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Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. - The Principlizing Method

Categories Theology Guest Posts


In the coming weeks Zondervan will release Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology offered by Daniel M. Doriani, Kevin Vanhoozer, William Webb and me. We have each expressed our solutions as to how contemporary believers can find theological and ethical answers to issues that never surfaced in Biblical times. Each of us also critiqued each other, but mercifully we did not see what the others rejected until just prior to the book’s release.

My case focused on arguing that there was a solution to be found in the Principlizing Method, known to exegetes of Scripture for centuries now. The interpreter of the Bible is not only responsible to comment on the truth-assertions or meanings of the human author of Scripture (who after all was the one who stood in the counsel of God to obtain his revelation in the first place), but the interpreter must also go on to derive textually authenticated principles from those same Biblical texts. The old word for the first process is what was known in another day as "originalism," while the second is usually treated under the rubric of "application."

Some, however, who were part of our team of four, did not believe that l went far enough. Some want to suggest other models that in one way or another extend beyond the page of Scripture. But wherein, in that case, can we see the sufficiency of Scripture? In what sense, then, is it true that all Scripture is "useful for teaching and the like? The issues are not simple, but downright complex. This topic will not die away with the publication of this book, but hopefully this text, like many in this same series from Zondervan, will trace a number of options that seek to help us as we face new theological questions and questions in the ethical realm such as genetic engineering, stem cell research, factory farms, euthanasia and the like. Surely, pastors are currently being called on to answer these questions, so it’s time the academy helped out.

What are your thoughts on this one? Do you like principlizing or do you see a trajectory that begins in Scripture, but carries you beyond its pale?

-- Walt Kaiser

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Dr. Kaiser has written over 40 books, including Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; The Messiah in the Old Testament; and The Promise-Plan of God; and coauthored An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Dr. Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside at Kerith Farm in Cedar Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Kaiser’s website is


Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology
Gary Meadors, Mark Strauss, Kevin Vanhoozer, William Webb, and Chris Wright
Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology
Gary Meadors, Mark Strauss, Kevin Vanhoozer, William Webb, and Chris Wright
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