*** DEBUG END ***

Guide and tool-kit

26 August 2016

Matt Bullimore enjoys a ‘gem’ of a book on plumbing the depths of scripture


How to Read the Bible (without switching off your brain)
Simon J. Taylor
SPCK £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9


THE title of the book does not mean that it is about learning to read like an academic. It is not about reading around all the hard parts that might make life more difficult. It is about reading our scriptures with in­­tel­lectual honesty and integrity. The Bible is hard to read for many reasons; and Taylor asks us to be candid about that.

Reading the Bible then becomes a fruitful adventure.

Taylor calls his book an invita­tion, a tool-kit, and a guide. In 129 pages, that is a tall order; but he pulls it off. It’s a gem of a book. It is elegantly written, readable, and assumes almost no prior knowledge. Taylor is at home with the Bible — the Bible read in church, studied in the academy, and as the basis of Christian discipleship and spirituality. He is a trustworthy guide.

The book begins with how (not) to read the Bible. Taylor’s ten commandments of Bible reading include suggestions such as reading it aloud, wrestling with it, and reading it with others, reading long sections, and reading small snippets. He then looks at what the Bible actually is.

The book evinces a narrative theology. Taylor introduces us to the Bible as a whole, as a book that hangs together, that reads itself, and reads us. He adapts N. T. Wright’s précis of the Bible as a dramatic play. Typologies are frequently pointed out. The story of Jesus is told, and the stories that he told are examined.

Stories of creation (Genesis, Babylonian, scientific) are compared. The account in Genesis is shown to be a critical reading of the Babylonian creation myth,
but now with a theological back­­­ground of order, purpose, and goodness.

There is a chapter on prayers in, and praying with, the Bible. Three considered and helpful chapters follow on difficult issues: money, sex, and violence. The final chapter asks us to eat the book; to live it out. Each chapter ends with a couple of tasks to attempt, and also with a small selection of accessible further reading.

There are some real nuggets of wisdom in the book. Like us, the Bible is alive, born of humans and inspired by the Spirit; and, like us, it makes sense only in the light of Jesus.

This is a book for mature confirmands, for those who are discerning vocations, for befuddled students, or for anyone who wants to renew the adventure.


The Revd Dr Matt Bullimore is Vicar of Royston, and Priest-in-Charge of Falkirk, in the diocese of Leeds.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

8 September 2022
Church Times Cricket Cup: North v. South
Join us to watch the match at the Walker Cricket Ground, in Southgate, north London.

26 September 2022
What am I living for? God
Sam Wells and Lucy Winkett begin the St Martin-in-the-Fields autumn lecture series in partnership with Church Times.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)