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Reading the Bible with the Dead: What You Can Learn from the History of Exegesis That You Can't Learn from Exegesis Alone

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2007 / Paperback

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Product Description

Many Christians would describe themselves as serious and regular readers of the Bible. Yet, if we are honest, most of us have a tendency to stick with the parts of the Bible that we understand or are comforted by, leaving vast tracts of Scripture unexplored. Even when following a guide, we may never reach into the Bible's less-traveled regions---passages marked by violence, tragedy, offense, or obscurity.

What our modern minds shy away from, however, ancient, medieval, and Reformation commentators dove into. In fact, their writings often display strikingly contemporary interests and sensitivities to the meaning and moral implications of the Bible's difficult narratives. John Thompson here presents nine case studies in the history of exegesis---including the stories of Hagar and Jephthah's daughter, the imprecatory psalms, and texts that address domestic relations, particularly divorce---in order to demonstrate the valuable insights into Scripture that we can gain not only from what individual commentators say but from fifteen centuries' cumulative witness to the meaning of Scripture in the life of the church.

John L. Thompson is professor of historical theology and Gaylen & Susan Byker Professor of Reformed Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 312
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2007
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0802807534
ISBN-13: 9780802807533
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

Many Christians would describe themselves as serious and regular readers of the Bible. Yet, if we are honest, most of us have a tendency to stick with the parts of the Bible that we understand or are comforted by, leaving vast tracts of Scripture unexplored. Even when following a guide, we may never reach into the Bible's less-traveled regions -- passages marked by violence, tragedy, offense, or obscurity.

What our modern minds shy away from, however, ancient, medieval, and Reformation commentators dove into. In fact, their writings often display strikingly contemporary interests and sensitivities to the meaning and moral implications of the Bible's difficult narratives. John Thompson here presents nine case studies in the history of exegesis -- including the stories of Hagar and Jephthah's daughter, the imprecatory psalms, and texts that address domestic relations, particularly divorce -- in order to demonstrate the valuable insights into Scripture that we can gain not only from what individual commentators say but from fifteen centuries' cumulative witness to the meaning of Scripture in the life of the church.

Visit Dr. Thompson's companion website at: http://purl.oclc.org/net/jlt/exegesis so access further features such as a list of commentary literature in English through the year 1700 and sample sermons that model a homiletic use of the history of interpretation.

Editorial Reviews

Christian Century
"Thompson demonstrates that earlier generations struggled with questions not unlike our own and that they have much to teach us about faithful interpretation of scripture. A delightful read."

Interpretation
"Preachers will want to keep this book close at hand; it will impel them to investigate the riches of the history of exegesis also for texts they preach more often."

Richard B. Hays
— Duke Divinity School
"It is a peculiar conceit of modernity that we are the first to recognize the presence of puzzling, offensive texts in the Bible. John Thompson punctures that illusion and offers a fascinating survey of the diverse ways in which premodern interpreters struggled — for better and for worse — with some of the same texts that trouble us today. Reading the Bible with the Dead contains a treasure trove of provocative insights. The clarity of Thompson's exposition is exemplary, and his evaluations are wise and balanced. The 'Finding Guide to English Translations of Commentary Literature Written before 1600' will be of great value to students and pastors who want to pursue this conversation more deeply."

Timothy George
— Beeson Divinity School
"Combining mature scholarship with an engaging style, John Thompson helps us to peer over the shoulders of saints of the past as we read the Bible today, especially some of its difficult texts. In doing so, he shows that serious study of Holy Scripture requires more than the latest Bible translation in one hand and the latest commentary in the other. An invaluable guide for all pastors and teachers of God's Word."

Jesus Creed
"Every pastor or church needs a book like this in the library."

Elsie McKee
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"John Thompson is well known for his fascinating scholarly studies of the history of exegesis, particularly concerning some of the more challenging biblical texts on issues of gender and violence that lectionaries often skip. . . In this clear and user-friendly book Thompson melds modern questions with patristic, medieval, and Reformation-era questionings about hard-to handle biblical stories and injunctions, from Hagar and Jephthah's daughter to the psalms of imprecation and Pauline strictures on men's hair and women's public speaking. While making no claims to exhaustive treatment of any text, Thompson provides twenty-first-century readers with a rich spectrum of interpretation by pre-Enlightenment exegetes. "

Mark Labberton
— senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley
"Thompson's book provides an exceptionally incisive and courageous example of reading uncomfortable biblical texts through a history of the reading of those texts. The fruit it bears is faithful wisdom, the kind of reading we need most."

Kathryn Greene-McCreight
— author of Darkness Is My Only Companion
"A bold encounter with the 'texts of terror.'. . . Will be of profound interest to any scholar of the history of biblical interpretation or of feminist questions and uses of Scripture."

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