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How Scripture Interprets Scripture

What Biblical Writers Can Teach Us about Reading the Bible

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This book addresses a topic of vital concern to the church: How does the ancient biblical text speak to us today?

Michael Graves, an expert in ancient exegesis, describes how Old Testament texts interpret earlier Old Testament traditions, explores New Testament reception, and explains how insights from this process translate into present-day biblical interpretation. Graves clearly explains and illustrates this approach with fulsome discussions of five themes that are addressed in various ways in the Bible: personal responsibility; insiders and outsiders; marriage, polygamy, and divorce; sacrificial offerings; and the afterlife. By attending to the way these topics are addressed throughout the entire biblical witness, we become better interpreters and teachers who are more adept at discerning the Bible's teaching on these topics and others for our modern world.

How Scripture Interprets Scripture will be a valuable resource for professors and students in Bible, exegesis, and hermeneutics courses. It will also appeal to pastors and other leaders who teach the Bible.

1. Introduction: Interpreting Scripture and Inner-Biblical Interpretation
2. Corporate and Individual Responsibility: Individual Responsibility within Community Obligations
3. Insiders and Outsiders: Outside and Inside Exist, but Invite the Outsider to Join
4. Marriage, Polygamy, and Divorce: Human Well-Being Now, Closeness to God as the Ultimate Goal
5. Sacrificial Offerings: Devoting Our Lives Fully to God, Receiving the Greater Gift
6. The Afterlife: Old Testament Hopes Become Reality in Jesus
7. Biblical Interpretation Then and Now


"On many important matters of Christian practice and belief the Bible seems at first to offer conflicting guidance, and there is danger that we will then select the passages that support the view we already hold for other reasons. In this clear and practical book, Michael Graves takes us through several examples to draw out principles that will enable us to gain an informed overall viewpoint while still valuing each passage for what it has to offer. If heeded, Graves's work will lead to a more mature and less prejudiced use of Scripture in the church."

H. G. M. Williamson, Emeritus Regius Professor of Hebrew, University of Oxford

"In his brilliant book, Graves creates a compelling conversation across the Old and New Testaments as he brings the biblical world to life. How Scripture Interprets Scripture rests on impeccable research and a wealth of historical knowledge, as Graves provides expert guidance on puzzling and opaque passages. Using thought-provoking examples, Graves probes the diversity within Scripture to discover core values by which we might more faithfully follow after God. The serious student and pastor will find here a resource gold mine for their studies and encouragement to apply Scripture authentically today."

Lynn H. Cohick, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"The Christian tradition teaches us that Scripture is its own best interpreter. Graves demonstrates the various ways Scripture does in fact interpret itself. He unpacks this intertextual dynamic not for the sake of descriptive purposes alone but in service of Christian reading and application today. The Bible is complex, and modern readers are attuned to its complexity. Graves provides a remarkable and accessible guide for students of all ages as they navigate the Bible's complexity and unity, shying away from neither. If a book on biblical interpretation compels readers back to Scripture itself, then it succeeds admirably. Graves's How Scripture Interprets Scripture more than fits the bill."

Mark Gignilliat, professor of divinity, Beeson Divinity School

"In this careful and subtle study, Michael Graves shows how the voices of different biblical books can be heard both individually and together in the great chorale of the whole scriptural witness. With integrity and grace, this book puts deep learning at the service of faithful listening and offers timely contributions to biblical theology and Christian practice."

Jennifer Grillo, Tisch Family Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

"New Testament professors might remind us that if Paul were to take our seminary exegesis classes, he'd fail because he doesn't use the historical-critical method, which shows that there's something not quite right about what we teach. Michael Graves joins a new wave of scholarship that challenges the adequacy of the historical-critical method, takes comprehensive theological exegesis seriously, and finds in the Scriptures themselves nothing less than Scripture interpreting Scripture in an unfolding drama that leads us into the wisdom of God. Knowing what an author meant in context may be the place to begin, but once we hear the text, we realize the Word of God is alive and at times takes us to unanticipated and wholly glorious places."

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"Michael Graves's excellent work gives us a fresh appreciation of inner-biblical exegesis, showing how we can--and should!--continue to interpret Scripture for our times. He sets out clearly the principles and methods he uses, and he illustrates these through a study of well-selected themes. This is a careful and insightful contribution to biblical interpretation."

Havilah Dharamraj, dean of the Department of Biblical Studies, South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies

"Through five interesting themes, Graves splendidly reveals how inner-biblical interpretation takes shape in the Old and New Testaments and its importance for Christian interpretation and application. He is a wise and discerning biblical exegete and evaluator of both ancient Near Eastern and early Christian sources. Readers can learn so much from this book about the spectrum of wisdom that the Bible offers for Christians today."

Michael D. Matlock, professor of inductive biblical studies, Old Testament, and Early Judaism and chair, Department of Inductive Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In this book, 'emphasis is placed on how the interpreting text applies or qualifies its inherited biblical tradition.' In other words, Scripture interpreting Scripture is part of what shapes scriptural meaning long before we start to talk of the history of interpretation. This inspires and guides us in our own interpretation today. The book wears its learning lightly, yet the occasional turn to the biblical languages reveals the scholarly substructure. For example, corporate responsibility is clearly a key notion that has become unfashionable but is here well articulated. The Bible's concern for boundaries as real and necessary but also as starting points for relationship is also appreciated. An informed and rewarding operation in biblical theology is within these pages. It is wide ranging across the canon, judicious, and wise, a book from which the whole church (lay and expert) can learn much."

Mark Elliott, professor of divinity and biblical criticism, University of Glasgow; professorial fellow, Wycliffe College, Toronto

"The Reformation principle 'Scripture interprets Scripture' receives a fresh treatment by Graves. While affirming the coherence of Scripture in Christ, the book carefully engages with the unique contribution of individual authors in their ancient cultural contexts, and in so doing provides thoughtful insights on the web of connections that link Old and New Testaments. By examining inner-biblical interpretation, both how one Old Testament text interprets another and how the New Testament authors interpret the Old Testament, Graves unveils principles of interpretation at work within Scripture, which modern interpreters can use to interpret and apply Scripture's teachings today. Interpretation is shown to be a process--one whose goal is the clear communication of the Word of God to the modern hearer."

Jason Soenksen, professor of theology, Concordia University Wisconsin

The Author

  1. Michael Graves

    Michael Graves

    Michael Graves (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is Armerding Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church and The Inspiration and...

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