Review: The Hermeneutical Spiral

9780830828265Well-established as the standard evangelical work in the field of biblical hermeneutics since first being published in 1991, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Grant R. Osborne has been revised and expanded to meet the changing needs of the next generation. New chapters on the Old Testament law and use of the Old Testament in the New have been added, and general revisions have been undertaken throughout the volume. While the original work was well-situated to provide the reader with a longstanding example of usefulness in its presentation, this revised and expanded edition proves itself to be a much more refined demonstration of scholarly and practical engagement with the biblical text.

The Hermeneutical Spiral is a massive volume boasting over 600-pages. Osborne appropriately begins the investigation with an introduction to situate the reader for the task ahead. It is here that Osborne rightly understands the task of hermeneutics as the means of accomplishing an ecclesiastical end. For Osborne, “the final goal of hermeneutics is not systematic theology but the sermon. The actual purpose of Scripture is not explanation but exposition, not description but proclamation” (p. 29). This proves to be more than a mere statement of conviction for Osborne, as the outline of the book will effectively bring the reader from the examination of the biblical text in their original languages to the homiletical execution of a Sunday morning sermon.

As The Hermeneutical Spiral unfolds, Osborne helpfully directs the attention of the reader to the biblical text. It is here that the reader is introduced to the importance of context, grammar, semantics, syntax, and historical and cultural backgrounds. This section is imperative to the task of biblical hermeneutics and Osborne does an excellent job at guiding the reader through each. A high point from this section was Osborne’s discussion on semantic fallacies, including the root fallacy, misuse of etymology, the one-meaning fallacy, and much more. The careful reader will know and understand the importance of this section well, as most modern pulpit crimes are the result of semantic negligence and the proclamation of semantic fallacies.

Next, Osborne directs the attention of the reader towards an analysis of the various biblical genres. For Osborne, “Genre functions as a valuable link between the text and the reader” (p. 182). It is here that the hermeneutical groundwork that was laid in the prior section is applied to specific types of literature—Old Testament Law, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Apocalyptic, Parable, and Epistle. This section also concludes with a helpful chapter on the use of the Old Testament in the New. A high point in this section was Osborne’s discussion surrounding the genre of biblical narrative. Specifically, the various aspects use to study biblical narrative—source, form, redaction, and narrative criticism. The latter being among the most helpful.

Lastly, Osborne appropriately closes the volume with a section dedicated to the application of the hermeneutical investigation undertaken in the previous sections. It is here that the reader is able to identify and interact with three applicationary aspects of biblical exegesis—biblical theology, systematic theology, and homiletics. Each of the three applications are discussed in detail, and the connection to the previous sections is unmistakable. However, the clear high point of this section was Osborne’s interaction and application of hermeneutics to the task of homiletics—both contextualization and sermon delivery. Osborne effectively lands the plane after a 600-page round trip flight from biblical text to target audience.

The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Grant R. Osborne is a massive volume that leaves no hermeneutical-stone unturned. Osborne recognizes the task of hermeneutics as the primary means of a homiletical end and rightly equips the reader to function out of this recognition. In other words, as the reader continues to move between text and context on the hermeneutical spiral, sound exegesis brings the reader closer and closer to the intended meaning of the text and its significance for today. While The Hermeneutical Spiral is likely more detailed than the average reader is looking to digest, Osborne has provided a volume that cannot be overlooked by any serious Student of the Bible, especially that of the Pastor or Teacher.


I received a review copy of this book 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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