Interpretation and Hermeneutics

Stephen L. Cook

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Interpretation and Hermeneutics


The Bible is an all-time best-seller, but readers have always struggled to understand it, interpret it, and apply its teachings. Thus, there has been no end to the production of books on Bible study. Amid the overwhelming amount of resources available, this annotated bibliography limits itself to the modest goal of mapping out the area of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, citing some of the most important aids and providing sample entries representing the best thinking currently available. Hermeneutics (from the Greek verb hermeneuein, “to explain, interpret, or translate”) is the technical term for the study of how one explains a text. It seems to have been first used in Strasbourg in 1654. The science of hermeneutics really applies to all literature, even to all human communication, since no texts (or communications) have one fixed, transparent meaning with a pristine link to an intended referent. This bibliography will cite some works of general hermeneutics, which of course are relevant to reading the Bible, but will concentrate on the literature pertaining more directly to biblical research. In a broad sense, biblical hermeneutics can mean the general principles and interpretive methods of biblical study. A whole “science” (or “art”) of biblical interpretation has arisen due to the complexity and richness of the biblical literature, and there is now a bewildering array biblical methods (stretching from philology to form-criticism to postmodern reading strategies). But more specifically, as biblical interpreters have studied hermeneutics they have basically focused their attention on two broad kinds of questions. The first area of questioning wrestles with the reader’s historical, conceptual, and, perhaps, “moral” distance from the Bible’s writings. Interpreters recognize a need for discipline in moving from investigations about what a Scripture meant early in its production to what it means now, when it lies in the hands of contemporary people. The “hermeneutical gap,” as it is called, is sometimes very challenging to span. Second, the more recent area of questioning seeks to unpack and clarify the broader philosophical underpinnings of interpretation. One must ask about such matters as: “How is understanding possible?” “How does meaning arise as a reader confronts a biblical text?” “Must we accept the possibility of a multiplicity of meanings?” In our self-conscious and methodologically reflective age this second area of inquiry has made itself very strongly felt. This annotated bibliography begins with a survey of introductory essays, guides to interpretation, and handbooks on biblical exegesis. It then moves to areas of key interest in late modern hermeneutics, such as “reader-centered approaches, deconstruction, and postmodernism,” “global and cross-cultural interpretive lenses,” and the “theological interpretation of Scripture.” Next, there are sections on criticism and faith in tension, on interpretation and constructive theology, and on hermeneutical approaches to controversial texts. The bibliography concludes with sections on inner-biblical interpretation and on the history of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics.

Article.  16901 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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