UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Eat This Book
Eat This Book Eat This Book
The Art of Spiritual Reading

Eugene Peterson
ISBN 9780340863916 (0340863919)
Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Category: Prayer, Poetry and Spirituality

How should we come to the Scriptures? How do we meet God as the divine author through our devotional reading of the Bible? How do we encounter the Word of God? Through use of John's eating of the scroll in Revelation 10:9-10 as an extended metaphor Eugene Peterson tries to answer these questions.

There is much to challenge within this book and much to excite and motivate the readers to immerse themselves afresh into the Bible and yet it is, as one would expect from Peterson written in a simple and engaging style. This is not to say that there is any "dumbing down" within the book. Instead Peterson takes the results of his own and others' research to present a guide to coming to the Scriptures.

Peterson follows Barth in seeing the Bible as a means through which God has revealed himself in both a personal and trinitarian way and as supremely pointing to Jesus as the Word of God. This stands in contrast to the rather less holy trinity that many of us bring to the Scriptures, namely my needs, wants and feelings. Peterson doesn't reject the idea that we will bring our experiences to our reading of the Bible but argues that God's revelation within the overarching story told in Scripture understood through rigorous community exegesis should be allowed a greater role than our individualistic subjective approach. He further argues that a full understanding of the word requires an obedience to it.

In the second section Peterson presents his "lectio divina" or spiritual reading consisting of reading, meditating, praying and living. No brief summary can do justice to his descriptions of these, though I felt that each of these sections was just beginning to scratch the surface of the topic before the lack of space forced Peterson to move on.

In his final section Peterson discusses the process of translation in a vibrant and informative way. His discussion of the process, drawing on good historical and scholarly discoveries, earths the Scriptures in the day to day lives of both the original readers and for us today. It also gives a fascinating insight into the process behind Peterson's writing of The Message.

Overall this book is not just one to nibble on, but one to devour while savouring every bit of insight that Peterson imparts. However as Peterson issues warnings to readers of the Bible in this book, may I add my own warning to readers of Eat This Book? This is not a book that will give a technique for reading the Scriptures that can be followed each time to hear the true message within it. Peterson is less interested in technique than in cultivating the right attitude to the Bible in order to hear the living word within it as we encounter the divine author.

Dave Sunman, September 2006

Dave Sunman is the Pastor of Quaystone Church on the Isle of Dogs. A former barrister, he has an MA from London School of Theology and from Queens' College, University of Cambridge

Hodder & Stoughton

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