Hermeneutics: An Introduction

Article excerpt

Hermeneutics: An Introduction. By Anthony C. Thistelton. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009. 424 pp. $32.00 (paper).

This volume on hermeneutics ("the interpretation of texts") is offered by a widely recognized expert in the discipline. He informs the reader that he has taught in this field for forty years, has avoided repeating what he has said in his other books (eleven of which are listed in the bibliography), and that no previous book of his "has been open while writing this." The intent of the publisher in commissioning this book "for the student and general reader" was justifiable; whether or not Thistelton has fulfilled that commission will be judged by those who read, particularly any who are not familiar with European philosophy or do not have a command of technical vocabulary (especially in German).

Chapters 3, 5, 6, 7, and 17 are the main sources for biblical hermeneutics; die others are dedicated primarily to "interpretation" in general, with only scattered references to the former. There is a potential wealth of material to digest in these pages, tbough it is probably best engaged in a classroom or well-tutored study group radier than by an isolated reader. (I mention this as someone with forty years of academic teaching in Bible and Greek, including a course in hermeneutics, and sixty-five years of preaching.)

One might be moved, after reading the book, to consider Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) to be the "heroes" of this work, followed closely by writers like Paul Ricoeur, Martin Heidegger, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Rudolf Bultmann, among others. Any British or North American contributors are mentioned virtually in passing (with the possible exception of chapter 3, where the writer deals with the parables of Jesus), and they are referred to much less than writers from Latin America, or the feminist or womanist authors (to each of which groups a separate chapter is devoted). …