Can I Learn to Read Scripture Accurately? With Rebecca McLaughlin [Episode 275]

Learn Read Scripture Accurately Rebecca McLaughlin

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Navigating Gospel Truth by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

As Christians, we want to rightly handle the word of truth, don’t we? We need to be a people who read, study, and understand Scripture accurately, and the good news is… we can!

Today’s guest is author Rebecca McLaughlin, and she’ll not only give you good information on how to do just that, but also tons of inspiration so you will want to.

As we talk about Rebecca’s book, Navigating Gospel Truth: A Guide to Faithfully Reading the Accounts of Jesus’s Life, she’ll share why we can trust the Bible, if and when we should read the Bible literally or metaphorically, and the impact of reading the gospels accurately.

You know I’m a total Bible geek, so I can’t wait for you to hear this conversation.

Rebecca presents such a clear and captivating view of Scripture, and her insights can help us all become better students of the Word. So, let’s get to it!

Meet Rebecca

Rebecca McLaughlin has a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Cambridge University and a theology degree from Oak Hill College in London. She is the author of Confronting Christianity, Confronting Jesus, and Is Christmas Unbelievable? Four Questions Everyone Should Ask About the World’s Most Famous Story, among others. Rebecca lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, Bryan, her two daughters, Miranda and Eliza, and her son, Luke.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Learn to Read Scripture Accurately? With Rebecca McLaughlin [Episode 275]

Rebecca McLaughlin: There are many passages in the Bible, Old and New Testament, that are actually not asking us to read them literally. And, in fact, we'll misunderstand what Jesus says when he says he's the Good Shepherd if we try to read that literally. Instead, I think we need to try to read the Scriptures faithfully, and that will mean there'll be passages like that where we're asked to not read them literally and there'll be other times when we actually are being asked to read them literally.

So people sometimes have this idea, well, if you say that any part of the Bible is not meant to be read literally, then you can just kind of pick and choose and you could then say any part of the Bible that you found difficult to believe or awkward for whatever reason, you could say, well, maybe that's just metaphorical.

Jennifer Rothschild: Should you read the Bible literally? Why are the four Gospels not identical if they're all true? How do you know when you are reading something in the Bible that is just a description rather than a prescription for how to live? Well, we want to rightly handle the Word of Truth, don't we? We want to be people who read, study, and understand Scripture accurately, right?

Well, today's guest is author Rebecca McLaughlin, and she is going to give you not just good information on how to do just that, but tons of inspiration so you will want to. You are about to get a clear and captivating view of Scripture, so get comfy, we're starting.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and Biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome to your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, friends, welcome. We're glad you're here. That was K.C. Wright, my Seeing Eye Guy. Two friends, one topic, zero stress in the podcast closet.

And I must make an announcement. Today is actually my youngest son's birthday.

K.C. Wright: Woot-woot!

Jennifer Rothschild: Happy birthday, Connor.

K.C. Wright: Happy birthday, my man.

Jennifer Rothschild: He is 25. Which is incredible since I'm only 40. Just kidding. Anyway, he's 25 and quite -- when you said "my man," he is quite the man.

K.C. Wright: Well, let me tell you. I don't know what he's doing, but whatever he's doing is working. My bro here is turning into Captain America.

Jennifer Rothschild: He is so built, isn't he?

K.C. Wright: He is getting really built. I'm so proud of him because, you know, I'm older and, you know, it takes us forever to get our youth back, our muscles back. I'm killing it in CrossFit. Still there. But, you know, these young guys, they just go to the gym, like, twice and muscles pop out.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. He just looks at the weights.

K.C. Wright: I mean, Connor's got earlobes that are like bench pressing.

Jennifer Rothschild: Dude.

K.C. Wright: One, two, three.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know how -- you know, because I can't see, I always hold somebody's arm to walk. So when I hold Connor's arm, it's like, "Honey, I cannot get my fingers around your bicep anymore."

K.C. Wright: I'm so proud of him for --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, he's huge.

K.C. Wright: -- taking care of the temple.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, he's very disciplined, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: In fact, he's always been.

K.C. Wright: Really?

Jennifer Rothschild: He's been a disciplined thinker, a disciplined -- like, he would --

K.C. Wright: He's super smart.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Like, even living as a young man, like, he cooks on Sunday all of his chicken breasts --

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- so he just warms him up during the week. I mean, he is so disciplined.

K.C. Wright: What?

Jennifer Rothschild: But I'll tell you this, he was born an adult. Anyway, so happy birthday, Connor.

K.C. Wright: Happy birthday, Connor.

You know, you have been such a good friend to me all these years. But even though you raised boys -- and you did such a great job with both of these mighty men of God -- you've helped me so much in raising Ellie with your advice. And I find that great. Because you've raised boys, but yet you've given me so much good advice on El, I appreciate that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, well --

K.C. Wright: Thanks for the -- thanks for the godly woman wisdom there.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you know what? I have never raised a girl, but I was one, and so I think that might have been a hard job to raise a girl.

K.C. Wright: Right, right.

Jennifer Rothschild: You got this, K.C.

K.C. Wright: They say boys are easier.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, maybe so.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Or maybe they're just harder in a different way. But I do love -- or hard in a different way. But I do love being the mom of boys, especially my two. Clayton and Connor are delightful, wonderful men. So thank you, Lord, for those sweet gifts.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, another gift for today, since it is the season for gift giving. Oh, wait till you hear from this woman.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you're going to love her British accent.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: This is Rebecca McLaughlin. So introduce her, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Rebecca McLaughlin has a Ph.D. in renaissance literature from Cambridge University and a theology degree from Oak Hills College in London. She is the author of "Confronting Christianity" and "Confronting Jesus," among others. One of her books you may want to check out, especially right now, is "Is Christmas Unbelievable: Four Questions Everyone Should Ask About the World's Most Famous Story."

But today, she and Jennifer are talking about her book "Navigating Gospel Truth." I'd like to buy both of those books.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know.

K.C. Wright: Rebecca lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, Brian, her two daughters, Miranda and Eliza, and her son, Luke. What amazing, amazing names. I love all three of those names.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, so sweet.

K.C. Wright: Yes. This is going to be a great, great, great podcast. There's room at the table for you, so pull up a chair.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Rebecca, our audience is about to hear this when you speak, but you are from England, and you now live in Boston. So I want us just to start with this. I'm very curious, like, how do the places that you've lived influence how you read Scripture or how you experience God?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Gosh, what a fascinating question. Yeah, I'm from the U.K. I actually married a guy from Oklahoma. So just to give people that context, that's how I got brought over to this wild country, and have lived in Boston for the last 15 years. I think many in the U.S. see Boston as, you know, one of the more secular parts of America, which for sure it is. Moving from the U.K., it doesn't feel that way, because I've come from Western Europe, which is -- as many of your listeners will know, is in general far less in terms of church attendance and in terms of Christian identification than the large majority of the U.S.

So I think I'm someone who has always lived as a Christian in the minority, not necessarily because there wasn't, like, a religious majority that was different from Christianity -- which, you know, many of our brothers and sisters around the world are in that situation -- but I've always lived among people who have principles like moral and intellectual objections to Christianity. And I think that absolutely shapes my faith and how I read the Bible, because I think -- I don't really take anything for granted in terms of what other people might believe, and at the same time I think I may be less vulnerable to critique from outside because I'm so used to it, if that makes sense.

Actually, my husband growing up in Oklahoma in a Christian family, in a broader Christian environment where, as he put it, even if people didn't go to church, they respected the fact that he did. You know, it's sort of like a moral kind of bump for you if you went to church, at least when he was growing up in Oklahoma.

That was never my experience growing up. I always had to make the case for why I was a Christian, and I think I've always felt a deep desire for others around me to repent and believe because I've been so surrounded by people who are not yet believers. So, yeah, I think that shapes how I encounter God's words, and maybe makes it easier to relate to the early Christians who were absolutely at a minority in their culture, in their time, yeah, needing to make the case to non-Christian family members and colleagues and neighbors all around them.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I do think that is a gift. A difficult gift maybe, but it is a gift because it gives you an opportunity to really walk the roads where Jesus walked and where the Apostle Paul walked. Because like you said, in that environment it was new, it was radical, it was confusing. And so when you are in a more secularized environment, you have that same opportunity, which is a gift.

And, in fact, speaking of that environment, you are somewhat of an academic and you have a degree in Shakespeare from Cambridge. You are the only person I know who has a degree in Shakespeare from Cambridge, which I think is wonderful and very interesting. So I'm also curious how your knowledge of literature -- because you've really studied this. So how does that knowledge of literature really assist you or inform you as you study Biblical issues?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah, another great question. Yeah, I went straight from finishing a Ph.D. In Shakespeare to starting at seminary.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Rebecca McLaughlin: In fact, there was a little bit of overlap. My tail end of the Ph.D. and the beginning of my time in seminary sort of was an overlap of about six months. And what I was specifically studying in Shakespeare was how Shakespeare used metaphors, in particular, metaphors of imprisonment. But I'd spend a lot of time reading poetry and thinking about how do metaphors work as a way to communicate truth. And the reality is in our daily lives, we frequently use metaphors and we frequently hear metaphors, and we understand them a bit like -- you know, I learnt to drive first on a stick-shift car, where I wasn't even going through the mental, like, motions as I moved the gear stick around. It was just like muscle memory, you sort of know what to do. You know how to shift up to this gear and down to that gear and when is the time to do that.

We, as we navigate the world, navigate metaphors all the time. And yet when we come to God's Word, we're often asked, or you might ask ourselves, well, should I take the Bible literally, when in actual fact, the Bible is more chock-full of metaphors than most Shakespeare plays. Like, even if we look at Jesus' own words, you know, things like, "I am the Good Shepherd." If we take that statement literally, then Jesus is telling us that he spent a lot of time with little furry animals that went "meh," you know. None of us are taking that literally.

Instead, what we're recognizing is that he is grasping on to this extraordinary Old Testament metaphor where God is the shepherd of his people, you know, Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want," as one example. And he is sort of grabbing that, like, metaphorical history and claiming it for himself, that he is the Good Shepherd.

Or when Jesus says he is the True Vine. Again, we don't take that literally to think that Jesus is saying he's, like, really a plant. And if only we had enough faith to believe, we would believe that Jesus is actually a plant. No, no, no. We know that he is speaking metaphorically and picking up this Old Testament metaphor of God's people as, like, a vine and God as the owner of a vineyard.

And so I think for me, having studied literature, and in particular metaphors, for a long time, then coming to God's Word and seeing, oh, look, there's so many places where God is speaking to our hearts and to our emotions and to our imaginations through metaphor. And that doesn't mean he's not telling us the truth. Because actually you can tell the truth through metaphor and you can lie in literal language.

You know, an example I could give, you could ask me, you know, what does my father do, and I could say, well, my father is a medical doctor. And that would be a literal answer to your question and it's actually a factual lie. My father is not a medical doctor. But I could tell you that God is my father, and that's actually not a literal statement, but it's one of the most profoundly true things that I could say to you, that God is my father.

So, yeah, I think that background has helped me just to be more attuned to that, and it's one of the things I'm passionate about, is helping other brothers and sisters just to be excited about the ways that God is communicating to us through the Scriptures in this very textured and rich and evocative and often sort of ways that grasp onto our imaginations, not only speaking to our kind of rational minds.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, the creativity. And just for those who are listening, you know --obviously, Rebecca has a Ph.D. in all this. Okay? But you went to eighth grade. And if you went to eighth grade, you learned what a metaphor is, and that means you can access exactly what Rebecca is speaking of, which I'm so grateful. Because the Word of God is so rich and layered that scholars can study it for thousands of years, but a six-year-old child can grasp the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So what a beautiful, beautiful book we have.

But also what a controversial book. Okay? So, Rebecca, let's kind of move there. There are many reasons that people may not trust the Bible. Okay? And so I would love for you to kind of talk about maybe what are some of the reasons that people don't trust the Bible, and tell us why we can trust the Bible.

Rebecca McLaughlin: One of the things that I've tried to do in navigating Gospel truth is work people through why we would trust the four Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as documents that are giving us reliable access to eyewitness testimony about Jesus. Because a lot of people have this idea, well, you know, the Gospels were written so long after Jesus' ministry and death and resurrection, how can we possibly trust what the Gospel authors are saying? Or, you know, maybe they were making things up or influenced by kind of politics at the time and that's really changed. Maybe there's been a more authentic view of Jesus that has been suppressed. Maybe there were other Gospels or [indecipherable] that were equally valid depictions of Jesus that the early church has sort of squashed so that we don't hear this other view of Jesus. There are all sorts of kind of ideas that go around.

And so one of the things I've tried to do in this study is give people the opportunity themselves to work through these things and to see, well, no, actually, those four New Testament Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, number one, they weren't just picked for political reasons from a bunch of other Gospels that were equally valid. Actually, they are, by any reasonable measure, the best historical evidence we have for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Number two, they actually give us many clues within the texts that they are drawing on eyewitness testimony from people who walked with Jesus over years, people who met with Jesus, not just -- it doesn't just depend on one person. People sometimes have used the metaphor of the telephone game where, you know, one kid has a message and whispers it to the next kid, who whispers it to the next kid, and you go around the circle and by the end the message has become so garbled and different from the original, people say, well, there was this period of oral tradition and transmission when the Gospel stories were exaggerated and then they were finally written down. Actually, no, that's not what happened. The Gospels were written down well within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses, were sharing stories that they had probably told, like, hundreds of times in the intervening period because this was -- you know, these were encounters with Jesus that had changed their life.

We look in the study at what do we make of the differences between the Gospels. Because famously Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell a lot of the same stories, sometimes with differences in details, and John tells often very different stories and doesn't often cover the same set of ground as those other three. So what do we make of that? Yeah, in the study I've tried to help people actually work through all of those things and to see what we're getting here is four accounts from people who have either -- were eyewitnesses themselves, which is the case with John's Gospel, or, like Mark and Luke, have been interviewing eyewitnesses and selecting from actually a massive number of stories they could have told about Jesus, a rich kind of wealth of eyewitness testimony, then kind of selecting down to write very short books that could be read in the same time that you and I would take to watch a feature film.

So every story they're telling, they're telling it because they're trying to make a particular point, and the details that they'll give us in that story will help to reinforce the point they're making. And sometimes an author of one Gospel will tell the same story, but with actually a somewhat different emphasis, so we're hearing some of the different details brought out versus another. So I think with any of these supposed reasons to distrust the Gospels as reliable historical accounts drawing on eyewitness testimony, I think when you look more closely, you actually find that there are reasons to trust the Gospels.

Jennifer Rothschild: I agree with you, because we've all been in settings where everyone will witness a situation. And then when the story is retold, it is the same story, but different nuances come out based on each person's angle or perspective or whatever. So I do, I appreciate that, Rebecca.

And as I'm listening to that, it does beg this question -- and you deal with it in another book you wrote called "Confronting Christianity." And in that you dealt with 12 really hard questions that people ask about Christianity. And so one of those questions from that book, you deal with in this "Navigating Gospel Truth" book. Okay? And it is the question, do you read the Bible literally? Okay, so you just kind of talked about metaphor and literal reading, but let's just tackle that question. Can a person, should a person read the Bible literally?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah. So as you said, I gave a piece of the answer to that, which is that there are many passages in the Bible, Old and New Testament, that are actually not asking us to read them literally. And, in fact, we'll misunderstand what Jesus says when he says he's the Good Shepherd if we try to read that literally.

Instead, I think we need to try to read the Scriptures faithfully. And that will mean there'll be passages like that where we're asked to not read them literally and there'll be other times when we actually are being asked to read them literally. So people sometimes have this idea, well, if you say that any part of the Bible is not meant to be read literally, then you can just kind of pick and choose, and you could then say any part of the Bible that you found difficult to believe or awkward for whatever reason, you can say, well, maybe that's just metaphorical.

And one example of that is Jesus' resurrection. Some people would say, well, maybe what the Gospel authors are trying to tell us is that Jesus was raised in his disciples' hearts, you know, that they had some sort of spiritual encounter with Jesus, not that he was physically raised from the dead. But actually, if you look at the Gospel accounts, the authors go to great pain to make the claim that Jesus was literally physically raised from the dead. And to say that, you know, when Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd," we should not take him literally, but metaphorically, doesn't therefore mean that we should not take the historical narratives of the Gospels literally as historical narratives. We, in fact, should.

And there'll be other kind of genres or kinds of writing that we find in the Gospels in which -- parables is one example where Jesus will tell stories. And in nine cases out of ten, it's actually very obvious that Jesus is not telling the story because he's trying to tell us a thing that historically happened. You know, for example, the famous parable of the prodigal son. Jesus isn't saying, hey, I knew this guy who had two sons and one of them ran away. He's not telling us because he wants to tell us about something that historically happened. He's telling us a story to help us understand how God relates to us. Or with the parable of the Good Samaritan, likewise, he's not reporting on a crime scene that happened between Jerusalem and Jericho, he's telling us a story to help us understand the truth about God and the truth about us. So we need to read the Scriptures faithfully.

As I say, nine times out of ten, the text itself will actually make it very clear to us how we should understand this. There'll be then that, like, 10% or 5%, or whatever it is, where people who were very serious Bible scholars and very kind of faithful Christians will legitimately disagree. And that's okay. We as readers of the Bible, we're never going to be perfect in our understanding. God's Word is perfect, but that doesn't mean that we as interpreters are going to be perfect.

But all the things that we need to understand who Jesus is, his literal death on the cross for our sins, his literal resurrection to bring us new life, all of these things are very clear in the Scriptures. And as the Apostle Paul puts it, if Jesus wasn't raised from the dead, then his preaching is useless and our faith is in vain. So none of this is to say once you start seeing that there are parts of the Scriptures that are to be taken non -- not to be taken literally means you can kind of pick and choose and dismiss the hard things or the challenging things that the Bible has to tell us. In fact, sometimes even Jesus will teach some of his most challenging truth through metaphor. So, for example, when he says enter through the narrow gate, but wide is the road and broad is the gate that leads to destruction, and many find it; but narrow is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life, and only a few find it. That's actually a really, like, hard truth communicated to us through a metaphor.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, big time. Okay. This is super helpful.

And I want to just reiterate one thing you said, that we are to read the Bible faithfully. And I think what you're giving us, Rebecca, is a good kind of -- almost like a 30,000-foot view of what is in the pages and, therefore, how to distinguish what is what and read it faithfully. So that's such a good word. And so that also makes me think of more questions. These are kind of literature questions. Okay?

So first of all, you kind of suggested this, and that's why I want to circle back. What kind of genre that is found in the Gospel might be very surprising to us, and also what genre found in the Gospels is the most difficult to interpret or understand?

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah. I mean, the answer to that last question is a strange Biblical genre called apocalyptic, which we get pieces of it in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel, for instance. We get a lot of it in the Book of Revelation, and then we get some of it in the Gospels where Jesus is talking about the end times. And what we find in apocalyptic is often very strong use of metaphor, you know, massive sort of dramatic descriptions of things. Which again, in the Gospels there are scholars who will disagree as to whether in this particular moment in Matthew's Gospel, for instance, Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple that was going to happen in 70 A.D. or whether he is talking about when he finally comes back as judge of all the earth. You know, there's reasonable disagreement sometimes about exactly how we should interpret apocalyptic literature, so I would say that's definitely kind of the hardest to understand in terms of just getting a basic read on things.

I think one that can be surprising, and is actually, like, highly effective, I mean, Jesus is not only a good teacher, but he is an extraordinarily good teacher. You know, the best teacher --

Jennifer Rothschild: Ever.

Rebecca McLaughlin: -- that ever was.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Rebecca McLaughlin: And one of the teaching strategies he uses is a thing that we in English call hyperbole, which talks about extreme exaggeration for rhetorical effect. So for instance, when Jesus famously says, you know, don't try and get the speck out of your brother's eye before you've dealt with the massive, great log in your own. Now, Jesus isn't talking kind of literally there. He's using a sort of metaphor and he's painting this sort of exaggerated picture. But his point is, you know, your and my sin, my sin, is like a great big log sticking out of my eye, which is really going to be in the way when I'm trying to help you get your sin out of your eye. And actually, my perspective should be that my sin is a big log and yours is a little speck, not -- we usually see it the other way around. I have maybe a little speck in my eye, but, listen, Jennifer, I can see this massive log in yours, let me help you kind of thing. Jesus flips that on his head.

And so there are moments where Jesus is using this sort of rhetorical device, this communication way of speech, of hyperbole, that again is very memorable and impactful, but we need to get our hands around it as a way of speaking so that we don't misinterpret Jesus.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. That's the last thing we want to do.

And so here's my question, then. So someone who's listening is like, okay, this is so refreshing and thoughtful and I want to read the Gospels with the viewpoint that Rebecca is sharing. Okay? And by the way, Rebecca has already made it very clear that the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So, Rebecca, if somebody wants to start reading the Gospels, which Gospel should they start with? And give us three or four ideas of what should that person who's reading look for. You've already mentioned metaphors. But give us that idea so she can read faithfully.

Rebecca McLaughlin: Yeah. Gosh, I always have a hard time, because my favorite Gospel -- and you're probably not meant to have favorite Gospels, just like you're not meant to have favorite children, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Right, right.

Rebecca McLaughlin: But truly, my favorite Gospels are John's Gospel or Luke's Gospel, depending on the day. But I think it can be really helpful, actually, to start with Mark's Gospel, because it's the shortest Gospel, so quickest to read, and it's almost certainly the first one that was written down.

There's good evidence to think that when John sat down to write his Gospel toward the end of his life, that he probably actually had access to Mark's Gospel, and likely Matthew and Luke as well, at least to some parts of Mark's Gospel. So Mark is the first out of the gate to write an account of Jesus' life. And I think it can be really interesting to read the Gospels not in the order that they're given to us in the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, but actually to start with Mark and then to read Matthew and Luke and to read John. To read them more sort chronologically, I find really interesting.

Yeah, I would go through and maybe underline the passages you think, oh, I think this is actually a metaphor. I think here Jesus is telling a story, a parable. Here I think maybe Jesus is using hyperbole. So something in the study -- we sort of spend a week on each different kind of writing you'd find in the Gospels to help people get a feel for that.

And look at, you know, how is this author? So let's start with Mark. How is Mark telling us about who Jesus is? How does, for example, the story of Jesus calming a storm just with his words and his disciples saying, "Who on Earth is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?" Why is Mark telling us that story? What's his point? What does it reveal about who Jesus is?

And you can piece together step by step, as you walk through Mark, that Mark is telling us Jesus is the very son of God, who came to live and die and be raised for us. And so to read the whole Gospel front to back with an eye to what is Mark telling us about Jesus? He gives it away in the first verse, the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But we then see him sort of build his case through the stories that he tells us, and it's an extraordinary case.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's so extraordinary. And, you know, you just said that first verse of Mark. And I think most of our listeners probably know this, but that is what Gospel means: Good News. And ultimately that's what you are going to read in every word, in whatever style or genre you're finding in the Gospels. And I just can't recommend enough the "Navigating Gospel Truth," because it just is very clear you're going to be a guide helping us understand these things that might be unfamiliar. So I'm very grateful for the resource.

And we're going to get to our last question, Rebecca. So ultimately, how does reading the Gospels accurately or faithfully change the way we think about God and the way we live?

Rebecca McLaughlin: If you, like me, are someone who's been a Christian for a long time, it can be easy to be so sort of familiar with the claims about Jesus that we don't fully recognize quite how disruptive they are of our day-to-day lives. If you think about the claim that Jesus is the true and rightful king of all the earth -- as you said at the end of Matthew's Gospel, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." If we think about the fact that Jesus has the power to calm a storm just with his words, and yet he used his power not to dominate, but as he explains in Mark's Gospel, he -- even the Son of Man didn't come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Our entire lives -- if Jesus is who he says he is, our entire lives should be built around him and not around ourselves. Our understanding of status should be turned upside down by who Jesus is. Our understanding of what really matters in life will be completely overturned by fully recognizing who Jesus is revealed to be in the Gospels. So I think we need to recognize quite how dangerous the Gospels are, quite how uncomfortable and difficult they are, if we want to continue in our sort of comfortable, often complacent lives. And I say this to myself as much as to anyone else, if we want to continue with, you know, the same old, same old in our comfortable position -- don't open up the Gospels if that's what you want to do, because what you'll find there is someone whose life, death, and resurrection changes everything, whose view of us is utterly offensive in terms of our desperate need for salvation. You know, Jesus isn't just a guru or an example or a life coach. He is a Savior who we desperately need. But someone who loves us beyond our wildest dreams despite knowing us better than we know ourselves.

So, yeah, I would encourage everyone to open the Gospels with those fresh eyes and to think, okay, who is Jesus and how is that going to change me today?

K.C. Wright: Such great stuff. So, so, so good.

Jennifer Rothschild: It was so good. I told you it would be. I loved everything she said. And let's be honest, I love the way she said it. Anything in a British accent just sounds inviting and much smarter than the way I would say it.

K.C. Wright: That's so true. When I went to England, I was always asking them to talk, and they were always wanting me to talk.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, right?

K.C. Wright: We just bounced off each other's accents.

Well, this conversation makes me love the Lord even more and want to open his love letter. Right? The Bible really is the best gift. It's a gift to us, so let's treat it that way. We will have a link to her book "Navigating Gospel Truth," plus her other books, all on the Show Notes, a valuable, reachable, resource that's just a click away at

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, our people. Well, keep decking the halls and decorating and doing whatever you're doing, but keep finding your greatest joy this season in the greatest story that was ever told. You can because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And you can.

K.C. Wright: You can. Truly, you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, goodness. (Singing) Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la.

K.C. Wright: My spirit man is Buddy the Elf.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love Buddy the Elf. That is my favorite Christmas movie ever.


Go deeper into this week's question in my Bible Study Bistro Facebook group. There's a community of 4:13ers waiting for you!