‘Unlocking the Bible’ by David Pawson (book review)

Unlocking the BibleI came across David Pawson via a friend; the same person who prayed for me to be baptised in the Holy Spirit a few months ago. When I first saw his copy of Unlocking the Bible I thought ‘What on Earth is that?’, such was the hugeness of the volume and the unfamiliarity of the author’s name.

I looked up the name David Pawson on YouTube and watched a few videos. It quickly became apparent that he was a knowledgable and interesting speaker. I watched this elderly gentleman being interviewed about the End Times and teaching on the Holy Spirit, and before long I was on Amazon investing in a few of his books.

I’m not normally a fan of long books. I tend to be of the opinion that anything meaningful can be expressed in a concise way. I believe authors should have concern for their readers when they write, and having studied a little philosophy, I have at times been hugely frustrated when writers appear to produce volume upon volume of self-absorbed gobbledygook.

But although Unlocking the Bible is a large volume, the simple and accessible writing style immediately put my mind at ease. Pawson is very English in his style, and immediately his wit and humour appealed to me, as well as the simplicity of his writing (which by his own admission, a twelve-year-old could understand).

The book is actually written by a ‘ghostwriter’ who transferred a whole host of Pawson’s teaching notes, tapes, videos, and transcripts, into what eventually became Unlocking the Bible. Pawson explains the whole backstory in the book’s introduction. I had Pawson’s voice in my head as I read the book, which I suppose is evidence of what a good job the ghostwriter, Andy Peck, has done.

What is essentially a Bible commentary is arranged not in the order of the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, although it is these 66 books that are covered by Pawson. He arranged the content according to his own logic, in a way that helps the reader to appreciate the context and purpose of each book (so, for example, all of the ‘worship and wisdom’ books are grouped together).

There are countless wonderful insights in this book, as well as anecdotes, poems, stories, and other lovely touches that help make the book a highly satisfying read. As I have said, everything is explained with simplicity. Pawson absolutely loves to find patterns in Scripture, so in almost every chapter there is a chart, or a diagram, or a map.

I must admit there were times when I found Pawson’s preoccupation with patterns a little insidious, as though he might have been reading things into the text that weren’t intended by the inspired authors. But I will give Pawson the benefit of the doubt, and simply express gratitude for his effort to try to ‘unlock’ the Bible in this way.

The only time I struggled with this book was right at the end, in the commentary on the book of Revelation. It’s hardly surprising that I did struggle, as anyone who has read Revelation will know that it’s not straightforward to interpret. As with a lot of exegesis, there is a subjective element, as the ambiguities in the text mean they must be read in one way or another. Pawson does his best to explain and explore a range of alternative viewpoints before settling on those interpretations he finds most luminous.

I have explored several Bible commentaries, and this is by far the best I have come across. And seeing as you can pick up a copy on Amazon for a very affordable price, I would encourage all readers to add this volume to their library. At over 1300 pages it’s quite an undertaking, but also a wonderfully rewarding read.

9 comments

  1. Very good review, Steven. You definitely stoked my interest concerning Mr. Pawson. (However, I may do a little research on him first before purchasing.) I also appreciate your paragraph regarding writers being concise as opposed to being self-absorbed. Regarding Mr. Pawson, though, the length of his book seems justified, especially considering it is a commentary (which by nature and necessity must be long).

    Thanks again, Steven, for a well-done book review.

  2. Hi Steven. Just did a quick survey on Mr. Pawson’s theology and books, and overall, he looks solid. (By the way, he’s 87!) I agreed with just about all of his views with the exception of his “charasmatic” belief in a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit. Think I’ll give his book a go!

    1. Hi, David! Thanks so much for your comments. I anticipate that you might not agree with everything he says but I think on the whole you will find his writing interesting. He’s got a great style. I’ve got several other of his books on my bookshelf – ‘When Jesus Returns’ and ‘Understanding the Second Coming’ – he writes a lot about the end times.

      By the way, I totally agree that the length of the book is justified with ‘Unlocking the Bible’ – I probably should have stated that in the review as it was on my mind to do so!

      God bless and let me know how it goes with whichever Pawson resources you investigate. Yes, he’s an old man now – I’m actually thinking of writing to him if I can track down an address.

  3. Wow, a massive looking read. I’m very much interested though, I think I’ll begin with his YouTube lectures see how I go from there. Always interested in fresh perspectives. Thanks Steven!

  4. I have this book, an older version though / red cover and I can tell that it’s really “helpful” if you want to give a sermon or want to know more about backgrounds in which a (bible book) was written. A GOOD, GOOD book for those who are looking after such kind of information.

    1. Hey, Tim! I didn’t realise there was an older red version 🙂 Glad to hear you enjoyed the book as well – I agree it would be helpful for people preaching who want to explore the background and context of a particular book in the Bible.

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