When it comes to the field of hermeneutics there are those who rehash ideas and those who shape and create. Craig G. Bartholomew is a shaper and creator. For decades Bartholomew has been reading, writing, and speaking on hermeneutics. Some of his most notable books along these lines have been The Drama of Scripture (2nd Ed.) and the now nine-volume Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, with another on the way.
Bartholomew has recently written two new books on hermeneutics one of which is Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture (Baker Academic, 2016). Those familiar with the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series will recognize some echoes of those works (albeit much more condensed) as well as those of his other works.
Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is a condensed version of Bartholomew’s lifetime work on hermeneutics. While Bartholomew is a shaper of the field, this book is more of an overview of the field itself as Bartholomew has studied it. He is giving the reader a look at various aspects of the field and how they have been developed over the life of the church. This is not a ground level introduction to the basics of hermeneutics but an academic introduction to the broader issues at hand.
There are several features of this work which rise above and tie the book together. First, Bartholomew believes that hermeneutics must be Christocentric (as the writers of Scripture were) and Trinitarian (since the Bible is about God). Christ is the central person to which Scripture points and Christ operates and exists within the Trinity. We must get Jesus and the Trinity at the center of the Bible and our understanding of it in order to rightly interpret Scripture (8).
Second, Bartholomew places a high priority on reading and interpreting Scripture in the context of the church. It is through a historical theological lens that issues like biblical theology and the relationship between philosophy and Scripture are discussed. The church has a primary role in the interpretation of Scripture and places like the academy/scholarship are to submit themselves to it (468-74).
Third, as the subtitle states, this is a book about hearing God in Scripture. Bartholomew builds his theology of hearing Scripture on the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear Oh Israel!” This is a call to listen to the words of God. God is addressing his people and they must hear! To Bartholomew, this is a necessary spiritual discipline that all interpreters of the Bible must practice.
Finally, this is a book that reflects a deep, well-informed, critical, and engaging mind. Bartholomew has drank deep at the well on the issues he tackles and has contributed to the well himself. He offers carefully nuanced reflection on the current state of hermeneutics and challenges those in the field in areas they can improve on.
Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics is the reflection of a lifetime’s work in the area of hermeneutics. There are few who could have written a book of this magnitude with the same depth of analysis, knowledge and understanding of the field. Bartholomew has simultaneously summarized the field of hermeneutics (as he sees it) and given charitable critique as a way forward for the church.
I received this book for free from Baker Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”