Book Review: Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV

Some books are for generalists, others for specialists. Interpreting the General Letters by Herbert W. Bateman IV is a specialist book even though its about the general letters of the New Testament. The General Letters are those not written by Paul, in other words — Hebrews, James, Jude, the letters of Peter and John.

If you ever wanted a peek under the hood of digging deep into the Bible, this book is a technical instruction manual for doing exegesis in this part of the Bible. Knowledge of Koine Greek is almost essential to use this guide.

What I appreciated most about this book was chapters 4-6 and the 9 steps they provide for interpreting the General Letters. As one who teaches/preaches God’s Word, it is always good to get better at your craft. The 9 steps Bateman provides are for deep drilling to get to the heart of the text. I loved his idea in step 1 to color code the verbs of a text. This would make a great Bible software program!

As I read the book I came away with a greater appreciation for these individual letters especially Jude and 1 John. Bateman showed me that digging deep can lead to great nuggets of Biblical truth to build a solid foundation for proclaiming a message with confidence that you are sharing the heart of God’s Word.

I also appreciated the charts along the way from understanding how New Testament letters compare to the letters people wrote in that day and the summaries of how passages compared with each other on a particular subject. The charts provide a visual demonstration that is easier for my eyes to pick up what is said.

Since I have a different view of the Second Coming, I push back a bit against his view of what the millennium involves. My other push back is the missed next step of application. Though the 9 steps he lays out provide a homiletical outline, it seemed strong on alliteration and light on application.

I give Interpreting the General Letters 4 out of 5 stars. This is a good technical guide to digging deeper into the General Letters for those who want to go deeper in their study of God’s Word and are looking for some good tools to develop to do so. My thanks to Kregel Academic for a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review, just an honest one. If you want to take a sneak peek at Interpreting the General Letters, click here.


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