The Ethical Vision of the Bible: Learning Good from Knowing God, By Peter W. Gosnell

The Ethical Vision of the Bible

Learning Good from Knowing God

by Peter W. Gosnell

The Ethical Vision of the Bible
  • Length: 411 pages
  • Published: April 01, 2014
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4028
  • ISBN: 9780830840281

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What ways of distinguishing right and wrong are encouraged within biblical writings? How did various bibical authors offer different yet complementary motivations for promoting ethical action and discouraging unethical behavior?

The Ethical Vision of the Bible equips readers with an interest in deepening their understanding of biblical ethics to listen carefully to the variety of ethical emphases found within the Bible itself.

Focusing especially on Torah (the Law), Proverbs, the Prophets, the Gospels and Paul, this book enables the reader to trace key ethical patterns as they develop from the flow of thought of these biblical texts in their own contexts.

Frequent summary overviews, suggestions for further reading, and reflection questions at the end of every chapter make The Ethical Vision of the Bible ideal for students and others.

"Do not bother with this book if you are hoping for neat answers to your favorite burning moral issues, along the lines of 'What does the Bible say about....?' Not only does Peter Gosnell not set out to give simple answers to a range of ethical questions, he also challenges that whole approach to using the Bible. Wanting a rule for every situation, to keep or not to keep—preferably with suitable penalties for the latter—is the way of the lazy, the legalist and the fundamentalist. Rather, Paul urges us to 'be transformed in the renewing of our minds,' which means that we actually have to do some thinking. What Gosnell offers is to guide our feet and our brains on a wonderfully illuminating journey through the Bible. All along the way he points out how different major sections of the Old and New Testaments address the question of what it means to live well in this broken world—to advance what is good and resist what is evil and harmful—and why we should do so. As you follow his lead through the rich panorama of texts he surveys, you will undoubtedly begin to 'get answers' to that difficult ethical issue you are concerned about, not because you found one verse that solved it but rather because you have thought it through in the light of the whole biblical witness to God and the purposes of God in creation, redemption and new creation. The book is delightfully easy to read, but its simplicity floats on reassuringly deep waters of thorough biblical scholarship. It is reliable, readable, well resourced and relevant."

Christopher J. H. Wright, international ministries director, Langham Partnership, and author of Old Testament Ethics for the People of God

STARRED REVIEW "Gosnell has written a careful and prudent approach to biblical ethics, which, as he points out, is not 'what the Bible says' but how it fosters ethical thought. His considerate scholarship reviews the 'how' of ethics over the course of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and arrives at the conclusion that biblical ethics prioritizes microethics over macroethics and people over principles and encourages readers to allow the Bible to lead them along similar lines. Verdict: Careful, sensible, and well written, Gosnell's study deserves a wide readership among religious leaders and church groups."

Library Journal, October 1, 2014

"This book would be helpful in seminary or advanced undergraduate courses. . . . I also found this book to be very stimulating and thought-provoking. Perhaps this is the highest praise for any book."

Daryl Docterman, Stone-Campbell Journal, Spring 2015

"Gosnell has written this book as an introductory college textbook, including numerous biblical citations as well as questions at the end of each chapter. His level of writing suits the audience, bringing concepts into a nicely framed, college textbook format."

Paul Mueller, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, June 2015



1 What is Biblical Ethics?
2 From Disorder to Order: Ethics in Torah 1
3 Mercy, Covenant and Instructing Law: Ethics in Torah 2
4 Holiness and Love in the Covenant: Ethics in Torah 3
5 Wisdom and Consequences: The Book of Proverbs
6 Prophets: Ethics or Morality?
7 Reversal and Exemplar: Jesus and the Kingdom in Luke
8 Perfection, Mercy and Imitation: Jesus and the Kingdom in Matthew
9 Transformation in Practice: Paul and 1 Corinthians
10 Transformation Explained: Paul and Romans
Concluding Thoughts: What Can We Do with All of This?
Name and Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Peter W. Gosnell

Peter W. Gosnell (PhD, University of Sheffield) is associate professor of religion at Muskingum University.