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Book Review: Deeper Into The Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament by Keri Wyatt Kent

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In Deeper Into the Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the New Testament Keri Wyatt Kent explores one hundred words/concepts from the New Testament.

Each entry from “Afraid” to “Yoke” gets about a two-page treatment. Within that space Kent covers a lot of ground and, depending on the word/concept does some or all of the following:

  • places the concept into its historical, cultural context;
  • names the Greek word or words (including derivatives and permutations) that express the idea in the earliest texts, examples of where they occur, and how often they occur in total within the New Testament;
  • quotes other writers who shed light on the concept;
  • interjects her personal experience and opinion about the word’s meaning and usage.

She ends each section with an inspirational thought (fulfilling the “Reflections” part of the title).

The 100 entries are followed by an index of Greek words. A several-page section of endnotes completes the volume.

When I received my copy of the book for review, I looked immediately for the author’s qualifications to write about this somewhat technical aspect of the Bible. I found none – unless the nearness of a good library and the knowledge of how to use it count. That, for me, is the biggest weakness of the book as a reference: I’m not sure how reliable the information about language, especially the Greek words and their usage, is.

However, Kent’s layperson status may also be a strength in that she doesn’t come to the topic as an academic and thus understands what most of us don’t know, will want to know, and gives us just the right amount of information and in a style that is accessible.

I also found the mixed treatment of the subject matter (factual/commentary along with personal/reflection) somewhat disorienting. To my mind, the book has identity issues. Is it a factual reference book? Or a book of personal reflections?

On the plus side, Kent’s writing style is warm and comradely. She doesn’t talk down to readers but neither does she get bogged in technical theology-speak. Though she does have denominational biases she is frank about them. Sometimes she declares them outright:

“I’m not from a charismatic background….For more examples and rebuttal to the charismatic position see…”  (from the endnotes on “Word,” p. 247.)

At other times she reveals her bias by whom and what she quotes. For example in the discussion of the words “Break/Broken” to shed light on Matthew 16:19 (“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose (luo) on earth will be loosed in heaven”), she quotes a paragraph from Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, and his somewhat controversial conclusion:

…What he (Jesus) is doing here is significant. He is giving his followers the authority to make new interpretations of the Bible” (quoted on p. 30 from Velvet Elvis, pp. 49-50.)

All in all, the book’s easy-to-understand text and comprehensive handling of so many words/concepts do make it a valuable reference. What I like most about it is the explanation of each word/concept within the context of the customs and culture of the day. I can see Deeper Into the Word being a useful addition to the library of the layperson who wishes to deepen his or her understanding of the New Testament’s setting and language.

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About Violet Nesdoly

  • Sorry, I missed that from the introduction — I do read those when I review a book.

    And, frankly, I am glad that Bethany House decided to publish a book like this written by a layperson (albeit a very qualified one). It gives the rest of us who don’t have special expertise and shiny degrees hope that by coming at our subject with the right slant and appealing to the right audience, we too may be considered to have something worth saying.

  • Violet, please know I appreciate any review, and it wasn’t hard on me. I think you raised some good questions and I just wanted to answer them. I love having conversations about how to use this book. This from the introduction (p. 11) “If there’s a word in your daily reading that is not listed..you can use it in another way: as a tutorial for how to do what has been traditionally called a ‘word study.’ By reading a few chapters, you can learn this technique and try it on your own.”
    I realize a lot of people don’t read the introduction to a book, or skim it. So that’s why I’m hear, and why I’m directing people to your review via my Facebook & Twitter, so we can have a lovely conversation! Again, I have nothing but appreciation for your taking the time to read & review it! Thank you! (also, I did have endorsements from Scot McKnight and John Ortberg, who would likely be considered experts on the Bible.)

  • Hi Keri,

    Sorry if you felt the review was hard on you. But writer qualification is a subject that comes up in most discussions of non-fiction by agents and publishers. Even a cover blurb by an expert in the field would have helped.

    As for your goal of teaching by example, I didn’t exactly pick that up, although your endnotes do give the reader lots of resource ideas for word and other studies.

    I do think you’ve created a helpful resource here, though, Keri. I did check the Amazon reviews and they are mostly positive. I wish you all the best in marketing and selling the book!

  • Thanks for taking the time to review my book, Violet. You’re right–although I’m a Wheaton grad, I didn’t go to seminary. That’s in part the point. Too often, lay people think they have to leave the Bible to experts–but it is God’s word to us. We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and engaging our minds to study Scripture. One goal of the book is to teach by example the forgotten art of doing a “word study.” I want my readers to know that they can do this too! Again, appreciate your review!!