would need to explain that he departed form the customary Jewish view of Gen 6:1-4 if he disagreed with Jewish tradition. The brevity of the verse supports the idea that he concurred with Jewish tradition. Third, the text forges a parallel between the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels (“In a similar way,” v. 7; hos and ton homoion tropon toutois). The implication is that sexual sin was prominent in both instances.1

I wish I could quote the full discussion that follows in his commentary. Some great stuff in there. He even mentions the origins of the now-famous “Watchers” in Jewish literature. But you’ll have to buy his book. Anyway, the short of the discussion is simply that there’s no way Jude didn’t think angels had sexual relations with humans.

A couple quick side notes. This explains in part why antediluvian earth was so exceedingly wicked and worthy of total destruction. As for the reference to the Nephilim in Numbers 13, it is likely this is a hyperbolic comparison. The Israelites compare themselves to grasshoppers and the Canaanites to giants (Nephilim). And for those who wonder if this kind of unnatural union could still occur, the answer is most certainly no. Remember, Jude said these offenders were locked up until the day of judgment.

Soooooo…..

Who are the Nephilim? I don’t know. Maybe they are the product of the unnatural union between angels and humans. Or maybe they were just mighty warriors as MacArthur supposes (which would explain Numbers 13 in a different way). But regardless, Jude clearly affirms that at one point in human history angels had sexual relations with women. Does this seem a little farfetched? Yes. But this is what the Bible teaches, and “my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

  1. Thomas R. Schreiner, The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2003), 447-448. []

Knowing God Takes Time

53H

“God, however, cannot be downloaded as can the reams of information we have at our fingertips from the Internet. Acquiring information is one thing. Understanding it is another. Learning to become wise by incorporating that information into a framework of understanding, and doing so before God, is yet something else. This, like many other things of value in life, takes time. There are no shortcuts here. Instantaneous knowledge from the Internet is one thing. Learning to know God is quite different. The knowledge of God is, in fact, a lifetime pursuit, not some instantaneous download. God has made himself known in Scripture, but we need to learn how to walk with him through life in the light of what we known of him. This journey never ends until, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we finally cross the great river and are welcome to the shores of eternity and the presence of God . Can we, then, set aside the impatience that the Internet tends to breed, and the habits of being distracted which our highly compacted modern lives create, in order to focus on what really matters?

“I am confident we can.”

David Wells, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 38.

The Coolest Bible Ever

I love it when someone rethinks an old convention. Adam Lewis Greene has done that with his new printing of the Bible. The project is called Bibliotheca. And the goal is to produce a Bible that is physically and typographically elegant and beautiful and therefore more enjoyable to read.

Check out his pitch video. You will quickly get sucked into the vision for the project.

Bibliotheca Kickstarter from Good. Honest. on Vimeo.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a four volume Bible? Would the change in formatting help you read the Bible? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Update: This project is catching the attention of many. Here are some thoughts from others: