Review: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

9780801039775Craig G. Bartholomew (Ph.D, Bristol University) is an engaging and articulate scholarly mind whose work has visibly reached across interdisciplinary lines. Bartholomew is the H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy and Religion & Theology at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. He is the founder of the internationally recognized Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar and is the author or co-author of several books, The Drama of Scripture: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story, Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction, Ecclesiastes in the acclaimed Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, and many more. Most recently, Bartholomew has released what can only be described as the culmination of his longstanding efforts within the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar, a massive introduction to biblical interpretation centered firmly within the context and service of the church.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture is divided into five major sections: (1) approaching biblical interpretation, (2) biblical interpretation and biblical theology, (3) the story of biblical interpretation, (4) biblical interpretation and the academic disciplines, and (5) the goal of biblical interpretation. As the subtitle states quite clearly, Bartholomew has provided a comprehensive framework, and each of these major sections are judiciously presented. The book opens by positioning the conversation amid the Trinitarian frame that will ultimately function as the confines for the pages ahead. Bartholomew explains, “. . . our understanding of the world must take as its starting point the God revealed in Scripture and articulated tradition. This means that any biblical hermeneutic worth its salt must be Christocentric . . . [thus] precisely because such a hermeneutic is Christocentric, it will be Trinitarian” (p. 5-6).

According to Bartholomew, a Trinitarian hermeneutic as such approaches the Bible as (1) authoritative Scripture, (2) a whole, (3) for the ecclesiastical body, (4) exalts and humbles academic interpretation, (5) a discrete witness of the testaments, (6) discerns the goal of reading the Bible, (7) does not close down but opens up interpretation of the Bible, and (8) takes God’s address for all life seriously (p. 8-15). It is here that Bartholomew is able to conclude we hear from God in our efforts of seeking to understand and interpret the biblical text, and it is here that the book unfolds in its discussion on biblical theology and hermeneutics, the history of hermeneutics from biblical antiquity to modernity, the intersection between the academic disciplines of philosophy, history, literature, and theology with hermeneutics, and lastly the overarching goal of biblical hermeneutics—hearing God’s address in the Scriptures.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics provides a plethora of important insights. Bartholomew is well-read (to run the risk of an understatement) and the reader will quickly identify the familiarity that he brings with almost any subject under the hermeneutical sun and beyond. Moreover, as one firmly planted in the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement, Bartholomew has provided the reader with a unique perspective and contribution that will complement other hermeneutics texts well—especially given the detail and length of this volume. The first two chapters are among the best for those seeking to grasp the aim of Bartholomew’s hermeneutical vision. I found that as Bartholomew positioned the task of hermeneutics into the expectancy of listening and hearing God in the Scriptures, the trenches that follow became much easier to digest. Thus, by spending intentional time in the initial section of the book, the reader is able to better recognize the framework that was being built, and thus, interact with the content thereafter.

Still, the most helpful chapters of the book are discovered under the fourth major section. It is here that Bartholomew presents for the reader the disciplinary intersection between biblical interpretation and various academic disciplines. Not only does this section display Bartholomew’s ability to interact with other fields of academic study, but it shows the level of competency that he exhibits for the task of biblical hermeneutics, as well as the scope of this discipline’s reach beyond the confines of its own intentions. Another section that was helpful was the second section. Here Bartholomew developed a place for biblical theology within the task of hermeneutics. This is an important peripheral observation for the reader to grasp if he or she is to function within the Trinitarian approach presented in the preceding chapters. In other words, it is here that Bartholomew rightly places the whole of Scripture into the conversation and helpfully articulates with such as important if we are going to seek to hear from God therein.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture is an excellent introduction to the task of biblical interpretation. Craig G. Bartholomew has brought a host of interesting insights and observations from decades of experience. Bartholomew has produced a volume that is both comprehensive and readable, and his hermeneutical vision captures the essence of biblical revelation well. Bartholomew has bypassed the traditional approach of the task of biblical hermeneutics by intentionally developing a place for the interpreter to encounter God, rather than merely cultivating an understanding of a book. Bartholomew is comprehensive, judicious, and generous in his interaction. His vision is centered firmly within the context and service of the church, and the payoff for the reader is immediate. This is a monumental achievement in the field of biblical interpretation and the pastor, teacher or student would do well in referring to it often.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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