Review: Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (3rd edition)

30649308There are few books that have had a more lasting influence on biblical interpretation than Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. This volume has been used in colleges and seminaries across the world as a trusted guide and authoritative introduction to the field of biblical hermeneutics for over two decades.

This newly revised and updated third edition of Introduction to Biblical Interpretation offers an up-to-date discussion on various developments in the field (and even related fields) of biblical hermeneutics and biblical scholarship, as well as refined and polish the previous work. As the authors note in the preface, “what we veteran Bible teachers write here builds on more than one hundred years of combined teaching and study. We believe our refinements in this volume reflect our more mature (and we hope more adequate and correct) thinking about this critical task” (p. 27). For most readers, these updates will be approached as a welcomed addition to an already astonishing work, while others may be seen as less than appealing. That said, the overall impression of the volume boasts a clear and consistent presence of fine-tuning towards an appropriate and needed end.

Those acquainted with the previous editions will be met by the same overall layout and familiar organization as before. The book is divided into five major sections appropriately aligned to bring the reader from point A to point B: (1) the task of interpretation, (2) the interpreter and the goal, (3) understanding literature, (4) understanding Bible genres, and (5) the fruits of interpretation. Each section is subdivided into various chapters on a number of related or sub-related topics. The chapters and sections hang together as a cumulative case that builds from page to page but also function well as standalone items for future reference.

The highlights of Introduction to Biblical Interpretation will depend upon the readers own personal conviction. The book overall is extremely helpful, well-organized, and both easy to use and read. Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard demonstrate an exceptional level of skill at navigating difficult hermeneutical issues or tasks with ease and clarity. Moreover, the comprehensiveness of the volume brings a level of clearness to nearly every aspect of biblical interpretation, from the history of interpretation to the application of the task itself. That said, among other things, some readers may find the authors treatment of interpretation by “advocacy groups” (such as liberation hermeneutics, cultural hermeneutics, feminist hermeneutics, and LGBT hermeneutics; p. 144-163) unsettling or demonstrative of compromise, particularly for those coming to the book with a clear, unhealthy attachment to conservatism. As a conservative myself, I found the treatment to be very helpful and informative, and, in fact, appropriately sensitive to the approaches of these various groups. There will be some readers who may jump to polemical conclusions regarding the revisions, but to do so, in my opinion, is simply unwarranted.

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. is a work of unparalleled quality in the arena of introductory literature on the field of biblical hermeneutics. As stated above, it is used in colleges and seminaries across the world as a trusted and authoritative primer, and this third edition only makes its usefulness more relevant and refined. Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard have evaluated every corner of the intersections that the beginning (and even intermediate) student would need to know, and have provided a clear and persuasive presentation on how to read the Bible and read it properly. This is a book that deserves placement on the shelf of every serious student of the Bible. So, be sure to make room if you haven’t already.

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