My Review of Part 1 of: A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible
Robert H Stein starts his book with some basic rules of the game. Rules are central to his approach and the word shows up in the subtitle. I notice this since I like the definition of hermeneutics as: the art and science of interpretation. From the start, it seems Stein is going to stress the science (rules) over the art. That’s fine; we just need to note it.
He starts by asking who makes up the rules. A new student may not be aware of the other schools that locate meaning outside of the original author. The dominant thought is the hermeneut is looking for the original intended meaning of the author. However, there are some who give much more power to the reader or text as the “determiner of meaning.” My strategy is not to dismiss these two methods. However, I’m old school on this one so I prefer to look for the author’s original intended meaning. One reason I do this that is not covered in the book is that one of my philosophies in doing hermeneutics is to act like I would in the real world. I occasionally find myself looking into the text of an email for meaning and I occasionally allow myself, as the reader to determine meaning. But, my most frequent instinct is to try to figure out what the author was trying to communicate. Let’s talk about the specifics of the why’s and examples on our webinar.
So that we don’t talk past one another, Stein spends the second chapter giving definitions for key terms. There’s not much to blog about here so let’s move on. We will go into some key terms that often get confused, such as the difference between interpretation and understanding.
It has often been said that we interpret the Bible just like we interpret any other book. For the most part, this is true in most cases. However, for those interested in exploring if this book is inspired, and for those who have decided already to think that is the case (like me) there is one major thing to take into extra account that we wouldn’t consider when reading The Iliad and the Odyssey, for example. We have to consider how interpretation changes when reading a book that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Once again, we have to look at how the Spirit might work through the author, text, or reader in the process. Stein touches on the idea of how inerrancy might work here but someone interested in that might like to explore it further in this Five Views book.
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