Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation

Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation

Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation

Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation

Synopsis

Though well-known and oft-repeated, the advice to read the Bible "like any other book" is extremely unhelpful, say Stephen and Martin Westerholm, since the voice of Scripture calls us to hear and respond to its words uniquely as divine address. In Reading Sacred Scripture the authors (father and son) invite their readers to engage seriously with a dozen major Bible interpreters -- ranging from the second century to the twentieth -- who have been attentive to Scripture's voice. After expertly setting forth pertinent background context in two initial chapters, the Westerholms devote a separate chapter to each interpreter, exploring how these key Christian thinkers each understood Scripture and how it should be read. Though differing widely in their approaches to the text and its interpretation these twelve select interpreters all insisted that the Bible is like no other book and should be read accordingly.Subjects discussed include: Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, The Pietists and Wesley, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, Barth and Bonhoeffer.

Excerpt

Some years ago, in reviewing a book with “an enormous bibliography,” the eminent New Testament scholar C. K. Barrett subtly suggested that the author might have been better served by “wrestling with the relatively few books that are really important.” His point is surely well taken. We should all be grateful for reference works that introduce dozens, or even hundreds, of figures in the history of biblical interpretation; as need arises, we consult them. the authors of the present work, however, have adopted Barrett’s proposed approach, inviting readers to engage seriously in the study of a mere dozen of the more important interpreters of Christian Scripture, from the second century to the twentieth.

No dozen figures, however significant, can adequately represent the history of biblical interpretation or exhaust the approaches that have been taken to reading the sacred text; nor would any two informed readers think the same twelve figures most worthy of consideration. But selections have to be made, and no informed reader will doubt the importance of each of the interpreters treated here. the present project was begun by Stephen, who intended to write on ten figures — until he was told by a colleague that, however selective his undertaking, he could not omit Barth. That made sense, of course; but it also made sense, for one daunted by the prospect of tackling the Church Dogmatics, to invite the collaboration of Martin, who at the time was working intensively on Barth. Once on board, Martin agreed to treat Schleiermacher as well; the pairing with Barth is a natural one, given the way the latter used Schleiermacher as a foil for his own theology. But Schleiermacher merits study in his own right as one who profoundly influenced later Protestant thought.

1. Barrett, “Review,” 114.

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