Book Review: “How The Church Fathers Read the Bible” (Gerald Bray)

The church fathers are gifts to the church. They’re the one who (some of them) went under the teaching of the original disciples before the apostolic era ceased. They’re the ones who are able to hold Scriptures in their original language.They were the original benefactors of canonicity of Scriptures and creeds. They were there when the church was in its infancy. The church fathers were there going head to head with philosophers and presenting Christianity. This is but a few of what they have done and been through. And what a privilege that is to serve God in those times.

Though we can say lots of great things about them, the church fathers are, like us, humans and capable of errors. They have a fair share of blunders like in our time when it comes to teaching the Bible. Fallible as they are, they were the forefront on the development of hermeneutics starting with patristic biblical interpretation. So if we want to know how these church fathers interpret the Bible, we should not ask how the church fathers interpret the Bible but first and foremost, the question should be: how do the church fathers read their Bibles?

This might be something unimportant or facts made for just trivia books but in truth this is essential. This is not merely a nostalgic thing but going back from the start we see the foundations the church fathers built for generations of Christians to come. This is not just a matter of interest for academics or scholars but Christians should consider looking in their studies as God uses the church fathers to help Christians understand His Word.

How the Church Fathers Read the Bible is for those who are completely clueless on this subject as Bray really puts emphasis on the “Short Introduction” part. If you’re already exposed on this topic then this one is not for you. This is a beginners level type of book. While I don’t have a ton of knowledge about how the church fathers treat the Bible, I have a few nuggets of it which are affirmed in this book. For folks who already immersed with early church history, a few of “this and that” facts then this book will only cement what you have already accumulated.

This slim volume goes right to the business in the opening pages. No introduction nor foreword. The chapters are few but are a bit long. You don’t have to worry if you get lost with what Bray is trying to say. He provided at the end of four chapters a summary. Then there is the final chapter which has a more detailed but short summary of this book. So it will be impossible that you’ll put down this book and forget the important points presented in the book. Not to mention, it’s an engaging read and will keep you glued to the very end. So don’t get bogged down with topics like church fathers, church history and hermeneutics.

Bray takes you to the very basics of the church fathers, the background of the Bible they’re using, the development of interpreting the Bible and some case studies. Basically that’s what this book encompasses. It’s not merely about how they read the Bible (or this book will be shorter) but how their reading touches other aspects of their study of the Scriptures and they communicate such it to the believers for them to apply practically. This practicality thing is one of the priorities of the church fathers who are first off pastors themselves and leading a church in those times. It’s not comprehensive but Bray doesn’t leave you wanting. This is a tight book but has ample content enough to satisfy the reader. I enjoyed Bray’s treatment on the development of biblical interpretation specifically with Origen, with all his hits and misses which was picked up with other ancient Christian leaders to refine and polish this method.

Gerald Bray’s new book, How the Church Fathers Read the Bible provides a great beginners resource on the origin of patristic biblical interpretation and how it flourishes in the ancient times . Bray took out the jargon and demistify these churh fathers to provide an accessible read for folks in the pew. Highly recommend!

My verdict:

5 out of 5

Purchase your physical or digital copy of the book here.

(Did you enjoy what you read? Did this article help you? If yes, you can say “Thank you” by sharing 10 Pesos or more at my G-Cash or Paymaya account: Marianito Gonzales – 09163315535. For international friends, you can send it through Paypal: nitoymgonzales@gmail.com)

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