Chapter 17 & 18 Critical Review In Introduction To Biblical Hermeneutics The Search For Meaning Book Review


Christian and Jewish traditions have always been set apart by a keen interest in the correct ways to interpret the Bible. From the heated debates between the Antiochenes and the Alexandrians during the time of the ancient church to the debates pertaining the use of the Bible during the reformation period, the proper way of interpreting the scriptures has been a major source of concern. To biblical scholars in the late 19th and 20th centuries, biblical criticism appeared to have finally matured. However, modern biblical criticism seems much more effective in putting an end to the heated debates. For instance, the second half of the 20th century has witnessed a huge display of different interpretive theories, most of which were developed in response to the typical critical approach. Even a casual look at recent publications reveals that the debate on ways to interpret the bible has not stopped but the discussions have reached a level of intensity and complexity that has never been seen in the history of biblical study. The modern landscape cannot be easily described; however a brief overview of the main approaches will help to orient one to the basic issues (Moise-s 1994, para1&2). These are just some of the major approaches mentioned below and the list is not an exhaustive one. Many Biblical readers are often discouraged by the complex nature of the subject. Exposure of many readers to multiple modern theories of interpretation and meaning can be both complex and tormenting especially due to the uncertain nature of human experience. It is however important to note that, the same Biblical scholars who argue against objectivity and determinacy of meaning, go about their daily work assuming that interpretation is possible and critical.

Critical Review

Chapter 17

The writer's approach


To begin with, the use of the term traditional in this paper is used for describing the basic approach that was used for biblical interpretation by the Christian Church before the advent of the modern scientific thought (in the 17th century); with the utilization of some qualifications, the traditional approach is still used by quite a number of Bible readers. This point-of-view, asserts that the bible is essentially a divine text, that, therefore, sets itself apart by its infallible teaching and perfect unity, and that recognizing this unique and special characteristic is key for proper interpretation. Therefore, for example, any reading of biblical text that involves error or contradiction would appear to be excluded by this approach. However, a variety of theories have been utilized within this traditional approach (Moise-s 1994, para3).


One of the other major approaches is the historical context, which developed during the Age of Enlightenment. This approach has dominated biblical scholarship to this very day. Obviously, interest in the meaning of the scriptures in terms of the historical context had already been a major approach to many important theological groups for centuries, and much of the theories that developed during the modern scientific period were compatible with many of the earlier approaches. Nonetheless, the new principle of putting more emphasis on the role of "criticism" and on the "superiority" of human reason involves treating the bible like any other book. This principle meant the abandoning of the widely accepted idea of biblical authority by some. And as such, the belief in the divine nature of the Scriptures became less relevant to historical criticism, which anchored on using approaches that were not prejudiced, in any way, by dogmatic presumptions. And, since the Bible, like any other book, was then to be interpreted based on the judgement of human reason, the historical approach then obviously assumed the existence of errors and contradictions in the bible. As this approach progressed in 19th century, philological and textual analysis evolved rapidly, and simultaneously, consequently, the theological significance of the Bible was increasingly receding into the background (Moise-s 1994, para5&6).

Goal of the writer and it's attainment

Moreover, the desire of many to develop an approach that was dependably historical led many theological students to accept the "history-of-religions" school. However, this approach perceived Christianity as just another religious phenomenon of antiquity. The approach also seemingly excluded the notion that the bible had a divine authority and that it was unique. As a result, biblical interpretation then became basically dominated by efforts to explain the scriptures strictly on naturalistic grounds. In response to these developments, many theological scholars had begun to argue in favour of the significance of theological interpretation. The theological approach is primarily associated with Karl Barth (1886-1968). This approach positions against the sterility of the historical approach....


It basically seeks to bring the confidence in the authority and unity of the Bible without excluding the developments of historical-critical scholarship (earning it the label neo-orthodox), the approach also stresses on the relevance of the Bible for today (Moise-s 1994, para7&8).
Chapter 18

The term "Calvinistic" which is part of the title of the chapter contains an ambiguity. The ambiguity is intentional, since it was one of the author's many aims to emphasize on the close link between systematic theology and biblical interpretation. It is true that, it would be an overstatement to argue that Calvin's exegetical approach in the commentaries is perfectly identical to his utilization of the Bible in Minutes. However, one must be aware that over the course of twenty years, Calvin's theological thought directed his exegesis, even as, concurrently, his exegesis continued to contribute to his theology (Kaiser and Moise-s 2007, 251).

In attempting to make an argument for a Calvinistic approach to the interpretation of the scriptures, one must first appeal to the biblical commentaries. Numerous biblical scholars, some of whom are inclined to accept Calvinism, regard Calvin as an expositor of the Scriptures. A short summary of commentaries on this issue is written by Philip Schaff, who stated that Calvin was an exegetical genius. He further continues that Calvin's commentaries were unsurpassed for permanent value, soundness, perspicuity, originality and depth. Reuss, who was himself a biblical scholar and one of the editors of Calvin's works, also praises Calvin eloquently, calling him the greatest exegete of the 16th century. Diestel, a historian of exegesis, calls Calvin the creator of genuine exegesis. No commentator is alluded to more often than Calvin is, despite the fact that he lived quite some time before the advent of modern scientific outlook (Kaiser and Moise-s 2007, 253).

Other publications and reviews


The works of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) in the early 19th century engender the fourth major method of interpretation; this scholarly work introduced the concept of philosophical or general hermeneutics into Biblical scholarship. However, the concept did not dominate biblical scholarship until in second half of the 20th century. The term hermeneutics meant, at least in its initial context, the art or science of interpretation. The term basically emphasizes the need to come up with a broad theory of interpretation that can be used on any text; however, to accomplish this, we cannot exclude philosophical concepts and tools. Almost by its very definition, the hermeneutics approach is based on a perspective that is strongly interdisciplinary (Moise-s 1994, para9).

Strengths and Weaknesses


Modern linguistics provide for quite a different standpoint, that of a scientific study of language. Modern linguistics has experienced dramatic developments in the 19th century; developments that were used in Biblical scholarship. However, back then, the focus of linguistics was on the manner in which languages developed and the manner that they related to each other. During the same time a parallel development referred to as linguistic analysis occurred. Linguistic analysis or analytic philosophy can be seen as a response to certain abstract and speculative currents of thought that dominated the last few decades of the 20th century. The primary responsibility of philosophy should be the explanation of concepts, which necessitates a careful analysis of language, according to the proponents of this approach. Later advances, for instance "speech act theory," in this philosophical tradition greatly influenced modern theological debates. Literary criticism is one of the other disciplines that have obvious links with biblical interpretation. The use of dominant tendency that entails the minimization of the author's significance in order to maximize or emphasize the independent value of the scripture is one of the other main approaches for biblical interpretation (Moise-s 1994, para10-12).


I do prefer the Calvinistic approach since Calvin's theology emphasizes on divine sovereignty, especially as stated and shown in the notion of selection. Some may be led to believe that this is the only concept Calvin sought to explore. The fact however is that barely a handful of theologians have ever been in their works as balanced as Calvin was in his work in their attempts to give expression to the width of biblical teaching. The very fact that Calvin wrote commentaries on each of the sixty-six books in the bible should be enough proof of his repertoire. Even when faced by quite a polemical setting, he was able to cater for every theological locus. In terms of exegetical practice, the concept of divine sovereignty makes us aware of God's workings in terms of the history of redemption. Nowhere in the scriptures…

Sources Used in Documents:

References list

Kaiser, Walter C., and Moise-s Silva. 2007. Introduction to biblical hermeneutics: the search for meaning. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan.

Moise-s Silva. 1994. Contemporary Theories of Biblical Interpretation. In New Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 1, 107-124. Nashville: Abingdon.

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