Skip to main content

An Invitation to Biblical Interpretation





Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson

If Andreas Kostenberger writes something, I’m going to read it, his books are just that good.  Throw in a seasoned OT Scholar with a spate of published commentaries and you have a great team.  The great advantage to this book, as Vanhoozer has noted, is its use of the three-fold paradigm of history, literature, and theology.  Divorcing one of these triadic members is part of the struggle in biblical studies, and for Kostenberger and Patterson to use these concepts together is a lofty goal.  Yet, you find in this book a real sense of how both history, literature and theology drive each other in the biblical text, and to amplify one is to bring into the discussion the other two. 

In the Welcome to the Hermeneutical Triad chapter, the authors seek to analyze the flow of biblical interpretation in history.  One particularly helpful part was their emphasis on what happened after the eclipse of historical-critical analysis of the bible.  They write, “In the wake of Frei’s work, however, the pendulum swung to the other extreme.  Increasingly, historical skepticism regarding the historicity of events depicted in the Bible led to a mere literary study of Scripture as any other book….Biblical scholarship was reduced to narrative criticism, and while interesting literary insights were gained, Scripture’s historical dimension was unduly neglected, resulting in an imbalanced interpretation once again (76-77).”  Bracketing out of the language of Scripture to produce a mere literary document circumvents the interpretation process by failing to witness the historical factors that led to the writing.  A mere literary study of Scripture is of great value but is much knowing everything we can about Picasso’s artwork but failing to read about what motivated him to paint in such a Cubist manner or what was influencing his subjects in his painting. 

The proof is always in the pudding.  Patterson and Kostenberger put their work to the test in their sample exegesis portions of the book.  Kostenberger writes,
The well-known account of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel provides an excellent example of the importance of studying the historical and cultural setting of Scripture.  The passage begins with reference to a decree issued by Caesar Augustus.  Luke deliberately places the birth of Christ during the reign of the Roman Emperor.  Historical research reveals that Augustus (31 B.C. –A.D. 14) was the first and (many believe) the greatest Roman emperor.  He presided over what is commonly called the “Golden Age” of Rome and prided himself on having inaugurated an era of peace….Augustus was deified subsequent to his death, and coins refer to him as Divi Filius  (“Son of divinity” or “divine Son”) (133-134).”

Kostenberger wants us to recognize that Luke is carefully weaving together a story of two rival kings, Caesar and Jesus.  The historical dimension of Luke’s gospel helps the reader see that the coming of Jesus into the world is not a nice story for the masses, but a revolutionary culture changing event that has political, theological, and moral implications.  A mere literary interpretation would not catch the rich political rivalry that is Luke is creating in his narrative about the coming King Jesus. 

Another very helpful chapter is the one on prophecy.  Patterson helps us understand the subgenres of prophecy.  In the apocalyptic prophetic form, Patterson notes that, “This present world is evil and without hope and can be remedied only by sovereign divine intervention (329).”  The present world is corrupt and needs saving from a Divine intervention, none other than that God can do.  I was glad to see that Zechariah was included in the section on apocalyptic

Overall, this is an excellent book on Biblical interpretation.


Thanks to Kregel Academic for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology, Edited by Mark S. Burrows

Bringing words to life on a page is hard work, and no work is harder than poetry.  Poets take the visceral, the mundane, and the disjointed and frayed things of life and put them on their head.  This new anthology of poetry put out by Paraclete Press and edited by Mark S. Burrows, takes the best poetry of today and brings together old and new poems from these gifted creators.  You find poems from Scott Cairs, SAID, Phyllis Tickle, and others.  The collection stems the span of 2005-2016 and includes both religious poems and themes, as well as themes covering a broad swath of topics.

One of the beauties of this collection is the array of poems that the anthology includes in its pages.  One poem in particular stuck with me as read through the collection.  Anna Kamienska is a wonderful Polish poet who interacts with the wider lens of faith while looking carefully at the world we live in.  She says in her poem named Gratitude, (44)

A tempest threw a rainbow in my face
so that I wanted to…