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Biblical Interpretation, 3rd Edition

An Integrated Approach

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"In this significantly expanded edition, Tate brings the advantages of an integrated understanding of biblical hermeneutics to a new generation of interpreters. His typology proves itself a flexible and reliable framework for the study of biblical hermeneutics."--William Yarchin, School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University

The third edition of Biblical Interpretation focuses on the three "worlds" of biblical interpretation--the world behind the text, the world of the text, and the world in front of the text. A fourth section helps readers combine the three worlds into an integrated hermeneutical strategy. Clear explanations of the various interpretive approaches are supported by helpful biblical examples. Key terms and study questions at the end of each chapter make this book ideal for classroom use. Succinct synopses highlight a host of distinct approaches to understanding the Bible. The third edition includes new synopses and an updated bibliography to help readers keep pace with the most recent developments in biblical interpretation.


Preface to the Third Edition Preface to the Revised Edition Preface Introduction: A Journey into Three Worlds Author-Centered Approaches to Meaning Text-Centered Approaches to Meaning Reader-Centered Approaches to Meaning An Integrated Approach to Meaning UNIT I: THE WORLD BEHIND THE TEXT Chapter 1: Why Study Backgrounds? An Apology for Historical Research Summary Review & Study Chapter 2: The Importance of Language: The Grammatical Background Phonology Morphology Lexicology Syntax Summary Review & Study Chapter 3: Reading and the World Behind the Text: The Historical and Ideological Backgrounds Historical and Cultural Background Some Examples of Historical Background Studies The Ideological Context The Ideological World of the Old Testament Examples of Comparative Study The Ideological World of the New Testament Summary Review & Study Supplement I: Illustrative Methods That Focus on the World Behind the Text Source Criticism Social-Scientific Criticism Canonical Criticism UNIT II: THE WORLD WITHIN THE TEXT Chapter 4: The Bible as Literature and Literary Forms Common Literary Sub-Genres Archetypes Summary Review & Study Chapter 5: How the Hebrew Bible Communicates as Literature Hebrew Narrative Hebrew Poetry Hebrew Prophecy Summary Review & Study Chapter 6: How the New Testament Communicates as Literature The Gospels and Acts The Gospel of Matthew: A Model Sub-Genres in the Gospels Epistolary Literature Sub-Genres in the New Testament Epistolary Literature Apocalyptic Literature Summary Review & Study Supplement II: Illustrative Methods That Focus on the World Within the Text Redaction Criticism Literary Criticism Genre Criticism UNIT III: THE WORLD IN FRONT OF THE TEXT Chapter 7: What Happens When We Read? The Dialectics of Discourse Summary Review & Study Chapter 8: What the Reader Brings to the Text: The Role of Reader Presuppositions The Role of Preunderstanding Reader Presuppositions Theological Presuppositions Summary Review & Study Supplement III: Illustrative Methods That Focus on the World in Front of the Text Reader-Response Criticism Autobiographical Criticism Feminist Criticism UNIT IV: INTEGRATING THE THREE WORLDS Chapter 9: Mark’s Gospel and the Merging of Three Worlds Mark’s Use of Literary Allusion Mark’s Use of Intercalation Jesus’ Relationship to His Contemporary Worldview according to Mark Conclusion: The Ending of Mark and the Predicament of the Reader Review & Study Conclusion: The Never-Ending Story APPENDIXES: SYNOPSES OF ADDITIONAL INTERPRETIVE METHODS EMPLOYED BY SCHOLARS Overview: How Methods Affect Interpretation Appendix I: Methods That Focus on the World behind the Text Form Criticism Genetic Criticism Tradition Criticism Appendix II: Methods That Focus on the World within the Text Formal Criticism Rhetorical Criticism Speech Act Theory Structuralism Appendix III: Methods That Focus on the World in Front of the Text African-American Criticism Cultural Criticism Deconstruction New Historicism Postcolonial Criticism & Liberation Theology Reception Theory Womanist Criticism/Theology Appendix IV: Methods Involving More than One World Ideological Criticism Intertextual Criticism Marxist Criticism Mimetic Criticism Narrative Criticism Socio-Rhetorical Criticism Indexes


"Tate offers an informed and balanced study of variety in biblical interpretation. His command of primary and secondary sources and his clarity of presentation make this book a vade mecum for students and teachers."

Phyllis Trible, University Professor of Biblical Studies, Wake Forest University

"In this significantly expanded edition of his textbook, W. Randolph Tate brings the advantages of an integrated understanding of biblical hermeneutics to a new generation of interpreters. He does more here than simply clarify his explanations of methods and add updated bibliographical references. In this edition Tate more fully applies his 'three worlds' typology to an orientation of biblical hermeneutics vis-à-vis the plethora of critical methods now in regular use among increasingly diverse contemporary literary and biblical interpretive communities. In the process his typology proves itself a flexible and reliable framework for the study of biblical hermeneutics."

William Yarchin, professor of biblical studies, School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University

Praise for the Second Edition

"Biblical Interpretation deals forthrightly with contemporary literary, philosophical, and theological ideas and arguments that are necessarily carried out by specialists in technical languages. Tate's book, however, is designed for non-specialists; it is reader friendly."

Edgar V. McKnight, Forman University

"Finally someone has written an introductory text on the principles of biblical hermeneutics that contains a sophisticated grasp of the latest debates within the larger field of interpretation theory. . . . Tate has provided a text for graduate and upper division undergraduate courses in biblical interpretation that is understandable, interesting, and relevant."

David Penchansky, University of St. Thomas

The Author

  1. W. Randolph Tate

    W. Randolph Tate

    W. Randolph Tate (PhD, Florida State University) is professor emeritus of humanities at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, where he taught for twenty-seven years. He is the author of several books, including Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated...

    Continue reading about W. Randolph Tate


"[T]his third edition addresses some of the new insights into hermeneutics that have appeared within the last decade. While short lists of relevant resources are included throughout the book after each section, a twenty-two-page bibliography can be found at the end of the book. These bibliographies, along with the author, subject, and biblical text indices at the end, add to the usefulness of this first-rate book as a textbook for studying biblical interpretation."

The Bible Today

"While Tate insists that his is not a textbook on critical methodologies, one of the outstanding features of this volume is its insistence on providing an accessible (and of necessity, brief) introduction to the seemingly inexhaustible list of methodological approaches currently at the disposal of the contemporary biblical interpreter. Not surprisingly, given Tate's work on Mark, the volume excels toward the end when illustrating the merging of Tate's 'three worlds' in his interpretation of the second gospel. . . . An array of indexes, a steady stream of discussion questions, and well-stocked lists of further reading make this a very usable introduction to contemporary biblical interpretation."

D. Shepherd,

Vetus Testamentum

"Tate's third edition of his Biblical Interpretation reveals a mature approach to the subject of hermeneutics. . . . Review questions are included with each chapter to help the reader think through the issues. . . . Readers will also benefit from Tate's discussion of critical methods. . . . This volume is a helpful addition to resources on interpretation. Its focus on three worlds [author, text, and reader] provides a perspective that will help readers balance their approach in the exegetical process."

Joseph D. Fantin,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"Tate provides a helpful summary of [each] chapter's discussion, a list of key terms and concepts, and a set of study questions. The book concludes with four appendices which provide succinct summaries of the main methods associated with the different worlds of interpretation Tate has discussed in the main part of the book. This is a useful work which provides a good survey of the problems of interpreting biblical texts and the different methods available to the interpreter to make sense of these ancient writings."

David R. Law,

Theological Book Review