Horizons In Hermeneutics and The Future of Biblical Interpretation

December 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Stanley E. Porter & Matthew R. Malcolm, Horizons In Hermeneutics: A Festschrift In Honor of Anthony C. ThiseltonGrand Rapids: Eerdmans, April 2013. 317 pp. Paperback, $40.00

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Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy!

If you wondering what a “festschrift” is, it is a fancy German word for a collection essays presented to a scholar usually on his 65th birthday (or sometimes 70th). Usually, it is a group of his friends and colleagues writing on topics that have interested him, though this is not always the case (John Frame’s festschrift is essays on his thought specifically).

In this case, editors Stanley Porter and Matthew Malcolm have organized the essays into three parts. The first, “Facing the Other,” presents essays that reflect on texts that come to us from a different horizon than our own. The second, “Engaging the Other,” reflects on engaging ancient texts, particularly in reference to their “reception, evaluation, and effective history” (xii). The final section, “Projecting Possibilities,” the essays “examine and suggest ways in which the interpretive task might provoke” a fusion of horizons of meaning (xiii). The movement then in these three parts is meant to somewhat mirror the way of interpretation advanced by Thiselton in his scholarly career.

Essays that stood out me were Richard Briggs’ “‘The Rock Was Christ’: Paul’s Reading of Numbers and the Significance of the Old Testament for Theological Hermeneutics” and Stanley Porter’s “What Exactly Is Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and Is It Hermeneutically Robust Enough for the Task to Which It Has Been Appointed” (Porter says, “No.”) Both of these clearly touch on topics of interest to me, and I benefited from Porter’s engagement with key works in TIS and his misgivings about much of the momentum generated by the movement.

Overall, readers who are very interested in hermeneutics in general, or Anthony Thiselton in particular, will find much to like here. The essays are on the academic side of the spectrum and can be rather dense to get into. However, Thiselton is arguably one of the most important NT scholars working in the field, and his excavating of resources in the philosophical literature is quite the accomplishment. If this is a particularly strong interest of yours, and you are familiar with the general field of hermeneutical theory, this book is worth adding to your library.

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Stanley E. Porter and Matthew R. Malcolm, eds., The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics, Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, October, 2013. 165 pp. Paperback, $18.00.

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Visit the publisher’s page

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Very similar to the previous title mentioned, The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics is a collection of essays edited by Stanley Porter and Matthew Malcolm. However, these essays are little more accessible to the average readers and presented with and to Anthony Thiselton at a conference at the University of Nottingham. Thiselton presents an opening essay to which the contributors (many of whom are also featured in Thiselton’s actual festschrift) riff on in their essays, each of them taking a different aspect.

So, for instance, Thiselton begins by raising the question from which the book takes its title: What does the future of biblical interpretation look like with a responsible plurality of voices? The Bible speaks with a plurality of voices, and so do its interpreters. How then do we responsibly maintain that plurality in our interpretations?

Then, each contributor takes a different area of interpretation and discusses. You’ve got Stanley Porter on theological responsibility (and again dealing primarily with the theological interpretation of Scripture, which makes it a nice companion piece to his essay in the other Thiselton collection), as well as James Dunn on historical responsibility, Walter Moberly on ecclesial responsibility, and Richard Briggs on Scriptural responsibility, to name a few.

The essays themselves are fairly short, and clearly read as original given lectures, whereas the essays in the other Thiselton collection read more like journal articles. There is some overlap in conceptual content (mainly because of some overlap in contributors), but the topic of this collection is much more focused on a single issue (keeping the plurality without negating some level of unity in interpretation). Because of that, I think it is a bit more accessible, and probably of more interest to a wider range of readers. Really anyone who has wrestled with the fact that we are dealing with a plurality of voices across the Testaments and wants some insight on a good interpretive way forward will find it here. Someone looking for definitive answers might be disappointed, but the reader hoping for fresh trajectories and new lines of thought that can be teased out further or modified will be satisfied. If you’re particularly interested in biblical hermeneutics in general and the question of plurality in particular, this book is worth checking out.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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