Review: Scripture and Its Interpretation

30259212Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible edited by Michael J. Gorman is a tour de force collection of introductory essays aimed to familiarize readers with the Christian Bible form a historical and hermeneutical perspective. The book includes essays by an extraordinary group of contributors from around the globe, including representation from four major theological traditions: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Pentecostal (p. xx). The scope of the book is complemented by a balanced and informative approach to the task of introductory study, and the reader is certain to benefit from both as engagement progresses through each major section.

Scripture and Its Interpretation is divided into three parts: (1) The Bible, (2) The Interpretation of the Bible in Various Traditions and Cultures, and (3) The Bible and Contemporary Christian Existence. The initial section focuses on the Bible itself, such as “its character as both library and single book, its historical and geographical context, surveys of both Testaments, formation of the canon, associated books that did not make it into the Bible, and the history of Bible translations” (p. xxi). The second section focuses attention on the hermeneutical diversity visible in various traditions and cultures. Following an introductory essay on the reception of the Bible, the reader will find essays on premodern interpretation, modern and postmodern interpretation, as well as an emerging theological interpretation. The section closes with a number of interpretive essays from various perspectives, including Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, African and African American, Latino/Latina, and Asian and Asian American. Lastly, the third section approaches the relationship between the Bible and spirituality, ethics, politics, community, and mission.

The introductory nature of Scripture and Its Interpretation is evident. But, the scope of such introduction extends far beyond a standard approach to the topic. The essays are accessible for the purpose of introductory study, but the breadth of the contained essays effectively offers an expanded number of perspectives untreated or overlooked in other introductions. Moreover, if such perspectives are treated, then it is likely done by a bystander rather than an adherent—the advantage of the latter as seen in Scripture and Its Interpretation should be obvious. While it is beyond the scope here to comment in depth on specific essays, it is worth mention to comment on the overall sense of the essays. I found the initial section on the Bible to be extremely helpful, although somewhat rudimentary at times. Michael W. Holmes’ essay on the formation of the biblical canon and Christopher W. Skinner’s essay on noncanoical writings standout among the best in the section, if not the book as a whole. The second section comprises the bulk of the book and could be reason enough to make the purchase. This section brings a new demotion to the genre of Bible introduction. The final section was an appropriate conclusion to the volume but will find itself overshadowed by the benefit of the former sections. Lastly, throughout the book, readers will find boldfaced terms or phrases that are included in the glossary, and each essay ends with an annotated bibliography that is appropriately positioned to direct readers towards resources for further study. Both the glossary and bibliography are welcomed additions to an already impressive volume.

Scripture and Its Interpretation: A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible edited by Michael J. Gorman is a tour de force collection of introductory essays aimed to familiarize readers with the Christian Bible form a historical and hermeneutical perspective. It is easily accessible to the average reader and holds the potential to shape the minds of even most studied of readers. Furthermore, it’s beyond encouraging to see an introduction to the Bible that takes seriously the consideration of interpretive perspectives beyond that typically associated with the English-speaking world. For these reasons alone, I could not recommend this book more highly. Will you agree with everything therein? It’s unlikely. But, the opportunity to listen to others is on every page of the book.

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