A Review of Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s Word

July 14, 2010

Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s Word
©2010 by Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach
Published by Crossway
158 pages

My maternal grandfather never finished the eighth grade. But like many of his generation, what he lacked in book smarts he made up in practical skills. He was a jack-of-all-trades. His garage looked like a hardware store. When the Lord called him home, he had more than enough tools to spread around to his three grandsons. In fact, in the twenty-five years since he died, I have had to buy very few tools. Unfortunately I don’t know what to do with most of the tools in my toolbox. Handyman I am not.

Thankfully I am little handier with the sixteen tools in Beynon & Sach’s toolbox. Regardless of your interpretive skills however, this book is worth reading. The authors, who both minister in Great Britain, have written an easy to read, very practical manual on how to understand the Bible better. They sharpened these tools while working with college age students. I believe students even younger would be able to profit from this book.

Their high view of scripture is demonstrated while describing “some of the joys of understanding the Bible correctly:
• You hear the voice of your heavenly Father speaking to you in the Bible
• You learn what he is really like from his own lips…
• You discover the wonderful truth of salvation and how to be sure of heaven
• You find out things that are on God’s heart…
• The truth actually changes you. Get this: it doesn’t just inform you of things, it does things in you.” (p. 12)

The sixteen tools that will help you dig deeper are: The Author’s Purpose, Context, Structure, Linking Words, Parallels, Narrator’s Comment, Vocabulary, Translations, Tone and Feel, Repetition, Quotation/Allusion, Genre, Copycat, The Bible Time Line, Who Am I? And So What? Each tool gets its own chapter and includes examples and exercises.

“Author’s Purpose is king. It is the tool par excellence, the Swiss army knife from which all of the other tools fold out, and which keeps them all together. In some ways, the whole point of having a Repetition tool or a Linking Word tool or any other tool is to help you to get a hold of the Author’s Purpose. Never forget it!” (p. 30)

Next comes the Context tool. Beynon and Sach contrast reading an encyclopedia and a novel. Many people read the Bible like an encyclopedia, but it should be read more like a novel because context matters. This is seen in the Linking Word tool. “If, since, consequently, for this reason, therefore, because, so that – these are all linking words and they’re worth their weight in gold. These words can help us to see the flow of an argument; they reveal cause and effect relationships between different statements.” (p.49)

Although they recommend reading a variety of translations, they caution the reader to make sure they read at least one literal translation.

There is a statement that you should be aware of. While discussing the Genre tool they state that Genesis chapter one is controversial because of the debate “on whether the creation in six days refers to a literal period of 6 x 24 hours, or whether it is a poetic way of speaking about the careful ordered way in which God made the universe.” (p.105)

The only tool that left me conflicted was the Copycat tool. In fact, the authors seem to be a little tentative on it themselves. They start with a caveat. “Not everything done by a Bible character is good. And even good things they do are not always normative; that is, they may not hold for all Christians at all times.” “To put this another way, there is a danger in mistaking something that the Bible describes for something that it prescribes.” (p.112)

Perhaps a check against abusing the Copycat tool is the Who am I? tool. By this they mean who am I in relation to the text. They warn against the “Moses-is-me syndrome.” We all have a tendency to make ourselves the hero of the story. “But we shouldn’t have to think very hard before we realize that none of us is the king who defeats God’s enemies and rules over God’s people (David), or the mediator who led his people out of slavery (Moses), or the one with the power to heal lepers or raise the dead (Elisha). There is someone else who fits those descriptions much better than we do!” (p. 128) Of course they are referring to Christ.

In conclusion, Beynon and Sach remind us that we must ask ourselves “So What?” All the Bible knowledge in the world is useless if it doesn’t impact our lives. I believe that if a believer will start using these tools as she reads the bible, there will be a greater potential for that change.

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