Book Review by Kerry Botha

“An underlying reason for writing this book is my passionate belief that Jesus is the only person in all history who can provide us with the ultimate and unchanging answer to ‘What is Truth?’” – Dr. Christopher Peppler in Truth is the Word.

I am writing this review not as a scholar but as an ordinary congregant of Dr Peppler’s Village Church.  I have also had the unique privilege of being part of a team involved in revising and editing the second edition of Truth is the Word and to work alongside its author as we did.  Dr. Peppler is passionate about Jesus and desires to make him central in both the life of the Christian and the Church.

Our primary intention in the editing the second edition was to simplify the text, which while originally written to engage and challenge the thinking of a post modern generation, was difficult to read, making valuable concepts hard to grasp.

This was unfortunate because herein lies some precious kernels of truth, layered like Jesus’ parables, in levels of meaning.  It has been a personal joy to discover these as we worked through the text, absorbing almost as if by osmosis, Jesus Christ as the source of truth as we did.

When the grammar and concepts became simpler to grasp, so Jesus began to emerge.  This is the serendipitous delight of Truth is the Word – restoring a lost focus.  As you read through this book, you will not only learn historical facts about early biblical scholars and their hermeneutical approaches to the study of the Bible – uncanny in their insight and relevance to today, you will also begin to peel away the layers of your own knowledge acquisition and discover Jesus himself.  This process is akin to the Kingdom itself i.e. a little bit of yeast affects the whole dough.  Our comprehension after reading chapter upon chapter becomes like leaven and, slowly but surely, Jesus will arise and the truth begin to emerge as well.

What I particularly enjoy too about Dr Peppler is that he is not afraid to tackle the “holy cows” or unspoken givens of the Christian faith.  I refer here specifically to the chapter on the possibility of an open canon. What if a cache of ancient biblical scrolls was discovered in the desert today? What if it contained an additional gospel?  How would we test its authenticity? Indeed would we even tolerate the possibility that the scriptures may not be complete in themselves, or that God himself may want to include an additional book or two in the Bible as it stands today?

The author is not afraid to put it out there.  However, having done so he requires that we apply a rigorous and disciplined approach in our testing of the possibility.  I love this generosity of intellectual thought – giving the reader space to think and reflect.  Something I suspect our Lord Jesus would have done too.

Another aspect of the author’s openness is his suggestion that the bible is both authored by man and God himself, which can be found under the section, entitled The divine-human authoring partnership.   In this section, Dr Peppler makes the case that in order to consider the idea of a truly divine-human partnership in authoring the Bible, one needs to embrace the human factor, which may account for many of the apparent contradictions in the biblical text.  He writes: “Many Christians balk at the idea of genuine human involvement.  Either/or thinking predominates; either God inspired the Bible and impelled human to transcribe his thoughts, or it is an entirely human product.”  In order to consider the idea of a truly divine-human partnership in authoring the Bible, the author challenges us to shift to both-and thinking,

Truth is the Word is made up of two parts – the first ‘What is Truth’ deals with the relationship between Jesus and the Bible and the contention that Jesus is the source of truth, and the second ‘Comprehending the Truth’ with Jesus as the chief interpreter of the Bible.

I am sure that you will find the Second Edition of the book and its wonderful concepts now easier to grasp and enjoy. For the serious theological scholar a comprehensive appendix can be found at the back of the book, covering aspects such as the philosophical model of knowledge acquisition, theories of truth, modern hermeneutic options and the Christocentric Principle – a Jesus-Centred hermeneutic.

That apart, for anyone wanting to discover how Jesus may be found in the scriptures, and to be fundamentally challenged in the tenets of the Christian faith as you do so, this book is an essential travel guide.

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