We have all heard someone reference a verse to support something and then think to ourselves, or say to the person, “I don’t think that verse means what you think it means.” No doubt there are many usual suspects when it comes to verses in the Bible that are so twisted and mangled from their original context and meaning, that one wonders if the person citing them has even read the verse(s) in the Bible itself or just quoted on a picture they saw in a bookstore. There are entire books (which shall remain nameless) that are based on misinterpreting single verses. What’s worse, these books are purchased by the truckloads.
Seeking to unravel a number of misinterpreted verses in the New Testament, David A. Croteau, professor of New Testament and Greek at Columbia International University, has written Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions (B&H, 2015). Croteau takes 40 misunderstood verses from the NT and sets the record straight for those who are willing to hear.
Here are some examples of the passages Croteau takes on:
Matthew 18:20 – Is Jesus promising He will be with you when you pray with others or that He is with a churches decision to discipline an erring brother or sister in Christ?
Mark 6:3 – Was Jesus just a carpenter or was He actually skilled in working with more than just wood?
Luke 2:1-7 – Was Jesus born in a stable away from the owners house or was the stable actually inside the owners house?
Acts 18:3 – Is Paul’s example of supporting himself by making tents an example pastors have to follow or just an example of how to apply other principles?
Romans 1:16 – Does the power of the gospel destroy things or does it accomplish its purpose?
Philippians 4:13 – Is Paul promising us that we can do anything we put our minds to with Christ’s strength or that we can be content in any situation with Christ’s strength?
1 Thessalonians 5:22 – Is this a passage about one’s lifestyle or about being able to discern true and false teaching?
Revelation 3:16 – Why are Christians being compared to hot, cold, and lukewarm water?
In order to set the record straight on these passages Croteau delves into any relevant Old Testament background, first century Roman or Jewish background, Greek word meanings, grammatical construction, broader passage context, and explores the sometimes impossible implications that the misreadings of these texts produce. Some of these passages are misunderstood primarily on the grammar level, the context level, or the historical background level.
Urban Legends of the New Testament is a prime example of why learning the basics of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is so important. Whether or not you have fallen for all of the urban legends Croteau lays to rest, you will walk away with an appreciation for the hard work of good Bible interpretation many Christians give their lives to and why responsible Christians should have discerning minds when it comes to interpreting the Bible.
I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”