Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics
Hicks, Lester J., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics. By Jeannine Brown. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, vii + 315 pp., $21.99 paper.
With Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics, Jeannine Brown joins the ranks of introductory hermeneutic textbooks. Defining Scripture as a communicative act, Brown's model fosters a dialogue between Scripture and the exegete, guiding contextualization while guarding against common historical mistakes of focusing upon author, text, or reader to the detriment of the others.
While many introductions to biblical hermeneutics may be characterized as pedantic or idiosyncratic, Brown offers a clear and concise hybrid of recent scholarship and traditional introductory topics, thus bridging the gap between basic Bible study methodology and technical discussions of hermeneutical theory. Scholarly yet practical, Scripture as Communication surveys the historical and theoretical foundations of the modern hermeneutic debate, while never losing sight of helping readers in their ability to interpret and contextualize the Bible.
The text is divided into two sections. The first section offers a theoretical foundation for Brown's approach, while the second section addresses traditional introductory topics from this perspective. Well supported with ample footnotes, each chapter concludes with a brief summary and most chapters include a short bibliography of suggested texts for further research. Following the main body of the text are five appendices specifically aimed toward the novice reader and a lengthy bibliography of key works in the hermeneutical debate.
In keeping with a style that strives for clarity, chapter 1 reviews seven concepts pertinent to Brown's approach. Each concept is defined so as to introduce the reader to the concept and its particular role in the field of hermeneutics. In addition, Brown subtly introduces the reader to key hermeneutical discussions traditionally plagued by debate.
In chapter 2, Brown begins to explain her hermeneutical approach. Drawing from linguistic and literary theory, she describes her model of interpretation as eclectic, self-critical, and consistent with the manner in which Scripture defines itself. Arguably the most conceptually difficult chapter in the book for the novice, the scholar will recognize the introductory fashion in which the various theories are described.
Chapter 3 offers an historical survey of the development of modern hermeneutical theory. Organized around the roles of author, text, and reader, the chapter discusses the most commonly accepted figures in these debates. A well-written chapter that stands as an excellent introduction to the history and development of biblical hermeneutical theory, its footnotes and suggested readings offer easy access to more substantial treatments of hermeneutical debate and development.
Recognizing that the previous two chapters may cause meaning to appear as too difficult a thing to be grasped, Brown uses chapters 4 and 5 to argue how her approach aids in the discovery of meaning. In chapter 4, meaning is affirmed as complex, elaborate, connected to author, text, and reader, and, most importantly, within one's grasp. A necessary chapter, it offers insight to Brown's nuanced model, allowing readers to recognize her contribution to biblical hermeneutics through a communicative model.
Elaborating upon these affirmations, chapter 5 discusses the complexity with which meaning may be expressed. Again drawing upon linguistic theory, Brown illustrates how such concepts as "implications," "echoes," "allusions," and "perlocution" create depth of meaning and a need for a careful and holistic interaction with the text.
Chapter 6, "An Invitation to Active Engagement," is a preemptive answer to the potential danger of reading a text as communication. Through a series of gracious warnings and cautions, Brown invites the reader to use her hermeneutical model, while transitioning from her unique approach to the more traditional topics found in discussions of Bible study methodology. …