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Navigating Tough Texts: A Guide to Problem Passages in the New Testament

ISBN: 9781683593959
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Navigating Tough Texts

A guide for reading and understanding difficult New Testament verses.

While the core message of the New Testament is clear, there are often puzzling, alarming, or confusing things we encounter when we get into the details of the text.

Murray J. Harris, veteran scholar and translator, is an ideal guide through these complicated passages. In Navigating Tough Texts, he clearly and concisely provides exegetical insights to over one hundred tricky New Testament verses that have implications for theology, apologetics, mission, and the Christian life.

Navigating Tough Texts is an indispensable resource for pastors, students, and curious Christians who want to be better readers of the many important—and often confusing—New Testament passages.

Praise for Navigating Tough Texts

Murray Harris was my exegesis teacher, and was the finest teacher I ever had. His gentle voice, his probing questions, his expectation of careful scrutiny of the Greek text, and his leading us to compelling answers set for me a model of education I shall never myself achieve. But I know I’m a better reader of the Greek text because of time spent with him. This book is but a taste of his brilliant classroom teaching. You, the reader, are privileged to listen to one of the great Greek minds of our day.

–Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Chair of New Testament, Northern Seminary

Murray Harris’s Navigating Tough Texts is a crisp but clear look at many problem texts in the NT. In a few pages each, he describes the issue and works through it with the exceptional skill of someone who has taught Scripture for many years. Most texts people wrestle with will be found here and with solutions that consistently make sense.

–Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Murray Harris is one of God’s wondrous gifts to the whole church—Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox alike. With brilliant insight, remarkable clarity, and theological wisdom, he leads readers through the interpretive alternatives of significant texts in the New Testament. Topics include judging others, the unpardonable sin, anger, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and others that are relevant to church history, theology, evangelism, Christology, and Christian living—all in just a few pages per topic. In short, this is a user-friendly resource that interprets problematic texts for every thinking Christian.

–Bradley Nassif, professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University, Chicago

Murray Harris brings his immense expertise in New Testament Greek and his lifetime of study and research to bear on those tough New Testament texts that perplex or confuse us. Packed full of understanding and insight, this volume gives clear, accessible, and wonderfully helpful discussions of these challenging passages. This is a veritable treasure trove of wisdom, inspiration, and spiritual nourishment.

–Paul Trebilco, professor of New Testament studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Nuanced. Concise. And from a veteran teacher. Harris adeptly deals with a host of problem passages in the New Testament. This is a book that will serve pastors for years to come and should be a first stop for a brief solution to some of the most troubling or debated passages in the New Testament.

–Patrick Schreiner, associate professor of New Testament language and literature, Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon

What a marvelous collection from a distinguished scholar and master teacher that is chock full of nuggets of perceptive interpretation. Murray Harris has a knack for making crystal clear the meaning of notoriously difficult and misunderstood texts, and for shedding new light on both familiar and overlooked texts that leads to deeper insights. The engaging style makes this book accessible for everyone, but it definitely should be in every minister’s and Bible teacher’s toolbox to consult when confronted by the questions concerning the meaning of New Testament Scripture.

–David E. Garland, professor of Christian Scriptures, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Top Highlights

“We can therefore conclude that sometimes, by God’s permission, the devil’s actions promote or fulfill God’s purposes. Since Satan is not omniscient, he will be unaware of God’s overarching aims when he, unwittingly, by his machinations serves those aims.” (Page 5)

“When he forgives our sins, he chooses not to remember them in the sense that in his divine accounting he no longer reckons them to our account.” (Page 10)

“Our English word ‘blaspheme’ derives from two Greek words—blaptō (‘harm,’ ‘damage’) and phēmē (‘reputation’). To blaspheme is to injure the reputation of God by slanderous speech about him, or by misusing his name (Exod 20:7; Deut 5:11).” (Page 25)

“After pointing out the absurdity of this conclusion (Mark 3:23–26), Jesus speaks of sins and slanderous utterances that God could forgive, and one sin that was impossible to forgive—the attributing of the works of Jesus to the activity of Satan: ‘Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness; they are guilty of an eternal sin’ (Mark 3:28–29). In reality, it was by the Spirit of God that Jesus was expelling demons (Matt 12:28), but these visitors from headquarters in Jerusalem were so perverted and hardened in their spiritual outlook that they saw only darkness where there was light, and evil where there was only good.” (Pages 25–26)

“Regardless of who these people were, their aim was to create devastating hindrances to the advance of the kingdom. They were trying (harpazousin) to plunder the kingdom, to claim it for themselves. I therefore suggest that Matthew 11:12 should be rendered, ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been trying to raid it.’” (Page 18)

  • Part 1: Gospels and Acts
    • Matthew (14 verses)
    • Mark (7 verses)
    • Luke (9 verses)
    • John (20 verses)
    • Acts (7 verses)
  • Part 2: Epistles and Revelation
    • Romans (9 verses)
    • 1 Corinthians (12 verses)
    • 2 Corinthians (10 verses)
    • Galatians (3 verses)
    • Ephesians (3 verses)
    • Philippians (2 verses)
    • Colossians (5 verses)
    • 1 Thessalonians (2 verses)
    • 1 Timothy (1 verse)
    • 2 Timothy (2 verses)
    • Titus (1 verse)
    • Philemon (1 verse)
    • Hebrews (4 verses)
    • James (1 verse)
    • 1 Peter (2 verses)
    • 2 Peter (2 verses)
    • 1 John (3 verses)
    • Jude (1 verse)
    • Revelation (2 verses)
  • Title: Navigating Tough Texts: A Guide to Problem Passages in the New Testament
  • Author: Murray J. Harris
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Page Count: 288
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • Trim Size: 5.5x8.5
  • ISBN: 9781683593959

Murray J. Harris is professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Theological School. Formerly he was warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge (UK), and faculty member of the Divinity School in the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many well-known biblical studies books.


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  1. Braxton Sheehy
    I especially like the way he describes the significance of "doulos" and, in particular, the word order in which followers of Christ described themselves. (page 101)
  2. Mark A Rioux

    Mark A Rioux



Print list price: $23.99
Save $7.00 (29%)