Avontuurlijk Wandelen: Onderweg met de Bijbel (Adventurous Walks: En Route with the Bible)—not counting his Ph.D. dissertation, this is the first book by Tom de Bruin and it definitely gives a taste for more.
Since about two years Tom is the executive secretary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Netherlands. Before assuming this post he worked for a number of years as a local church pastor. During this period he obtained a doctorate in theology. And now, in between all his other duties, he managed to write a very interesting and stimulating book.
In this very accessible, but certainly not superficial, book, the author demonstrates how many texts and concepts in the New Testament become a lot clearer if you view them not just against the background of the Old Testament, but also compare them with various documents that were written in the Jewish community, in the last two centuries BC and in the first century AD.
Some Adventist readers will have to get used to the idea that in writing down their messages, the New Testament authors used images and concepts that the earliest readers were acquainted with from their exposure to other (extra-biblical) documents. Books like that of Tom de Bruin will be warmly welcomed by many readers, because of their fresh perspective on the ‘old book’. But other readers may be left somewhat confused. They may say: ‘Is God’s Word really that difficult? Must we study these ancient documents that are not part of the canon, if we want to understand the Bible in more depth?
Another book that has recently appeared in the same series as Tom’s book (and the plan is to regularly publish more volumes in this series) is: Waar Woont God? (Where Does God Live?) by Jean-Claude Verrecchia. I translated this book some time ago, with a lot of satisfaction. Verrecchia’s book is about the various sanctuaries that we encounter in the Bible and the spiritual lessons these different abodes of God have for us. Verrecchia paints important historical developments and shows us how God, through the ages, used many elements that belonged to the culture of the people who came to worship and brought their sacrifices to these sanctuaries. Verrecchia’s book illustrates how God’s revelation was linked to the historical and cultural circumstances of the time in which it was given and/or written down. We do not simply find the truth by a ‘plain reading’ of the text, but must discover it behind the forms and cultural peculiarities that the people who first received the biblical words were acquainted with. Also with respect to Verrecchia’s book, many readers will be very appreciative of the new insights the book gives them, while others may find that they are left with more questions than they had before they started reading the book.
One of the key issues for contemporary Adventism is how to read the Bible. It is a question that demands a lot of attention from the leadership of our faith community. A church that publishes books like those of Tom de Bruin and Jean-Claude Verrecchia, also has the responsibility to ensure that the readers will understand how the questions that are raised in such books fit into a larger framework of inspiration and hermeneutics (the principles of a responsible interpretation of the Bible). I hope that they will work on this with courage and vision.
PS 1 Both books (in Dutch) may be obtained from the Service Centrum, Kerk der Zevende-dags Adventisten, Amersfoorse weg 18, 3712 BC Huis ter Heide. They may also be ordered through the webshop: www.adventist.nl.
PS 2 Did you already download my new e-book ? Present Truth Revisited: An Adventist Perspective on Postmodernism. Order at www.amazon.com. See my previous blog.