Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature and Theology
There are so many hermeneutics textbooks out there, that when a new one that is almost 900 pages long hits the market, you tend to do what you can to ignore its existence. However, when the book is co-written by Andreas Kostenberger and has thirteen pages of endorsements, including blurbs from Grant Osborne, Daniel Akin, David Dockery, Tremper Longman, Wayne Grudem, Eugene Merrill, Greg Beale, J.I. Packer, Tom Schreiner, D.A. Carson, Mark Driscoll, Russell Moore and others, you canÃ¢ÂÂt help but take notice.
The book is an introduction to Interpretation, and despite its size, is not designed to be a comprehensive technical textbook. Kostenberger and Patterson base their work on a Hermeneutical Triad of looking at history, literature, and theology when dealing with the text of scripture. History functions as the context of the text. The literature section deals with the type of passage being dealt with, whether at the level of canon, genre, or language. The final portion deals with how the text fits into the entire biblical theology. The authors close with a good chapter on application, an area that has suffered much abuse at the hands of well meaning but untrained pastors and laymen. Another very nice feature is a section at the end of the book that gives tips and recommends works for building a hermeneutical library. I always appreciate scholars who give book by book recommendations for commentaries.
Overall the work is a quality contribution to the field of Biblical interpretation, and maybe has its greatest strength in how it is formatted- it is laid out for a semester of teaching with teaching resources available online such as a syllabus, quizzes and Powerpoint slides. I am curious to see if the work becomes the standard Bible College text in the field in years to come.
I give Invitation to Biblical Interpretation 5 out of 5 stars.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.
August 9, 2013
Incredible Resource for the Church
What tool did I use when teaching a hermeneutic class at my church? One of the main resources which I used was Andreas KostenbergerÃ¢ÂÂs and Richard PattersonÃ¢ÂÂs Invitation to Biblical Interpretation. Kostenberger and Patterson offer an incredible tool to the church and the scholar alike. The authors offer what they call the hermeneutical triad as a means of faithful interpretation. This method takes into account history, archeology, customs, culture, linguistics, literary genre, redemptive history, and theology. This much information may seem overwhelming but the method is very exhaustive in regards to covering all territory of interpretation. One incredibly nice aspect of the book is that it includes so many different tools and approaches. From my perspective this is the reasoning it is so well accepted by so many different theologians. If you look at the books endorsements it becomes clear that the book covers a range of different theological positions. The people who endorse the book range dramatically in regards to theological background. I highly endorse this resource. You may become overwhelmed when you see its size, but it is definitely something to take the time to work through no matter how long it takes you.
June 5, 2012
A must-read resource for Bible study
I have never come across a more comprehensive and accessible resource for handling the Word of God than "Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology" by Andreas J. KÃÂ¶stenberger & Richard D. Patterson. This new 900 page book has truly set a new standard when it comes to Christian academic resources. In its thoroughness and detail, usability and accessibility, scholarship and piety, this work is simply unmatched. And I am not alone in this assessment, the book's opening 13 pages contain no less than 39 endorsements from a wide range of leading evangelical scholars. And the fact that this is a hermeneutics textbook makes such widespread acclaim all the more surprising.
While the book is designed for the classroom, I read through the book from the standpoint of an educated layman looking for a resource on interpreting Scripture. This book proved to be more than just a resource tool, it is a virtual stand-alone hermeneutics course in and of itself, with a limitless supply of suggested books and articles for additional reading and self-study.
The book unfolds KÃÂ¶stenberger and Patterson's "hermeneutical triad" as an overarching approach to interpretation. This triad consists of history (archeology, culture, manners and customs, and other historical matters), literature (canon, genres, linguistics), and theology (biblical theology). But before getting into the heart of the book, the authors reveal their philosophical approach to interpreting Scripture, which I find incredibly helpful:
"[W]e don't start with words; we start with the canon. For example, this is also how we would interpret, say, a play by Shakespeare. We don't just analyze the words in a given sentence; we first try to learn more about Shakespeare, his background, the time in which he wrote, surveying his major works, and so on, before finally settling on a particular play. Even then we might read a good summary before eventually delving in and starting to read the play. When we encounter a given word with which we are unfamiliar, we would not stop reading, because we are more concerned about following the general flow than identifying individual word meanings. Thus we don't start with analyzing the details of the biblical text (word study); we start with the whole (canon).
"What is more, we also don't start out pretending the Bible is just like any other book, because we don't believe it is. Rather, our purpose here is not to study just any form of human communication; our purpose is to study the Bible-the inerrant, inspired Word of God.... Ultimately, this is God's canon, conveyed in the genres intended by God, and communication of God's discourses using God's words (without of course denying human instrumentality , style and authorship). Thus, we don't introduce the notion of the Bible being "special" at some point later in the interpretive process (as if it were immaterial to the early stages of general hermeneutics) but put it front and center in the organization of the book." (pg. 25-26)
I hold that both of these points are incredibly important. We have to encounter God's Word from a big picture approach that pays attention to authorial intent, but we also have to recognize the Divine Author behind the text.
After explaining their method, the authors more right into focusing on each element of the triad. A brief overview of the history of hermeneutics is given and then the matters of history, archeology and the historical context of the times of the Bible are discussed at a fairly high level, but with many particular examples. This is helpfully fleshed out in a "sample exegesis" section which concludes most chapters. The research into how the Canaanites viewed the god Baal (the god of storms) helps us appreciate what is at stake when Elijah announces that Yahweh has suspended all rain (and all storms).
After discussing the role that history plays, the authors then devote the lion's share of the work to the discussion of literature. The canon, its development and current shape, is explored as to how that should shape our interpretation, and a brief theology of the OT and the NT are sketched. The minor prophets offer an example where both the message of the books themselves need to be understood as well as their particular literary arrangement as "the book of the twelve". I really appreciated this emphasis on canonical interpretation, which the authors define as: "a faithful effort to hear the way in which God addresses his people in and through the text of Scripture as it testifies to God in Christ" but it is not so much a method as "a practice of theological reading" (pg. 157).
The discussion of Genre covers OT historical narrative, poetry and wisdom literature, prophecy, NT historical narrative, parables, epistles and apocalyptic literature. Some genres are covered more in depth than others, with epistles and prophecy perhaps getting pride of place. The discussions give numerous examples and flesh out the why and how in an extremely clear and careful manner. Wise cautions and helpful insights abound. No real theological biases are detectable except perhaps a bias against full preterism. The authors don't rush to make judgement calls on how everyone must read prophecy or view Revelation, either. At times I felt they must be historic premil, yet they stressed the symbolic nature of Revelation, as per its genre. The discussions take care to root themselves as much as possible in analysis of the biblical text rather than forcing foreign genre considerations onto textual data. I found the dicsussion of parables extremely helpful and balanced, not advocating a rigid "one-point" approach to parables yet not aiming for a no-holds-barred allegorical free-for-all, either.
The discussion on analyzing the language of literature was extraordinarily helpful. The authors emphasize looking at how the larger sections of the text relate to one another (discourse analysis) rather than just doing word studies. They give a helpful overview of some technical points of Hebrew and Greek (as well as English) grammar, and even point out occasional problems with the lexical approach of even such classic works as Kittel's TDNT, and stress the role of context and semantic range in determining meaning. They also include a helpful section covering 12 exegetical fallacies with plenty of examples to illustrate the discussion. They also discuss figurative language and how we can recognize and interpret it.
The book then shows how to put everything together. The third tier of the triad, theology actually begins this process by stressing that we make our theological connections based on the text, which is the essence of biblical theology. After discussing the nature and method of biblical theology, the book closes with an exceedingly helpful chapter that offers a method for preaching through the various genres and applying the message of the text to the lives of people today. This chapter includes a discussion of Bible software tools and commentaries and other resources, but spends the bulk of the time discussing how to preach through all the various genres that were discussed earlier in the book. Cautions, challenges, methods, and sample outlines make this section especially practical and useful in the context of a daily ministry. An appendix is also included that has a short list of the best commentaries to get on each book of the Bible as well as other important resources to have handy.
My biggest critique of the book would be that it doesn't go on to cover in detail absolutely everything I would want it to! But that is hardly fair, and it would make for a more unmanageable and unwieldy tool. I do have one bit of criticism, however. I would have liked to see the "how to" section at the end, with the example of how to preach through the genres more clearly called out from the sections covering the genre. For example, the section covering Proverbs in the chapter on Wisdom literature doesn't deal with some of the pastoral concerns such as whether proverbs apply universally to all situations or not. Yet this concern is addressed in the how to section in the last chapter. I think a clearer link would have served those of us who will use the book more as a reference work than a seminary text book. My only additional quibble is that the assignments and bibliography from the previous chapter blend right in with the introductory objectives and outline for the next chapter. The formatting of the book just seems a bit odd in that regard.
Mentioning the bibliographies leads me to one more positive feature of the book. Each chapter has a selected bibliography for additional reading, and then in the footnotes, specific articles or books are called out that will be pertinent to the topic at hand. The footnotes and bibliography are usually helpful and accessible, rather than merely technical and scholarly.
This book deserves pride of place on the shelf of anyone studying, preaching or teaching the Bible. Even where one may have a different theological bent or a disagreement with the authors, the book still will prove useful.
"Invitation to Biblical Interpretation" truly is a must-read, need-to-get book. It is evangelical scholarship at its best, and cannot be ignored. If you are not employing the techniques and practices put forth in this book, you owe it to yourself, at the very least, to read it and justify why you are not. This book can't do the hard work of faithful exegesis for you, but it can set you in the right direction and prevent you from stumbling at all the wrong places. You really need to get this book!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publications for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
March 9, 2012
Perfect for taking Bible study to the next level
"Invitation to Biblical Interpretation" Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology is a book that is similar to a textbook but is very informative for the average person.Written in an easy to understand manner which emphasizes the history, literature,and theology of the Bible.It gives a clear picture of Bible interpretation. The book is broken down into three parts:
1. Interpretation:The Hermeneutical Triad
2.The Focus of Scripture:Literature
Each chapter in the book begins with a chapter objective, then a chapter outline,and wraps up with a key words, study questions assignments and a chapter bibliography.There is a glossary provided as well as scripture index, a subject index, and a person index.For me I actually found the scripture index very helpful because I used it to look up particular verses that I had questions about.
Overall if your someone who wants to take your Bible study to the next level and want a book that's going to help you understand what your reading in the Bible then this book is for you. Even though this book is 890 pages don't let the size stop you from using it because it's very easy to navigate.While this book is great for classroom study, its also perfect for personal use, I think every church should have a copy in their library.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
March 8, 2012