Hermeneutics 101: Reasons, Challenges, and Benefits of Biblical Interpretation
Almost ten years ago I was introduced to hermeneutics by William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard in the first semester of my M.Div. program. Thanks to their sturdy textbook resource I got a goodly introduction to the important practice of biblical interpretation. Which is why I’m thrilled they’ve updated and revised it!
Now in its third edition, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation offers concise, logical, and practical guidelines for discovering the truth in God’s Word. With updates and revisions throughout that keep pace with current scholarship, this guide offers the best, most up-to-date information needed to interpret Scripture.
But how are we to learn what the Bible says? How do we…
How in the World are We Reading the Same Bible? – An Excerpt from The Blue Parakeet
Women in Leadership. Participation in war. Charismatic gifts. We can all agree that we don’t always agree on topics such as these. How is it that we are all reading the same Bible, but finding ourselves on different sides?
In today’s excerpt from The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight tells the story of his early years of study and how he was disturbed as he saw conflicting interpretations of Scripture and how this discontent drove him to rethink how he read the Bible.
The Discovery of a Question
Throughout this process of conversion and reading the Bible, I made discoveries…
Want to Read the Bible Well? Then Read It This Way, Which Leviticus Illustrates
True confession: I was once a professional Bible quizzer.
As a teenager I memorized John 1, 3, 5 and 8; 2 Corinthians 1-10; and all of Ephesians and 1-3 John. Then I memorized the questions that accompanied those verses so I could buzz in early, leaving my competitors in the dust. That’s what true Bible quizzing professionals did, after all.
Looking back I’m thankful for that experience, because it gave me a solid grounding in God’s Word. But I also see how it skewed my view of the Bible. I saw it as a thing to chop up and dissect for knowledge sake. And what verses I did memorize were totally disconnected from the Bible’s larger narrative.
Bible quizzing taught me to memorize verses, it didn’t teach me to read the Bible.
In their book How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart expose a similar problem of their generation:
our generation had learned a kind of devotional reading of the Bible that emphasized reading it only in parts and pieces, looking for a “word of the day.” (14)
Like my own reading of Scripture, the downside to this “daily breadcrumb” style of reading is that it teaches people “to read the texts in a way that disconnected them from the grand story of the Bible.” (14)
Twelve years ago their book sought to rectify this problem by showing how the various books of the Bible fit into God’s story.
Because after all, that’s what the Bible is, a story—God’s story. And in order to read the Bible well, this is how it should be read.
Here are 3 reasons why and an example to illustrate:
Is Acts Descriptive or Prescriptive? Here’s How to Read It For All Its Worth
People come to the book of Acts for a variety of reasons. Some come for history. Others for apologetics. Many, though, come seeking a model for Christian devotion and practice.
But is this latter reason even appropriate?
Does Acts describe or prescribe such diverse practices as baptism, church polity, frequency of observing the Lord’s Supper, method of choosing deacons, and selling and sharing possessions?
This is the primary question Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart address in their chapter on Acts in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, the newly revised fourth edition of this standard-bearer of evangelical biblical interpretation.
Here’s Fee and Stuart's concern:
How do the individual narratives in Acts…function as precedents for the later church, or do they? Or put another way, does the book of Acts provide information that not only describes the primitive church but speaks as a norm to the church at all times?
What they ultimately determine is “Unless Scripture explicitly tells us we must do something, what is only narratives or described does not function in a normative way.” (124)
The authors provide six hermeneutical principles for historical narratives generally and outline Luke’s intent to help us read Acts for all it's worth.
Exegesis and Hermeneutics: The Bible Interpreter’s Two Most Important Tasks
“The test of good interpretations is that it makes good sense of what is written.” (22)
For 33 years that guiding principle has sat at the heart of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, an evangelical standard-bearer for biblical interpretation. Since 1981 Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart have helped interested Christians do what St. Augustine said he heard: “Take up and read!” This new fourth edition seeks the same goal of helping us read God’s Word better with worship and obedience.
And yet, Fee and Stuart encourage not just any reading.
They encourage good reading through good interpretation, the aim of which is not uniqueness but plainness—a so-called “plain reading of Scripture.”
“[U]niqueness is not the aim of our task,” they write. “The aim of good interpretation is simple: to get at the ‘plain meaning of the text,’ the author’s intended meaning.” (22)
Easier said than done!
Fee and Stuart say such an endeavor is possible, but requires much from the reader at two separate levels: We must first understand what was said to original audience back then and there; we must learn to hear the same word in the hear and now.
In other words, the two most important tasks for biblical interpreters is exegesis and hermeneutics. Without them the reader is lost.
And so is the interpretation.
Al Mohler and Peter Enns on Biblical Inerrancy
This morning we introduced and launched a giveaway contest for a new cogent resource that engages one of the most contemporary conversations in evangelicalism: Biblical inerrancy.
In the video below, two voices from the book explain their theological and biblical positions. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Peter Enns, a biblical scholar at Eastern University, share what this word does and does not mean to them, and inerrancy means for the Bible.
As a classical inerrantists, Mohler contends that we need to come back and look at the definition of biblical inerrancy ensconced in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy devised in the late 1970's.
Mohler contends "that they got [inerrancy] right in the late 1970's. The…
Wednesday Giveaway – How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth
This week’s giveaway is a classic book on biblical interpretation from Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.
Over the years more than half a million people have turned to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth to inform their reading of the biblical text. That so many have relied on this resource is a testimony to Fee and Stewart’s insistence that understanding the Bible isn’t just for the few, the gifted, and the scholarly.
Instead, the Bible is meant to be read and comprehended by everyone…
Wednesday Giveaway – “Grasping God’s Word” 3rd Edition
Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays’ classic work on hermeneutics, Grasping God’s Word, is now being released in a revised third edition, and this week you have a chance to win a copy!
The core of the work, which has been embraced by students and teachers around the world, remains the same, but the new edition provides needed updates on the second edition which was published in 2005.
Changes in the third edition include updated cultural references, discussions of recent theological developments, the inclusion of a call to “cross into the rest of Scripture” as an additional step in the Interpretive Journey that emphasizes the Bible’s redemptive arc, and a rearrangement of…
Wednesday Giveaway – Living God’s Word
Too often our reading of Scripture is disjointed – a sermon on John, a Bible study in Genesis, reading a Psalm each day with our devotions – haphazardly moving from one book to the next with little sense of how they all fit together.
Even when we learn to exegete Scripture in detail, this larger picture can be difficult to grasp.
In this week’s giveaway, Living God’s Word, Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays explain that larger picture by presenting the Bible as a Great Story, and teaching readers how their own lives fit into what God has done and is doing in the world.
They survey the entire Bible…
Wednesday Giveaway – Grasping God’s Word
I’m excited to announce this week’s giveaway, Grasping God’s Word by Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays!
An indispensable approach to reading, interpreting and applying the Bible, Grasping God’s Word teaches students how to carefully read Scripture in the biblical context, and to dig deeper into the Word of God so they will be able to understand the Bible correctly and apply its meaning to their lives.
There is one copy of Grasping God’s Word available, and this giveaway will run through Thursday.
To enter simply answer this question in the comments below: Which Biblical book or genre do you find most difficult to interpret?
*If you are reading this via Facebook, email, or RSS,…
Wednesday Giveaway: Is There a Meaning in This Text?
This week’s giveaway is a classic, a special tenth anniversary edition of Kevin Vanhoozer’s Is There a Meaning in This Text?. Featuring a new forward by Craig Blomberg, Vanhoozer’s book tackles the questions facing hermeneutics in a postmodern age.
“What starts off as contemporary hermeneutics to justify the move from biblical text to systematic theology becomes full-blown, highly sophisticated, theological hermeneutics in Is There a Meaning in This Text?. The decade this book has been in print has not diminished my enthusiasm for it. Vanhoozer is one of the few contemporary scholars who takes a balanced measure of postmodern thought within an unflinching Christian confessionalism.
Here is neither…
Barth on the Word and Scripture
“For Barth, the Word of God (i.e., the event of God’s self-revelation) is always a new work, a free decision of God that cannot be bound to a creaturely form of mediation, including Scripture. This Word never belongs to history but is always an eternal event that confronts us in our contemporary existence.
‘If therefore we are serious about the fact that this miracle is an event,’ Barth writes, ‘we cannot regard the presence of God’s Word in the Bible as an attribute inhering once and for all in this book as such and what we see before us of books and chapters and verses’” – Michael Horton The Christian Faith
Barth is undeniably fascinating, but I’m never quite sure…