by Matthew Nies
In Asking Better Questions of the Bible, Marty Solomon challenges Christians to study their Bibles—not to stop at reading its verses and chapters, but to press into a deeper understanding of its context and intentional messages. Solomon, a former pastor, affirms and reiterates his belief in the divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and that every person needs to have a relationship with Jesus. He also believes that devoted commitment to the Bible and academic knowledge and scholarship should overlap. If you are not asking questions the Bible is asking, you might not be drawing correct answers and conclusions from it.
After this affirmative preamble, which he repeats throughout the book, Solomon dives into a deliberate line of cultivating thoughtful questions of the Bible, born from confident curiosity. He argues that exploration is important because Biblical writers buried meaning into the text, using chiasms and other literary devices to highlight and emphasize stories and ideas. Hebrew authors strategically employed their language’s 8,000 or so words to paint a picture rather than to definitively categorize (as a reference, modern English has hundreds of thousands of words).
History wasn’t just a relaying of events in ancient Israel, it was written to transform the reader. That’s why Joshua, Samuel and First and Second Kings were included in the Nevi’im or prophets section of their Scriptures. That also means that prophets were not only or even primarily concerned with talking about the future.
Solomon advises care to not over-allegorize, though certain satirical inclusions can posit a broader point like Saul being a herder of stubborn donkeys—Israel’s just reward for not following God?—contrasted to David being a herder of sheep—reflective of Israel’s repentance to serve God? In turn, Solomon also cautions against always strictly adhering to the text, which may veer him into stauncher opposition when discussing the story of Noah or the book of Revelations.
His underlying point is that we should search what the Bible is saying instead of using its text to bolster what we are saying; read to shape theology instead of using theology to shape what is read. The Bible is trying to transform its reader, not validate itself. And many of its “problems” invite us to examine them; they do not necessarily need to be explained away.
Solomon does not shoot or intend to shoot Biblical holes; he is not interested in breaking new theological ground except on a personal level. He describes his book as a guide for us, literary tourists, seeking correct hermeneutics and interpretations. Solomon is calling on readers to deconstruct their views about the Word of God and examine dogmas that may not be rooted in Scripture.
Asking Better Questions of the Bible is a distillation of Solomon’s work as co-host of the incredibly successful and influential BEMA Podcast and as president of Impact Campus Ministries. That work in turn draws on centuries-long discussions and analyses of the world’s most influential and important book.
You will not find exhaustive arguments from Solomon on any particular issue, but rather a compelling invitation to further examine the Bible. I found his insights and brief deep dives into Scripture inspiring me to take my own deep dives. And I walked away with piqued interest to discover more about the Word.
I would not recommend Asking Better Questions of the Bible to a new or young Christian, just as I would not recommend church leadership. But dwelling and growing in Christ requires rising to a greater work in Him, which includes increasing our knowledge and thus our appreciation and commitment. Asking Better Questions of the Bible fulfills this ramification by pointing our way to discover a fuller love of God and his Holy Word.
Matthew Nies is a Prose Editor for Agape Review. He is the author of the poetry book Sunset Dreams (Wipf & Stock, 2019). Nies grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota, and currently lives with his wife and three children in the Washington, D.C. area.