On Reading Scripture Well: Some Recommended Resources on Hermeneutics
Alongside prayer and corporate worship, reading Scripture is at the top of the list when it comes to Christian spiritual disciplines. God addresses us in his Word, and so it is paramount that we understand his Word correctly. The field of hermeneutics considers what it means to read well, and below are some of my recommendations for books in or related to the field of hermeneutics. I’ve used some of these in my undergrad classes, while others are just particular favorites of mine. I’ve also split these recommendations into four categories: bibliology, biblical theology, history of interpretation, and method. I’ll explain more about each category as I discuss them.
A necessary disclaimer – I do not agree with everything in any of these books, and some warrant more disagreement than others. Nevertheless, these are, in my estimation, good frames of reference for how to enter into and grow in our understanding of the different areas of hermeneutics – the art and science of biblical interpretation.
In order to read the Bible well, we have to first understand what the Bible is and what it is for. These questions are considered under the doctrine of Scripture, which is more broadly located in the doctrine of revelation and, ultimately, the doctrine of God. The three texts listed here give readers the theological foundations and context for what they’re reading – God’s revelation of himself to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17) – and why they’re reading it – to know and be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:17-18).
Start Here: J. Todd Billings, The Word of God for the People of God: An Entryway to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).
Next Steps: Scott Swain, Trinity Revelation and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and its Interpretation (London: T&T Clark, 2011).
Deep Dive: Craig Carter, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018).
In addition to understanding the nature and purpose of Scripture, we also need a good grasp on the whole sweep of Scripture, or how the whole Bible fits together as one book that tells one story that points us to one person, Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46). This is where biblical theology comes in. We need a good grasp on the whole sweep of Scripture, or how the whole Bible fits together as one book that tells one story that points us to one person, Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46). This is where biblical theology comes in. Click To Tweet
Start Here: Vaughn Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (Downers Grove: IVP, 2003) and T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2009).
Next Steps: Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2002) and Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (NSBT 15; Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003).
Deep Dive: G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011) and Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013).
History of Interpretation
Reading with the communion of the saints prevents us from coming to idiosyncratic, heterodox or heretical exegetical conclusions. It also provides us with interpretive methods and conclusions that help us grow in our interpretation of God’s Word.
Start Here: Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1998).
Next Steps: Keith D. Stanglin, The Letter and Spirit of Biblical Interpretation: From the Early Church to Modern Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018) and Ian Christopher Levy, Introducing Medieval Interpretation: The Senses of Scripture in Premodern Exegesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018).
Deep Dive: Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis, 3 vols. (RRRCT; trans., Mark Sebanc [vol. 1] and E. M. Macierowski [vols. 2 & 3]; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998–2009).
Of course, the most important part of hermeneutics is actually interpreting the text. This includes understanding the aims of interpretation (grasping the author’s intent through studying the details of text in light of our own context) as well as the methods for accomplishing those aims.
Start Here: Matthew R. Malcolm, From Hermeneutics to Exegesis: The Trajectory of Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2018).
Next Steps: Jeannine K. Brown, Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007).
Deep Dive: Kevin Craig G. Bartholomew, Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015).