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A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, 2nd Edition

Playing by the Rules

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"Wonderfully practical. . . . This an ideal book both for university and seminary courses and for laypersons who desire a guide to understanding the Scriptures."--Thomas R. Schreiner, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
In this accessible guide to interpreting the Bible, senior New Testament scholar Robert Stein helps readers identify various biblical genres, understand the meaning of biblical texts, and apply that meaning to contemporary life. This edition has been completely revised throughout to reflect Stein's current thinking and changes to the discipline over the past decade. Students of the Bible will find the book effective in group settings.
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Part 1: The General Rules of Interpretation
1. Who Makes Up the Rules? An Introduction to Hermeneutics
2. Defining the Rules: A Vocabulary for Interpretation
3. Can Anyone Play This Game? The Spirit and Biblical Interpretation
4. Different Games in the Same Book: Different Forms of Scripture
Part 2: The Specific Rules for the Individual Games
5. The Game of Stories: Biblical Narrative
6. The Game of Rules: Covenants and Laws
7. The Game of Rhythm: Poetry
8. The Game of Songs: Psalms
9. The Game of Wisdom: Proverbs
10. The Game of Prediction: Prophecy
11. The Game of Jargon: Idioms
12. The Game of Comparison: Parables
13. The Game of Exaggeration: Overstatement and Hyperbole
14. The Game of Correspondence: Epistles and Letters


"Bob Stein is a wise and seasoned interpreter of Scripture, and these qualities are on full display in this wonderfully practical book on how to interpret the Bible. Readers will find here a sound hermeneutical approach that is applied to a variety of genres in the Scriptures. This is an ideal book both for university and seminary courses and for laypersons who desire a guide to understanding the Scriptures."--Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of Biblical Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"In lucid and engaging style, Robert Stein explores an author-centered hermeneutic for biblical interpretation. The reader benefits from clear definitions of key concepts and creative examples of these concepts in action, as well as exercises that can be used to augment the learning process. An accessible introduction to a complex topic."--Jeannine K. Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary

The Author

  1. Robert H. Stein

    Robert H. Stein

    Robert H. Stein (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary), now retired, most recently served as senior professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Bethel Seminary. A world-renowned scholar of the...

    Continue reading about Robert H. Stein


"Stein has written an excellent manual of hermeneutics which is also accessible to non-students."--James Chukwuma Okoye, CSSp, The Bible Today

"In the second edition of A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, which has been revised throughout, Stein endeavors to present in an elementary fashion the goal of interpreting the Bible. . . . The general rules of interpretation are carefully and practically discussed in the first four chapters, which together constitute the first major block of the book. . . . The theoretical grounding . . . is fittingly punctuated with crystal-clear definitions of concepts and ingenious examples of these concepts. . . . Stein commences the presentation of the different genres in the second major block of his book. . . . Every chapter of this second major block has undergone significant remolding in the revision process. Furthermore, two supplementary exercises have been added. . . . The quality and terseness with which this book has been written and the way the various topics have been discussed is outstanding! It is impeccably suitable for both students and laypersons, and it even bids the academic to examine whether he or she is still clear about the basics. The great merit of Stein's book is that it helps readers not only to see the light at the end of the tunnel but also leads them out of it. He certainly achieves what he set out to perform. . . . Stein's book has been and will continue to be a classic in the field of studies that it is meant to enrich and embolden."--Bálint Károly Zabán, Review of Biblical Literature

"Stein's book causes advanced readers to think and goes into depth to clear up important, but often obscure passages on which pastors don't often preach. Each chapter includes guidelines for interpretation and concludes with thought-provoking questions."--Cindy Grabill, Church Libraries

Praise for the first edition:

"Anyone who has tried to provide sanity and order to the hermeneutical montage that surfaces during home Bible studies will welcome this eminently readable book by Robert Stein. He writes for those new to the field of biblical interpretation, avoiding wherever possible technical terms and jargon, and clearly defining his terms when such language is unavoidable. . . . What the reader will find helpful, especially when using this book for teaching purposes, is its numerous scriptural examples, timely illustrations, and clarifying schematics. Teacher and student are served by the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. . . . Stein has given us a most illuminating and helpful tool for guiding students of the Bible to a clear path leading to a more accurate interpretation and application of the Scriptures."--James D. Hernando, Encounter Journal

"All in all, the book is highly readable (no mean feat these days) and very suitable for use in colleges and congregational adult education; one might even consider using it as a supplemental text in a seminary course."--Rich Erickson, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Clearer, more insightful, and more useful than other hermeneutical guides presently targeting the same audience of beginning Bible students."--Jeff W. Childers, Restoration Quarterly

"This is a useful book. It is lucid, up-to-date, and basic without being patronising."--Barry Webb, Reformed Theological Review

"Stein's work is both a fine introduction to the task of biblical hermeneutics for the novice and an innovative refresher for the veteran teacher or pastor."--Jeffrey T. Riddle, Faith & Mission

"Devout, sane, and well informed."--John Wenham, Christian Arena

"Stein has provided a very useful guide to biblical interpretation. While written for people first learning to study the Bible, it contains a wealth of information for more advanced students."--Dónal O'Mathúna, Ashland Theological Journal

"Another useful handbook for students, this time in the area of hermeneutics. It differs from other books in several ways. First of all it is, as [Stein] intends, basic, presenting the issues and methods in a 'non-technical way'--no mean achievement in this field."--David Parker, Evangelical Review of Theology