Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Book Review: "Invitation to Biblical Interpretation"

A more detailed review is available at my Book Blog located here at "Panorama of a Book Saint."

TITLE: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Invitation to Theological Studies Series)
AUTHOR: Andreas J. Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011, (896 pages).

This book is a gift to the theological community, seminaries, libraries, churches, and organizations that want to grow in learning to interpret the Bible better. With nearly 900 pages, this book packs in a lot of material. Primarily written for teachers and students, there is a lot for pastors, missionaries, teachers at various Christian organizations to benefit from. The key thesis of this book is the Hermeneutical Triad (HT) in which biblical interpretation can to be done through a journey metaphor which incorporates three components: the historical contexts, the literary genres, and the theological implications. While the concept is not exactly new, the term HT is.

I like this book for its graciousness to the other previous two models highlighted, and its very clear manner in which it describes the triad of biblical interpretation. The authors are able to highlight the strengths of each 'geometric figure' without diluting their own model. In fact, they are spot on in saying that this proposed 'hermeneutical triad' framework does not mean it is necessarily 'superior' to the hermeneutical circle or spiral. It complements. Having said that, the authors are convinced that their hermeneutical triad of history, literature, and theology bears the following uniqueness:

  • In contrast to the Hermeneutical Spiral (HS), the hermeneutical triad (HT) moves from the specific to the general, which allows a more succinct application purposes;
  • Instead of beginning with word studies, HT begin with context;
  • Instead of beginning with genre-based interpretations, HT utilizes genre+canon; from syntax first to biblical discourse first; from semantics to meaning.
  • In history, HT enables the appreciation of how God reveals himself in history
  • In literature, HT looks at the Bible literary from three angles: canon, genre, and language.
  • In theology, HT summarizes the historical and the literary into a theological understanding. 
  • HT blends in interpretive task with methodical systems.

The system is designed for teachers and students to be trained in the Hermeneutical Triad. Using the journey metaphor, the authors guide the reader each step of the way, presenting a plan at the beginning of each chapter, filling in the blanks as one travels along, making observations and conclusions, and throughout the process, inviting the student and reader to maintain a stance of interpretation that keeps together history, literature, and theology as one whole. What I appreciate is that the authors take pains to ensure that interpretative and application comes hand in hand. It is not to be an afterthought but to be a constant thought. It is not to be relegated toward the end, but considered throughout the interpretive process. Even though there is a last chapter that is specifically called 'Application and Proclamation,' I suspect it is there simply because the general reader intuitively expects it to be there, much like one expects to pay for food after ordering the items. This final part deals with study preparations, sermon outlines, and the specific ways in which the various kinds of Bible books can be preached. The wealth of resources, Bible helps, both electronic and printed materials, are given toward the end of the book to enable the interested student to benefit from. The sermon tips are especially helpful because preaching is indeed one of the most powerful applications of any interpretive task. The guidelines for applications are especially helpful. Moreover, the book enables the systematic learning in parts as student, so that at the end of the journey, one will naturally be able to synthesize it back together again. This in itself is a valuable reason to read/buy this book!


My verdict: The serious student needs to read this book. Preachers will benefit from reading this book and learning its sermon outlines. Teachers will find this book a very good introductory textbook to use in their hermeneutics classes. Pastors will appreciate the many strands of historical, literary, and theological frameworks this book offers. The layperson will find that this book is very readable as it explains technical theological terms in simple language. Still, I recommend that the newbie student have a mentor to guide one through the nuances of the various biblical theologies and hermeneutical models.

I am full of praise for this edition, and I believe that there will be many more editions and additions of material to come in the years ahead. The Hermeneutical Triad is the new landmark in the field of hermeneutics. If I am teaching hermeneutics, this book will definitely be my main textbook.

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered belong to me unless otherwise stated.

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