Book Review: “Grasping God’s Word” by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays (2001)

“A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible”

Duvall and Hays’ Grasping God’s Word is a simplified yet thorough education in the mechanics of studying the Bible. Based off a four-step principle which then focuses on specific genres, Grasping teaches its readers the basics of approaching any passage in Scripture with the intent of understanding and applying it personally and corporately. The four steps which Grasping suggests every serious Bible reader must cover in his hermeneutics of a passage are these:

  • Grasping the text in their town – what did the text mean for the original author and his original audience?
  • Measuring the width of the river to cross – what separates us today from those original writers and readers?
  • Crossing the principlizing bridge – what timeless principles exist in this passage?
  • Grasping the text in my town – how can I apply those principles to my own life so that I learn from the text what the original audience learned?

Of the four textbooks on hermeneutics I have read in my life, Grasping has been by far the simplest and easiest to understand, despite its deceptively enormous size. Thus, I believe it could work well for early college, if not late high school, students. For a seminary textbook, it seemed almost too elementary, but honestly it came as a breath of fresh air amidst the other scholarly reads, for if the simplicity is correct in its approach, why hinder that with unnecessary difficulties? It seems that “scholarly” Bible study too often seeks deep theories and high verbage, all the while ignoring the simplicity of Scripture and overlooking the obvious applications that exist right on the surface. Grasping recognizes this potential fault in Bible study, and so it takes the student to a position of reading the text as the original audience might have understood it and as the author probably intended it, all the while seeking to dispel the cultural baggage Bible students naturally tend to bring to the Word.

While I did say that this textbook offered the most simple form of Bible study I have ever seen in a textbook, I did not say it is the simplest form out there. For that, I strongly suggest you search out your local Bible Study Fellowship group (men’s or women’s) and grab a copy of their two-page instructional on “Homiletics.” For me, this short-short method of Bible study has proven to be the most effective method I have ever experienced. If it were not copy-writ, I would share it with you now; but I guess you’ll just have to go seek it out yourself.

©2012 E.T.

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