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The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
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The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  3,634 ratings  ·  531 reviews
The controversial Bible scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam recounts his transformative spiritual journey in which he discovered a new, more honest way to love and appreciate God’s Word.

Trained as an evangelical Bible scholar, Peter Enns loved the Scriptures and shared his devotion, teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. But the further he studied the Bible,
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by HarperOne
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David Holford
Oct 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You think with my five stars, I'd be saying that everyone should read this book. I don't think everyone can handle this book. (And yes, I feel a bit like Jack Nicholson in that best known scene from "A Few Good Men".) So let me say I wish everyone could read this book.

Enns completely rattles the Evangelical paradigm of the Bible, while both claiming to be an Evangelical and claiming that the Bible is absolutely the Word of God. This book is written on a very popular level, but it might help the
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
Having grown up in churches that view the inerrancy of Scripture as a fundamental doctrine, I always found some of its content a little difficult to stomach. I studied apologetics, which should have helped, but only made it worse (why would God write something in such a way that it seems so contradictory with both itself and science, and requires all this head-twisting logic to sort-of justify?).

The problem [in my mind] was that if you drop scriptural inerrancy on the floor, what are you left w
Nov 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Can you imagine Peter Enns trying to apply his failed liberal thinking to correct a Muslim or Mormon or J.W. or any Christian cult? Hell no. Everyone can enjoy their own mythical stories interpretations.

I bought this book so I could study what exactly is WRONG with liberal Christianity. Most expensive book i've picked up in awhile - think I paid over $30.00. But I knew it would be an adventure in chaos and stupidity... I was not disappointed.

My goal was to figure out WHAT EXACTLY does Peter Enn
Lee Harmon
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book! If you’ve ever wondered how to read the Bible like Jesus, here’s your answer in a fun, easy-to-read publication. Peter Enns takes you on a walk through the Bible, pointing out how impossible it is to read it as either a history book or a rulebook. Eventually, he winds up in the New Testament giving examples of how Jesus himself interpreted scripture in his day … the Jewish way, which emphasized creative engagement with the scriptures.

Says Peter, “I believe God wants us to take th
Nathan Marone
The Bible Tells Me So was a frustrating read for me. Its central premise is so promising and necessary that I couldn't be more disappointed in how that premise gets treated here. Instead of writing a screed, I'm going to highlight both positive and negative aspects. I should note here that this is my first experience with Enns. I went into it aware that he is an OT scholar, having written commentaries and other academic works. I am fully open to the idea that he may treat this subject with more ...more
Ali M.
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Biblical literalism is a fairly recent phenomenon. It's not how scholars historically understood the Bible. Peter Enns explains this in a way the average Joe can understand. Yay, Peter Enns!

Karen Armstrong also sums it up well:
"Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of Scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific rev
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
I read this and Encounters with Jesus back to back and it was like throwing a car going 90 miles an hour of a cliff suddenly into reverse. I think the transmission dropped out of my brain.

With Timothy Keller I was constantly banging my head as he made overly broad assertions with blithe confidence. With Enns I wondered why he still thinks the Bible is so important or that God gave it to us when most everything in it was wrong or made up.

Keller was always very polite and gentle, even when (or esp
Mar 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-heresy-shelf
My friend Adam told me recently that he believes our minds are like fields and the books we read are like the crops that a farmer cultivates and later harvests. A good farmer knows that you shouldn't plant the same kind of crop in the same field season after season. Instead, you should rotate your crops so as to not deplete the soil of nutrients and to promote a healthy soil. Similarly, we should rotate the kinds of books we read: biographies, history, fiction, science, heavy theology, fluff (le ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved both this book and its author. It had everything I like. Mega mini chapters, large spacing, a gentle but snarky humor, great information and the answers I have long sought.

For anyone who has ever read the Bible and walked away saying ' what does that chapter say one thing, only to be scrapped and re-written in a totally opposite way further on ' this is your week.

It is particularly suited for the reader such as myself who has never subscribed to the fundamentalist view of ' Th
I picked up this book looking for a challenging perspective on Bible interpretation. I enjoy reading viewpoints that differ from my own, especially when they bring up inconsistencies or difficulties that need to be wrestled with. In one sense, that's exactly what Peter Enns did. But there were some logical and stylistic issues that made it impossible for me to truly resonate with his points.

Caveat: I understand that Enns is a Bible scholar and I am not. Still, I came away disappointed with his
Sep 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Looking for a book that is educated, controversial, and disarmingly funny? Your search is over.

Peter Enns‘ latest work “The Bible Tells Me So… Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” reads like a mash-up of N.T. Wright’s biblical scholarship, Anne Lamott’s refreshingly honest humor, and Rob Bell’s penchant for stirring up dissension.

Enns takes aim at the modern attempt to defend the Bible that has been so characteristic of many Evangelical communities in the recent past:

“I want pi
Robb Bridson
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
DISCLOSURE: I received this book free from the publisher via the Goodreads first reads program.

I am not really the intended audience for this book. This book is aimed at Christians, mostly mainline sorts, who are troubled by the contradictions and speedbumps of the Bible and thus tempted to either stop thinking or embrace fundamentalism.
I'm an atheist. But the subject of theology interests me, and certainly I have some interest in how Christianity is practiced. The religion isn't going anywhere,
Ross Holmes
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the most helpful "post-evangelical" book I have encountered so far. Peter Enns seems to have spied on my thoughts and written a book that speaks to me exactly where I am, and where I imagine a lot of Christians on the far side of a faith crisis find themselves: holding contradictory beliefs in tension, aware that the approach to faith they used to take won't cut it anymore but unsure of what to do next.

I've known for a while, for example, that there were serious moral and historical pro
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Growing up as a Christian, there are a variety of subjects from the Bible that lead any thinking person to ask questions eventually. How does the creation story relate to modern science? How could the God revealed in Jesus command the extermination of the Canaanites? What about all those other weird, even horrific and immoral, rules in the Bible?

A variety of answers are available, some more and some less satisfying. Peter Enns, in his book The Bible Tells Me So:Why Defending Scripture Has Made u
Thomas Achord
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Authentic condescension, grasping implausibility. A quintessential example of the presuming, unbiased naturalism that permeates modern thinking. He loves the bible, cherishes it, values it, like a teenage boy does his date: It makes him feel good. But he's embarrassed to bring her around his friends. You know, those disreputable parts in the OT, the myths, the killings, the talking snakes and parting waters. She's fine as any other broad goes. But the beauty of her fulfilled prophecies are mere ...more
Aaron West
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I was teaching a class on the biblical minor prophet, Jonah, when it happened. The class was focused on what it means to interact with those we might dislike extremely, to put it mildly; in Jonah’s case, the Ninevites—practically the worst enemies of Israel (God’s chosen people, if you’re unfamiliar). I came to a point in my slides that referenced the Psalms, basically the prayer journal of the ancient King David and others. I had recently heard Psalm 23 (you know—the “Lord is my Shepherd” one) ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Bible Tells Me So is an excellent book that I would recommend to most people who identify as Christian or are seeking to know more about Christianity. At the same time I feel compelled to warn you, to quote Rachel Held Evans in her review, "it is not for the faint of heart."

Peter Enns has written a book for Christians who are struggling with the contradictions and distasteful stuff (Canaanite genocide, anyone?) in the Bible and who, for some inexplicable reason, do not have an advanced degre
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Peter Enns is an evangelical Christian and Bible scholar—two identity markers that have sometimes raised conflict for him. Which really is too bad, because he seems like a really faithful, intelligent, and funny guy. At least, he seems like that based on this faithful, intelligent, and funny book about the Bible.

Enns has been around enough to know that the Bible is not only a source of faith, but can just as easily be a challenge to faith. Many people who read the Bible carefully come away with
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
A lot of factors affect the amount of stars I give each book: readability, the depth of research involved (footnotes/endnotes/bibliography/appendices), logical argumentation (to support the entire thesis), the goal or aim (telos) of the book (plot development), good humor/sarcasm, author's temper, etc... Peter Enns deserves 5 stars for every one of these factors except logical argumentation. For that, he deserves 4 stars at best. (To be fair, though, it's not as though Enns is being illogical; t ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, religion, 2015
I just read this, but I feel like I need to read it again for everything to sink in. As accessible as the book is, and it's often humorous as well, the ideas are challenging and will require further thought.
The author makes good points about keeping in mind time and culture when reading the Bible and not just seeing it as a rule book and trying to iron out/explain away inconsistencies.
The Bible-from back to front-is the story of God told from the limited point of view of real people living at
Oct 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did (and I nearly docked a star for Enns' relentless colloquial tone), but I found it an enlightening & delightful read. Specifics I appreciated: Enns' discussion of how both Jesus & Paul read the Jewish scriptures in Jewish ways (well, duh!), *especially* their willingness to reinterpret the (now) OT in light of Jesus Himself. I've very rarely heard any preacher even refer to how the NT writers often take OT passages completely out of context to pr ...more
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: most-influential
Simply a wonderful, helpful, pastoral, and insightful guide to all the crazy stuff in the Bible--all served with a healthy dash of humor!
Pastor Matt
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
A snarky and ultimately unconvincing defense of a liberal reading of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
I keep bouncing back and forth between three and four stars. Enns makes some really great points and offers some interesting views, but he also left me with more questions than he answered.

Enns does not believe in an inerrant Word of God. A large portion of his argument for acceptable fallibility is not much more than interpretation. He begins with a bang, immediately addressing the issue of Canaanite extermination. This entire section will challenge traditional views of God. He posits that God
Sally Ewan
I had heard of Enns in relation to Westminster Theological Seminary and the BioLogos Foundation, and I decided to read this book because I thought it would be helpful and stretching to read another point of view regarding the Bible. Much of what Enns says I could agree with--I don't have any problem with the idea that Chronicles and Kings were written with different motives and intended audiences--so I had a hard time understanding his straw man argument about people who want a "well-behaved Bib ...more
Jonathan Beck
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Peter Enns is certainly no stranger to controversy. Almost every book he has written in recent years has been fairly polarizing, as he seeks to redefine (though, I think, not obliterate entirely) the Doctrine of Inerrancy. Many may read this book and conclude that he is dispensing with every shred biblical authority.

Except he isn't. At all.

Over and over again in this book, Enns references the "Holy" Bible, declares it as God's Word, and deems it as the authority in matters of faith and life. Enn
Adam Ross
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Another fascinating and helpful book on how our assumptions about the Bible get us into trouble and cause real problems in our lives and churches. Specifically he's critiquing the "Bible-has-all-the-answers" type of approach. His reply is that the Bible does not contain the answers to the questions, but rather is designed to get us to start asking the right questions. He emphasizes the life of faith over the life of puzzle-solving and total certainty, that the Bible's authority by nature involve ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very well written and very easy to follow. I agree with much of the viewpoints presented. His presentation of the importance of the "stories" of Israel makes me want to read more and dig deeper. I struggle a bit with some of the concept of the stories evolving over time and becoming socially relevant to the times -- I'm not convinced that the problems in Jesus' time were all that different from the problems of our day and I truly struggle with how we are intended to broadly apply the principles ...more
Joel Wentz
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit, I picked up this book specifically because a few people told me it was "heretical." Probably to their chagrin, I ended up loving the experience of reading this more than most other books I've read about the Bible (and I've read quite a few). Enns weaves a bit of memoir into his serious (and I mean "serious") scholarship, and most surprisingly, the entire book is humorous. It's actually really, really funny.

Regardless of your opinions on Enns' conclusions (and he even admits he i
Anastasia Kinderman
Thought-provoking book. Some parts were very interesting and greatly helped my understanding of the Bible. Other parts were kind of...meh. He also doesn't really cite stuff, just states it and moves on. For people who have not reached the same conclusions he has this is frustrating.

For example, he says that archaeology has found that the walls of Jericho did not fall outward. He does not cite where he got this information though. I know I don't have as much education as he does but the little r
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Peter Enns is Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has taught courses at several other institutions including Harvard University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Enns is a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias and is the author of several books, including Inspiration and Incarnation, The Evo ...more

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“Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations, to make the Bible something it’s not meant to be, isn’t a pious act of faith, even if it looks that way on the surface. It’s actually thinly masked fear of losing control and certainty, a mirror of an inner disquiet, a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.” 25 likes
“In the spiritual life, the opposite of fear is not courage, but trust. Branch out. Not only do our beliefs define us, but so does the community of like-minded people who share those beliefs. Christian traditions, denominations, and congregations provide a group identity. We are social animals, so we should not judge our spiritual groups, or those of others, as necessarily a problem. Only when our communities become the defining element of our spiritual lives, packs that protect those boundaries at all costs, do problems begin. That leads to isolation, “us versus them” thinking, and the illusion that “we” are basically right about the Bible and God and “they” aren’t—the kind of wall-building that Jesus and Paul criticized. So much can be learned from” 17 likes
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