Most books on interpreting the Bible fall into one of two categories. There are plenty of popular guides to understanding the Bible (e.g., Howard C. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks, Living by the Book; Rick Warren, Personal Bible Study Methods). At the other extreme you will find a number of excellent graduate-level hermeneutics texts (e.g., Walter Kaiser Jr. and Moisés Silva, Biblical Hermeneutics; William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation; Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral). But there is not much in between. Earlier editions of Grasping God’s Word have proven itself in classrooms across the US as usefeul help to students who want to learn how to read, interpret, and apply the Bible for themselves.
In this third edition bibliographies, illustrations, cultural references, and appendices are updated in light of what has been published since 2005. In the first two editions, Old Testament scholar J. Daniel Hays and New Testament expert J. Scott Duvall had a four-step process for the New Testament and then added a fifth step when interpreting the Old Testament.
Now they integrated this fifth step into a new Interpretive Journey applicable for all biblical genres:
- Summarize the original situation and the meaning of the text for the biblical audience.
- Measure the width of the river (i.e., the differences and similarities between the biblical situation and our situation).
- List the theological principles communicated by the passage.
- Consult the biblical map (i.e., see how our theological principle fits with the rest of the Bible).
- Grasp the text in our town (i.e., how individual Chris tians may live out the theological principles).
This book has three basic components:
- The authors give serious attention to reading the Bible carefully. Much of the hands-on flavor comes through in the opening chapters as they lay a foundation of thoughtful reading. This section may look a lot like the inductive Bible-study approach promoted by Robert Traina and Howard Hendricks.
- They address general hermeneutical issues that confront every interpreter (e.g., preunderstanding, the role of the Holy Spirit).
- They offer guidelines for interpreting and applying every major literary genre in both the Old and New Testament.
In Part One, first an introduction on Bible translations and the path original manuscripts had to become the Bible you hold in your hands, is given. The Interpretative Journey is explained and applied to sentences, paragraphs, discourses. Part Two takes a closer look at historical-cultural context or background of the Bible. But students are warned, that just because background information makes a great sermon illustration doesn’t mean it’s accurate. So, check your sources. Lists of Bible Handbooks and commentaries are available.
The next question is what we bring to the text. What are our preunderstandings, motives, cultural backgrounds, paradigms and foundational beliefs? Can we be objective? However, total objectivity isn’t the authors’ goal. The literary context, surrounding context and the dangers of disregarding literary context are explained. Every Bible translation makes other choices regarding literary context, e.g. the division into paragraphs or sections. Word studies and common word study fallacies and decisions on meanings deserve your attention. Chapters are written on colours, allegories, Bible codes and the question who decides what means what.
A whole chapter is devoted to the role of the Holy Spirit. Can we grasp God’s Word apart from the Spirit? Is the Spirit the Divine Author? Can we live by the Spirit without grasping God’s Word?
In Part Three application of all the stuff learned is done. In Part Four the Interpretive Journey takes you to the New Testament, its letters, gospels, Acts and Revelation. Part Five leads us back to the Old Testament and its narratives, laws, poetry, prophets and wisdom. Appendix 1 shares thoughts on inspiration and canon. No deuterocanonical or apocryphical books are included in Part Four or Five. And if you want to exercise even more than all the assignments at the end of each chapter, Appendix 2 gives you the opportunity to write an exegetical paper. Appendix 3 gives you hints to build or enlarge your personal library. Unfortunately no money is offered
A website for professors offers extensive teaching materials, and an accompanying revised workbook gives students additional practice in reading and interpreting the Bible.