Character studies can be a mixed bag. Often the teacher will find what they want to find in a character’s story; proof-texting by means of name-dropping. Often studies will be driven by the teacher’s own agenda or fancies, moreso than a sensitivity towards the interests of the Biblical text(s). Often we will hear moralising tales not too different to “___ is bad; don’t be bad.” or “____ is good; be good too”. Alas, character studies are a dangerous game to play. So can they be done right? Enter Exhibit A: Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel by Randy McCracken (website). Family Portraits has restored my faith in character studies being both an academic and yet devotional pursuit. The key here is that Randy has a wonderful grasp of the biblical text of 1-2 Samuel, and his numerous practical applications are driven by the text and not his own imagination. Here we will not find fanciful connections or interpretations of character’s motives, but neither will we find dry academia for academia’s sake. These two pitfalls are cancelled out through Randy’s tightrope-walking performance.
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