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Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition

Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis

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The rise of modernity, especially the European Enlightenment and its aftermath, has negatively impacted the way we understand the nature and interpretation of Christian Scripture. In this introduction to biblical interpretation, Craig Carter evaluates the problems of post-Enlightenment hermeneutics and offers an alternative approach: exegesis in harmony with the Great Tradition of Christian interpretation. Addressing the growing gulf between academic hermeneutics and the preaching ministry of the church, Carter proposes major reforms to our theory of biblical interpretation in order to bring our theory into line with our practice. He argues for the validity of patristic christological exegesis, showing that we must recover the Nicene theological tradition as the context for contemporary exegesis, and seeks to root both the nature and interpretation of Scripture firmly in trinitarian orthodoxy.

Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition will be useful in hermeneutics, biblical interpretation, and theology courses.


1. Who is the Suffering Servant? The Crisis in Contemporary Hermeneutics
Part 1: Theological Hermeneutics
2. Toward a Theology of Scripture
3. The Theological Metaphysics of the Great Tradition
4. The History of Biblical Interpretation Reconsidered
Part 2: Recovering Premodern Exegesis
5. Reading the Bible as a Unity Centered on Jesus Christ
6. Letting the Literal Sense Control All Meaning
7. Seeing and Hearing Christ in the Old Testament
8. The Identity of the Suffering Servant Revisited
Appendix 1: Criteria for Limiting the Spiritual Sense


"The rediscovery and celebration of patristic exegesis continues apace and across a wide ecumenical spectrum. Craig Carter offers here a robust, readable, and bracing defense of a fundamental truth: patristic exegesis offers not only a 'method' for reading but a theology of Scripture. Following this insight Carter develops a theology of Scripture rooted deeply in the Nicene doctrine of God and poses a stark challenge to all who would separate the reading of the text from our theological confession."

Lewis Ayres, professor of Catholic and historical theology, Durham University

"Carter's book is a timely intervention into the contemporary conversation. I nearly called it an interruption because the book is so feisty, blunt, and urgent, but Carter avoids rudeness and rashness. He has obviously been listening very carefully for some time to the major voices, and he now makes his own contribution: a strategic renarrating of the standard account of premodern exegesis. In Carter's retelling, key doctrines (Christology and Trinity) loom large, as do certain capital letters (Great Tradition; Christian Platonism). This is a stimulating and accessible account of how to carry on reading the Bible theologically."

Fred Sanders, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

"I love this book! Carter unequivocally starts out with the Christian Platonism that informed the Nicene tradition and unabashedly takes aim at the naturalism that undergirds biblical exegesis in modernity. Carter's contemplative logic is irrefutable: if Scripture participates in the Word of God, then we are surely right to see Christ sacramentally present also in the Old Testament Scriptures."

Hans Boersma, Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House Theological Seminary

"Carter adds his voice to the current effort of evangelicals to reform the way the interpretation of Scripture is taught in the academy. With comprehensive breadth, he argues that a theological interpretation of Scripture that is grounded in the Nicene faith, Christian Platonism, and christological literalism has always been at the heart of the church's great evangelical preaching. Carter links contemporary evangelical practices to the best strands of patristic, medieval, and Reformation exegesis, inviting us to grasp the interaction of exegesis, dogma, and metaphysics as part of a spiritual discipline in which the believing reader is united to Christ by being transformed and purified by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Readable and passionately argued, this volume is for those who want a comprehensive account of retrieving tradition as the way forward for evangelicals."

Annette Brownlee, chaplain and professor of pastoral theology, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"Every academic in the fields of Bible and theology needs to read this book. So many books attempt too little and say even less. This one swings for the fences and hits a home run."

James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"This book is both highly relevant and disturbing, as prophetic words often are. Carter gives a critical assessment of the problems besetting hermeneutics in the twenty-first century in biblical studies departments, including the seminary. He argues that such study has left the father's home of rich exegetical tradition (the fathers, the creeds, the Reformers), where it had feasted on the banquet of Scripture, and has wandered off into a barren wasteland of historical criticism, where it dines on the bones, fragments, and husks of the 'assured results' of scholarly study. Carter warns that the recent discipline of theological interpretation will not accomplish a return to the father's house unless it has the right metaphysical equipment. This book is brilliant, incisive, prophetic, witty, extremely well written (I could hardly put it down), and desperately needed. I heartily recommend it!"

Stephen Dempster, professor of religious studies, Crandall University

The Author

  1. Craig A. Carter

    Craig A. Carter

    Craig A. Carter (PhD, University of St. Michael's College) is professor of theology at Tyndale University in Toronto and theologian in residence at Westney Heights Baptist Church in Ajax, Ontario. He is the author of four other books including...

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