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Many don’t know that out of the millions of Christian books, most by far are liberal to moderate. For example, out of the 1,200+ books available on biblical hermeneutics right now, all but about 20 are liberal to moderate in that they use the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation. This is a subjective form of interpretation is based on or influenced by personal feelings, preferences, or opinions. They depend on the mind or an individual’s perception of what a verse means. They read their interpretations into the Scriptures (eisegesis), instead of determining what the author meant by the words that he used (exegesis). This method of interpretation is personal, individual, based on emotions, and in numerous instances theologically biased, based on irrational gut feelings. The conservative historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation is objective. Personal feelings or opinions do not influence the interpretive process in considering the facts of what the Bible authors meant by the words they used (exegesis). The biblical interpretation is not dependent on personal feelings (‘I think,’ ‘I feel,’ ‘I believe’). The meaning given for a verse is based on actual facts. It is accurate, empirical, and verifiable. Below we will offer the reader the most conservative, trustworthy books on biblical interpretation, and we do not even publish several. We do this because we want you to get the best books possible. Other books in here that are recommended are all about better understanding the book that you carry and claim to be the Word of God. Let’s take in an illustration from Dr. Robert H. Stein first.
Illustrating the Point
Tuesday night arrived. Dan and Charlene had invited several of their neighbors to a Bible study, and now they were wondering if anyone would come. Several people had agreed to come, but others had not committed themselves. At 8:00 p.m., beyond all their wildest hopes, everyone who had been invited arrived. After some introductions and neighborhood chit-chat, they all sat down in the living room. Dan explained that he and his wife would like to read through a book of the Bible and discuss the material with the group. He suggested that the book be a Gospel, and since Mark was the shortest, he recommended it. Everyone agreed although several said nervously that they did not know much about the Bible. Dan reassured them that this was all right, for no one present was a “theologian,” and they would work together in trying to understand the Bible.
They then went around the room reading Mark 1:1–15 verse by verse. Because of some of the different translations used (the New International Version, the Revised Standard Version, the King James Version, and the Living Bible), Dan sought to reassure all present that although the wording of the various translations might be different, they all meant the same thing. After they finished reading the passage, each person was to think of a brief summary to describe what the passage meant. After thinking for a few minutes, they began to share their thoughts.
Sally was the first to speak. “What this passage means to me is that everyone needs to be baptized, and I believe that it should be by immersion.” John responded, “That’s not what I think it means. I think it means that everyone needs to be baptized by the Holy Spirit.” Ralph said somewhat timidly, “I am not exactly sure what I should be doing. Should I try to understand what Jesus and John the Baptist meant, or what the passage means to me?” Dan told him that what was important was what the passage meant to him. Encouraged by this, Ralph replied, “Well, what it means to me is that when you really want to meet God you need to go out in the wilderness just as John the Baptist and Jesus did. Life is too busy and hectic. You have to get away and commune with nature. I have a friend who says that to experience God you have to go out in the woods and get in tune with the rocks.”
It was Cory who brought the discussion to an abrupt halt. “The Holy Spirit has shown me,” he said, “that this passage means that when a person is baptized in the name of Jesus the Holy Spirit will descend upon him like a dove. This is what is called the baptism of the Spirit.” Jan replied meekly, “I don’t think that’s what the meaning is.” Cory, however, reassured her that since the Holy Spirit had given him that meaning it must be correct. Jan did not respond to Cory, but it was obvious she did not agree with what he had said. Dan was uncomfortable about the way things were going and sought to resolve the situation. So he said, “Maybe what we are experiencing is an indication of the richness of the Bible. It can mean so many things!”
But does a text of the Bible mean many things? Can a text mean different, even contradictory things? Is there any control over the meaning of biblical texts? Is interpretation controlled by means of individual revelation given by the Holy Spirit? Do the words and grammar control the meaning of the text? If so, what text are we talking about? Is it a particular English translation such as the King James Version or the New International Version? Why not the New Revised Standard Version or the Living Bible? Or why not a German translation such as the Luther Bible? Or should it be the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts that best reflect what the original authors, such as Isaiah, Paul, and Luke, wrote? And what about the original authors? How are they related to the meaning of the text?
It is obvious that we cannot read the Bible for long before the question arises as to what the Bible “means” and who or what determines that meaning. Neither can we read the Bible without possessing some purpose in reading. In other words, using more technical terminology, everyone who reads the Bible does so with a “hermeneutical” theory in mind. The issue is not whether one has such a theory but whether one’s “hermeneutics” is clear or unclear, adequate or inadequate, correct or incorrect. It is hoped that this book will help the reader understand what is involved in the interpretation of the Bible. It will seek to do so by helping readers acquire an interpretative framework that will help them understand better the meaning of biblical texts and how to apply that meaning to their own life situation.—Robert H. Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 11–13.
Christian Publishing House Books on Interpreting the Bible
INTERPRETING THE BIBLE: Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Edward Dd. Andrews
In this convenient introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, New Testament scholar, Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version, and author of 180+ books Edward D. Andrews instructs readers on distinguishing different biblical genres to understand what the Bible authors meant from the conservative grammatical-historical perspective, and how they can apply that meaning to their lives. Jesus said, “If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) Andrews teaches how to study the Bible on a deep, scholarly level, yet making it understandable to all. INTERPRETING THE BIBLE is excellent for the beginner and a comprehensive refresher for the experienced teacher or pastor.
This is a beginner-intermediate-level book.
HOW TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE: An Introduction to Hermeneutics by Kieran Beville
Anybody who wants to study the Bible, either at a personal level or a more scholarly level, must understand that certain principles guide and govern the process. The technical word used to refer to the principles of biblical interpretation is hermeneutics, which is of immense importance in Biblical Studies and Theology. How to Interpret the Bible considers the cultural context, historical background, and geographical location in which the text was originally set. This enables us to obtain clarity about the original author’s intended meaning. Linguistic and literary factors are analyzed so that the various genres of Scripture are examined for their true meaning. The importance of having sound principles of interpretation cannot be overstated, as ignoring them will result in all manner of erroneous assumptions. Beville presents the Historical-Grammatical approach as a sound and objective method of interpretation. This, in turn, provides a foundation not only for understanding but also for teaching Scripture. The approach outlined by the author helps avoid contradiction, inconsistency, arbitrariness, and subjectivity. This work is intended for those who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Bible. It will be particularly useful for those who want to prepare teaching material grounded in safe hermeneutics.
“In, How to Interpret the Bible, Kieran Beville explores how an understanding of hermeneutics enables a deeper engagement with the Scriptures. This well-written and thoughtful introduction will be a great asset to anyone wishing to see the revelation of God’s heart and mind within the Bible with greater clarity. I warmly commend it.” (Dr. Roger Standing, Principal, Spurgeon’s College, London).
BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments by
BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS [intermediate-advanced-level] by Milton S. Terry has been the standard text for over 130 years for generations of students, pastors, and serious Bible readers. Hundreds of books have been written over that time, and they all have only one thing in common: they quote Milton S. Terry’s BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS. Why read those who quote the standard when you can now read the new, revised, updated standard itself? This third edition has been substantially updated and expanded. Edward D. Andrews, the author of 160+ books and Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version, makes significant adjustments to history’s best book on biblical hermeneutics even better. In addition, five new chapters have been included that address more recent controversial issues. BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS offers all the best and most up-to-date information needed to interpret Scripture correctly. Yes, the approach herein has not changed, nor will it ever. It follows the longstanding historical-grammatical method of interpretation (objective), not the modern historical-critical method (subjective). If today’s churchgoers can learn the correct principles and processes for biblical hermeneutics, more accurate and beneficial biblical interpretation can be accomplished. In this new third edition of BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS, Bible scholar Edward D. Andrews gives the reader a thorough study of hermeneutics as a discipline. BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS has never been broken. Modern scholarship did that. Now, we can access the standard that has long been quoted by thousands of scholars and tens of thousands of pastors.
Non-Christian Publishing House Books on Interpreting the Bible
Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck
Note: This book is not basic. It is intermediate level.
Can the Bible really be understood? Are Old Testament prophecies relevant for today? How can I understand the symbolism of the Book of Revelation? What is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament?
Why study Bible interpretation? Dr. Roy Zuck points out that it is essential for understanding and teaching the Bible properly, essential as a step beyond observation, and essential for applying the Bible correctly.
He discusses the challenges of Bible interpretation, considers the problems of Bible interpretation, explores the history of Bible interpretation, and defines key terms–all in a practical, down-to-earth way.
Though Dr. Zuck’s many years of teaching and scholarship are evident in this book, he has written in language understandable to all who are serious about bible study and who want to know better what Scripture means.
Basic Bible Interpretation lives up to its title. It deals with the basics and doesn’t confuse the reader with extraneous material. It focuses on the bible as the Word of God and handles that Word with “reverence and godly fear.” It tells us how to interpret this marvelous Book and even gives the reader opportunity to put the principles into practice. In every way, this book is a practical tool for the serious student who wants to study the Bible and apply its truths.
Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old by Robert L. Thomas
This book is intermediate-advanced-level
The hermeneutical theory has been extensively expanded, refined, and rethought over the last three decades—leading to both confusion and conflict over how contemporary evangelicals should read, interpret, and apply Scripture.
Dr. Thomas compares, contrasts, and clarifies the basic characteristics of and developing conflicts between traditional evangelical hermeneutics and newer theories that place one’s “preunderstanding” at the beginning of the interpretive process. This accomplished and acclaimed scholar evaluates how some newer methods may open the door to unorthodox—and potentially spurious—interpretations of Scripture’s core teachings.
With a grieved heart, I say that 95% of all 2.3 billion persons who claim to be Christian woefully lack knowledge of the Bible. Help Christian Publishing House turn that around.
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