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Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture

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2016 Word Guild Award - Academic category
Honorable mention, Grace Irwin Prize

Renowned scholar Craig Bartholomew, coauthor of the bestselling textbook The Drama of Scripture, writes in his main area of expertise--hermeneutics--to help seminarians pursue a lifetime of biblical interpretation. Integrating the latest research in theology, philosophy, and biblical studies, this substantive hermeneutics textbook is robustly theological in its approach, takes philosophical hermeneutics seriously, keeps the focus throughout on the actual process of interpreting Scripture, and argues that biblical interpretation should be centered in the context and service of the church--an approach that helps us hear God's address today.


Part 1: Approaching Biblical Interpretation
1. Biblical Interpretation Coram Deo
2. Listening and Biblical Interpretation
Part 2: Biblical Interpretation and Biblical Theology
3. The Story of Our World
4. The Development of Biblical Theology
Part 3: The Story of Biblical Interpretation
5. The Traditions within Which We Read
6. Early and Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation
7. Renaissance, Reformation, and Modernity
8. Canon
Part 4: Biblical Interpretation and the Academic Disciplines
9. Philosophy and Hermeneutics
10. History
11. Literature
12. Theology
13. Scripture and the University: The Ecology of Christian Scholarship
Part 5: The Goal of Biblical Interpretation
14. The "Epistle" to the Hebrews: But We Do See Jesus
15. Preaching the Bible for All It's Worth: The Resurrection of the Sermon and the Incarnation of the Christ


"This impressive book builds upon and develops the many insights of the Scripture and Hermeneutics series, which Bartholomew coedited. It therefore includes sophisticated work on truth, listening to Scripture, biblical theology, tradition, historical-critical methods, canon, philosophy, history, literature, theology, and academic inquiry. It embodies detailed discussion with leading thinkers in these fields and offers many wise and commonsense evaluations. Above all it stresses the need to listen to Scripture and to God. I warmly commend this book."

Anthony C. Thiselton, emeritus professor of Christian theology, University of Nottingham

"Craig Bartholomew has been laboring in the fields of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics for years, and this book represents the abundant harvest, gathering fruit from many academic fields. The subtitle means what it says: Bartholomew enlists various academic disciplines in the task of hearing God's Word in Scripture. He is explicit about his trinitarian commitments and about the goal of biblical interpretation as obedient attention to God's address. There is an entire chapter on devotional listening, the fundamental posture from which to undertake exegetical analysis. Other chapters cover the story of the Bible (biblical theology) and the history of its interpretation. Bartholomew also provides a constructive account of how biblical interpretation engages philosophy, history, literature, and theology."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Any individual interested in biblical hermeneutics should have this volume on a readily accessible shelf. Any classes on the subject should have it as an indispensable vade mecum. The chapters on the history of biblical interpretation are fascinating in themselves, and the treatment of individual subjects, like philosophy and hermeneutics, is never less than well informed and intriguing. Highly recommended."

James D. G. Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Craig Bartholomew offers his readers a wide-ranging conversation on biblical hermeneutics. Drawing on an impressive array of historical and contemporary voices, he explores biblical interpretation and its intersection with such companion disciplines as philosophy, biblical theology, and homiletics. He puts forth an academically seasoned hermeneutic to be performed in the presence of God and centered in the church--what he refers to as 'faith-full' biblical interpretation. Bartholomew's gift to his reader is the opportunity to think deeply about Scripture in the company of a seasoned scholar."

Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego

"Bartholomew has provided an exhaustive history of interpretation and philosophical hermeneutics in the key of narrative theology, with forays into trinitarian exegesis and lectio divina. The result is a smorgasbord of evangelical learning in the service of hearing God's word in our day. A lifetime of wide reading and reflection has gone into this project."

Christopher Seitz, senior research professor of biblical interpretation, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"Reading this book is like feasting on a banquet of many courses. With consummate skill Bartholomew weaves together theology, philosophy, history, and exegesis, demonstrating convincingly that biblical interpretation attains its end only when Scripture is heard in faith as God's address. This book will undoubtedly be a landmark in hermeneutics for many years to come."

Mary Healy, associate professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

"Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is a triumph. Craig Bartholomew provides a clear and gripping account of what it means to hear Scripture as God's Word. On this view the Bible is not primarily an object of study to be dissected but a dynamic force that shapes our living and thinking. God speaks to us through Scripture, and we are changed people. However, this is no anti-intellectual rejection of the life of reason. Rather, Bartholomew shows how biblical hermeneutics can shape and renew scholarly work at the highest levels, including the study of the Bible itself."

C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University; professorial fellow, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University

"The interpretation of the Bible has been held captive by methodological reason in the context of the academy for the past few centuries in both the liberal and evangelical traditions. Certainly, there have been great gains. However, these have come at great cost. Interpretative practices have often been separated from a careful and prayerful listening for God's address. Believing that rigorous scholarship and an attentive listening to the Spirit belong together, Craig Bartholomew repositions the insights of hermeneutical reflection squarely within the larger context of listening to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. The question at every point is, how does this hermeneutical approach deepen our listening for God's address? This is a hermeneutical approach I wish I had been taught early in my theological education."

Michael W. Goheen, director of theological education and scholar in residence, Missional Training Center-Phoenix

"Craig Bartholomew's new introduction to hermeneutics is a milestone for biblical interpretation. Clearly the fruit of decades of learning, the book expresses a clear vision of a biblical hermeneutics aimed at hearing God's address today. This work synthesizes current insights from hermeneutics, theology, philosophy, homiletics, and biblical studies in a manner that is, to my mind, unmatched. As we should expect by now, the volume is vintage Bartholomew: extraordinarily learned, exceptionally readable, and constructive in its proposal. Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is the standard to which I shall return again and again."

Heath A. Thomas, director of PhD studies and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

"A magisterial textbook, but much more than a textbook. Every aspect of biblical hermeneutics is thoroughly explored in a readable, engaging, and stimulating manner. The real joy of the book, however, lies in the subtitle: 'for hearing God in Scripture.' This transforms the hermeneutical task from an exercise between a reader and an object (the Bible) to an encounter between a listener and a person (God). The former requires good and proper methods, tools, and wisdom, all of which matter greatly. The latter calls for response, faith, repentance, and obedience, all of which matter even more. Bartholomew not only explains both dimensions but also models them again and again. From the subtitle on the opening page, we move in a fitting way to the closing chapter on preaching the Bible. For if the ecclesial context of authentic biblical hermeneutics is crucial, then the church needs to know again the story we are in, which requires renewed commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God from the whole canon of Scripture. This book provides ample resources for just such a challenge."

Christopher J. H. Wright, Langham Partnership

"This book is a versatile tool for research. It could serve as a textbook in biblical hermeneutics but equally well as a source for complementary readings on inspiration, canon, exegesis, revelation, the definition of theology, the historical and contemporary practice of biblical interpretation, the relationship between theology and biblical exegesis, and the role of the Bible in preaching, Christian spirituality, and missionary work. As a Catholic, I see and welcome in it a great openness to both the riches of patristic studies and the recent waves of what is often called ressourcement. Equally gratifying is Bartholomew's personal example of listening to not only a large corpus of Protestant biblical research but also a large variety of voices promoting biblical theology in the Catholic Church, past and present."

Denis Farkasfalvy, research scholar in theology, University of Dallas; abbot emeritus of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas

"A book that stands out in a crowded catalog of hermeneutics texts, Craig Bartholomew's Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics deserves careful attention. With characteristic erudition and lucidity, Bartholomew provides a Trinitarian hermeneutic that carries the reader all the way from devotional reading of Scripture to the ecclesial reception of the preached Word. The reader learns to read Scripture humbly and prayerfully, seeking not only information but also transformation by the living Christ. Along the way, Bartholomew masterfully relates biblical interpretation to biblical theology, systematic theology, philosophical hermeneutics, preaching, and the disciplines of the modern university. A unique and thought-provoking addition to the field of hermeneutics."

Bruce Ashford, provost and dean of the faculty and professor of theology and culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew (PhD, University of Bristol) is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. He was formerly senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire and the H. Evan Runner Professor of...

    Continue reading about Craig G. Bartholomew


2016 Word Guild Award - Academic category
Honorable mention, Grace Irwin Prize

"[This volume] amounts to nothing short of a tour de force, spanning both a breadth and depth of scholarship that is fully commensurate with [Bartholomew's] academic interlocutors. Moreover, Bartholomew makes good on his promise to provide fresh developments. A great deal of his stimulating discussion lies along the interstices of hermeneutics with related disciplines not ordinarily seen in hermeneutics textbooks. . . . In a book written for scholars, this book is not written merely for scholars, but rather the real beneficiaries are all those whose lives may be influenced by them: people of all trades and arts and professions who respond faithfully when they hear God's voice through his Word faithfully retold. To Craig Bartholomew, thank you for modeling in this book the very scholarship to which you have exhorted us to aspire. The lengthy read is worth every bit of the investment."

Ray Lubeck,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This work shows [Bartholomew's] vast knowledge of philology, exegesis, patristics, medieval and modern theology, literary theory, and historiography. . . . This book is an awesome achievement. Bartholomew's vast erudition significantly expands the scope of the conversation. One expects new literary and rhetorical insights to come from this foundational work. This book would be a welcome addition to any biblicist's library or graduate syllabus."

Michael R. Simone, SJ,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"[Bartholomew has] extensive interaction . . . with leading authors from each field under analysis. Wading through those 'conversations' in each section will provide the reader with a wealth of references to the world of ideas that could occupy meandering thoughts for decades. In sum, this volume will challenge any interested reader with the burden of determining the strength of their biblical hermeneutic while also winnowing away any chaff that is not subject to actively hearing God's Word."

Benjamin Lee Sutton,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"[A] very comprehensive study of biblical hermeneutics. . . . This will be a good resource for scholars and serious students of Scripture and homiletics."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Bartholomew offers a complex but compelling framework for biblical interpretation. . . . Throughout, Bartholomew interacts with an astonishing amount of secondary literature. . . . He presents a well-informed and balanced discussion of the roles of philosophy, history, literature and theology in biblical interpretation. . . . Bartholomew presents a viable and helpful framework for hearing God's address in Scripture. The breadth of Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics will especially help advanced students and teachers of hermeneutics. Serious pastors who consider the varied implications for proclamation will be stirred to listen anew to God's words in Scripture. Bartholomew's work, then, deserves attention from anyone serious about excavating Scripture for the hidden pearl of great price, Jesus Christ."

Grant D. Taylor,

Southeastern Theological Review

"In this significant work, which represents the culmination of a long-standing hermeneutical project, Craig Bartholomew has produced an interesting compendium on a wide range of topics related to biblical hermeneutics. . . . [This volume] best serves as a reference work on the various topics it addresses in different chapters rather than as a work to be read from beginning to end. . . . I recently added the book to the reading list in my biblical hermeneutics PhD seminar, in addition to works by Hirsch, Frei, Barr, Vanhoozer, Wright, and others, and as such it served well as a capstone by incorporating many of these previous works in a creative synthesis. In fact, the volume covers material I address in several different classes I teach. . . . In this regard, Bartholomew's work is certainly bold and ambitious, and I look forward with great interest to his future contributions to biblical hermeneutics."

Andreas Köstenberger,

Books at a Glance

"This book should be read slowly and carefully as a valuable resource for anyone interested in biblical interpretation. Scholars in a variety of disciplines will find it helpful. Those without expertise in these issues will also find it enlightening. It is highly recommended."

Glenn R. Kreider,

Bibliothea Sacra

"Comprehensive indeed--this is not your grandmother's hermeneutics textbook. This is a 600-page tour de force making a case for listening to Scripture as divine address. . . . Lest the book only work in the theoretical realm, Bartholomew wisely offers a kind of case-study applying his framework. He wisely chooses the book of Hebrews. . . . I found much in this book that reminded me of work done by Walter Moberly, and also Richard Hays's idea of a hermeneutic of trust."

Nijay K. Gupta,

Crux Sola blog

"[This book] enters the contemporary interpretive milieu by reimagining the whole enterprise of biblical studies. [Bartholomew] exposes the methodological assumptions of the secular academy, and charts an intellectually rigorous way forward for Christian biblical scholars. . . . Interpreters are given a set of tools that will enable a robust yet discerning practice and utilization of academic biblical studies. . . . Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is a welcome and highly recommended volume for anyone engaged in biblical studies. It is a must-read for those in the academy, although pastors and seminary students will also benefit from this text as it will improve their ability to utilize critical scholarship positively but discerningly. All readers will be better equipped to hear God's voice in their study of his infallible word."

R. Andrew Compton,

Mid-America Journal of Theology

"There many introductions to biblical hermeneutics, but none have truly inspired me in the many ways Craig Bartholomew's has. His Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is truly a tour de force of the many methodologies, historical precedents, and disciplines that are wrapped up in the process of interpreting the Bible. . . . I've never seen another hermeneutics textbook that includes a chapter on lectio divina and the necessity of listening to Scripture. . . . [Bartholomew] push[es] forcefully the idea that biblical scholars must engage with philosophy, historiography, and literary theories. . . . Bartholomew has an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of these disciplines, to summarize their movements, and to extract what is useful for our hermeneutical methods. . . . Bartholomew has also provided a one-stop-shop for an entry into hermeneutical theory. But he does so from a unique perspective that biblical theologians will be much pleased with!"

Todd Scacewater,

Exegetical Tools Quarterly

"An impressive work of sound scholarship from beginning to end. . . . A seminal contribution to Biblical Studies curriculums and supplemental reading lists for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in Biblical hermeneutics, Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is very strongly recommended for church, seminary, community, and academic library collections."

Midwest Book Review

"Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is a good resource for those trying to figure out what [Theological Interpretation of Scripture] is all about, and how this camp would approach hermeneutics. . . . This book reveals a great deal of research and advanced reflection, and it was a pleasure for me to read. . . . I will constantly return to [it] for fine summaries of important subjects related to hermeneutics, and also to check the footnotes for further reading. Bartholomew is to be congratulated on this monumental achievement."

Patrick Schreiner,

Transformed blog (Western Seminary)

"Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics provides a plethora of important insights. Bartholomew is well-read (to run the risk of an understatement) and the reader will quickly identify the familiarity that he brings with almost any subject under the hermeneutical sun and beyond. Moreover, as one firmly planted in the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement, Bartholomew has provided the reader with a unique perspective and contribution that will complement other hermeneutics texts well--especially given the detail and length of this volume. . . . [This] is an excellent introduction to the task of biblical interpretation. . . . Bartholomew has produced a volume that is both comprehensive and readable, and his hermeneutical vision captures the essence of biblical revelation well. . . . Bartholomew is comprehensive, judicious, and generous in his interaction. His vision is centered firmly within the context and service of the church, and the payoff for the reader is immediate. This is a monumental achievement in the field of biblical interpretation and the pastor, teacher or student would do well in referring to it often."

John Kight,

Sojo Theo blog