#2 – Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope by Esau McCaulley (My Top Ten 2020 Reads(

Absolutely brilliant.

McCaulley presents here the hope and history of “black ecclesial interpretation.” This is the tradition of reading and preaching found in the black churches since the earliest days of America. One of the challenges McCaulley puts forth in the beginning is the pull from one side to leave the Bible and Christianity behind, seeing the whole religion as white European and not good at all for Black people. McCaulley argues in one chapter that there have been Africans in the people of God from the beginning (literally, Genesis) and throughout the early church. Christianity and the Bible belong to Black people.

Honestly, those of us who are white Christians need to take a step back from assuming we have the right answers to all elements of theology. McCaulley’s book ought to be must-reading for white pastors and teachers.

McCaulley talks about the way white Europeans set the tones for Biblical interpretation. This leads to liberals/modernists who deconstruct the Bible and fundamentalists who take it as it is (or so they claim). McCaulley shows the Black church has never felt the need to go with this either/or. Nor has the Black church felt the need to separate salvation from liberation. The same God who saved souls also liberates slaves.

I think the best chapters in the book were the first couple where he discussed policing and government. In these chapters, McCaulley brought forth points and connections I had never made before. Well, to be honest, connections I had never made before when thinking about faith and politics in Romans 13. He points out that most books on morals and ethics by white Christians don’t even really discuss policing (He mentions Richard Hays’ book on New Testament ethics which I have read). His work on this area is thoughtful and eye-opening.

Overall, this is a fantastic book. Highly recommended.

Honorable Mention – This was a tough one, but sticking with the theme of biblical studies, I will mention The New Testament in its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature and Theology of the First Christians by Michael Bird and NT Wright.

Its obviously a much different book than McCaulley’s, though Wright does, if I recall correctly, have an endorsement on McCaulley’s book.

This is a solid introduction to the New Testament. I can see myself returning to this book frequently for reference. Its not necessarily the kind of book you read straight through as h has its one you read it bits and pieces and keep coming back to later.

Large portions of it are essentially summaries of Wright’s longer works. Thus, it serves as a distilled version of Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God and Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I suppose the section then on the Gospels may be a preview of a future volume from Wright.

I did not read the introductions to each New Testament book, but as I said, I will be returning to this frequently as a reference work. The best parts of the book are the aforementioned sections when Wright and Bird present theology of the gospel and of Paul as a whole. I also appreciated the background and the chapters on textual criticism and the formation of the New Testament.

Overall, a solid work.

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