Connections: J. Daniel Hays & J. Scott Duvall
Rediscovering the Scriptures
J. Daniel Hays is a professor of Old Testament at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. J. Scott Duvall is a professor of New Testament at Ouachita. Hays and Duvall edited The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, released last September. They shared their insights with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.
evangel: What kind of reader did you have in mind for the handbook?
HAYS: We wrote the handbook for regular, everyday Christians in the church. I teach an adult Sunday School class, and I tried to visualize them as my audience.
DUVALL: We have written for Christians who are serious about their faith but perhaps have not had the opportunity to do extensive, formal theological training. We’ve tried to communicate substantive content in nontechnical language.
evangel: How has American society shifted, either positively or negatively, in recent years in its attitude toward the Bible?
DUVALL: I think society seems to be a bit more negative toward (or at least unsure of) the Bible, in large part due to more exposure in the media to skeptical “scholarship” regarding the Bible.
Growing biblical illiteracy is my greatest concern. As churches appeal more to what they perceive as people’s needs, sometimes the study of the Bible takes a backseat. This will hurt the church. Recently, however, I’m encouraged to see a growing interest among Christians to dig into God’s Word.
HAYS: I’m not sure the society has shifted much regarding the Bible. While attitudes toward the church may have become less positive, attitudes of respect toward the Bible continue to be strong, or so it seems to me. Society, of course, is becoming less and less biblically literate, and, unfortunately, this has carried over into the church.
evangel: Talk about how you integrate God’s Word into your own lives.
DUVALL: I try to read through the Bible once a year by reading a few chapters most mornings. I also study specific passages in depth when I am preparing to teach or preach. I cannot imagine trying to live the Christian life apart from a regular diet of God’s Word.
HAYS: I try to read or translate a small passage of Scripture every morning, and then meditate on that text. Likewise, I try to stay conscious of God’s Word, live by it, and draw strength from it at all times. I am in a unique situation because my job is to teach the Bible to college students, so I stay immersed in it much of the time.
evangel: What is a passage with particular meaning for you?
HAYS: Micah 6:6-8. What does God want from us? Not more ritual, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
DUVALL: Over the past year, Romans 8:1 has come to mean a lot to me. As God’s children, we can know in our deepest being that God will never condemn us because of what Christ has done for us.
evangel: How can people re-energize their personal Scripture study?
HAYS: First, there has to be a personal commitment to grow closer to God and to grow in the faith. Then there are numerous resources and tools they can use. We feel like this handbook would be helpful for people to have alongside their Bibles to assist them in understanding the text.
DUVALL: I think it will help for people to understand the big picture. Often, they get discouraged because they don’t see the Bible as a single story but rather as a collection of unrelated pieces. The opening section of the handbook will help people to see how the great story of the Bible fits together. Second, people need to see how reading and studying the Bible consistently can help them grow spiritually, and we try to address this with “So What?” sections.
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