The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight (Zondervan, 2008) is easy to read and explains how to understand the Bible. McKnight is well qualified to write such a book from both his studies and his experience.
McKnight believes we do the Bible a disservice when we treat it like a rule book or an instruction manual. As if it is a book we have to wrestle with in order to find a systematic theology. Instead we need to read the Bible as the continuing Story of God’s involvement in human affairs. Since God’s character doesn’t change we can learn from the way he dealt with his people in the past and understand how he will deal with us.
I particularly enjoyed the way McKnight showed how Jesus and Paul used teaching from the Old Testament yet presented it differently to fit the culture of their day. Likewise we need to take the principles, but not necessarily the practices, of both the Old and New Testament and think how these fit in our culture.
As an example of how to read the Bible (and how not to read the Bible) McKnight discusses the issue of women in ministry. He gives us the contextual background of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, explaining them in light of the many other examples of women being active in leadership in the early church.
This is a very enlightening book which has helped me understand many of the more difficult passages in the Bible.