Book Review: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation

First there was the hermeneutical circle. Then there was the hermeneutical spiral. Now, in Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature and Theology, Andreas J. Kostenberger and Richard D. Patterson give us the hermeneutical triad.

The hermeneutical triad, as the subtitle indicates, consists of history, literature and theology. History and literature are at the two lower points of the triangle, and they build up to theology. This book looks at each of them in turn, but spends the most time exploring three subsets of literature: canon, genre and language. It closes with a chapter on application and proclamation, since that is the ultimate goal of interpretation.

The greatest strengths of this book are its readability and comprehensiveness. Though it is a mammoth textbook, I found that it was not a chore to read. It is well-organized and well-written. And it truly is a one-stop shop for anyone interested in biblical interpretation. The reader learns about historical backgrounds, different schools of interpretation, literary genres, exegetical fallacies, and more. It pulls together things that I was exposed to in different classes at different times of my seminary education.

Negatively, some of the chapters (Like 12, on discourse analysis, and 15, on biblical theology) focused inordinately on the New Testament. Since this is an invitation to biblical interpretation, not just the New Testament, there should have been more balance here. I also wish the authors had spent a little more time interacting with other hermeneutical approaches—even approaches the authors disagree with. I understand that things must be left out even in such a large book, but it was a bit frustrating that in their brief overview of the history of hermeneutics, some approaches were dismissed without much discussion.

In spite of that, this book is well worth the time spent reading it. It gives a solid method for interpretation of the biblical text, and it is so wide-ranging that it is almost a seminary education in itself. It is very well suited as a textbook for a college or seminary level biblical hermeneutics course. It includes key words, study questions, assignments and bibliographies at the end of every chapter.

Note: Thanks to Kregel for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.