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Handbook for Biblical Interpretation, 2nd Edition

An Essential Guide to Methods, Terms, and Concepts

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"An important resource for students and scholars who don't have time to keep up with the various movements and who find themselves confused by current shifts. It is an invaluable resource for serious biblical understanding."--Grant R. Osborne, author of The Hermeneutical Spiral
This handbook provides a comprehensive guide to methods, terms, and concepts used by biblical interpreters. It offers students and non-specialists an accessible resource for understanding the complex vocabulary that accompanies serious biblical studies. Articles, arranged alphabetically, explain terminology associated with reading the Bible as literature, clarify the various methods Bible scholars use to study biblical texts, and illuminate how different interpretive approaches can contribute to our understanding. Article references and topical bibliographies point readers to resources for further study. This handbook, now updated and revised to be even more useful for students, was previously published as Interpreting the Bible: A Handbook of Terms and Methods. It is a suitable complement to any standard hermeneutics textbook.


"Randolph Tate's Handbook for Biblical Interpretation is an indispensable reference for any student new to academic biblical studies. I have required the previous edition as a textbook for my biblical hermeneutics classes since its publication. Tate provides just the right amount of information for hundreds of terms that are the working vocabulary of biblical scholarship. The brief bibliographies point to the next level of depth for students ready to investigate further. For those who have been out of seminary for several years, Tate provides longer articles to introduce recent literary and agenda criticisms. No seminarian, seminary graduate, or graduate student of Bible should be without this work."

Roger L. Hahn, Willard H. Taylor Professor of Biblical Theology, Nazarene Theological Seminary

"Hermeneutics has become a huge, difficult area in recent years, with a plethora of different methods, schools of thought, and divergent views on how it should be conducted. Tate's Handbook is an important resource for students and scholars who don't have time to keep up with the various movements and who find themselves confused by current shifts. It is an invaluable resource for serious biblical understanding."

Grant R. Osborne, author of The Hermeneutical Spiral

The Author

  1. W. Randolph Tate

    W. Randolph Tate

    W. Randolph Tate (PhD, Florida State University) is professor emeritus of humanities at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, where he taught for twenty-seven years. He is the author of several books, including Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated...

    Continue reading about W. Randolph Tate


"[Tate] provides a wealth of information . . . about current practices in the scholarly interpretation of the Bible. . . . All the entries are clearly written and substantive in content. They are also fair in describing widely divergent and even competing procedures for understanding and explaining biblical texts. In addition to providing a comprehensive survey of interpretive approaches to the Bible, Tate provides bibliographic references on several crucial topics . . . and an index to the authors mentioned in the text. . . . Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty."

L. J. Alderink,


"[This book] provides a quick, go-to resource for a plethora of methods, terms, and concepts that are broadly related to biblical studies. The handbook is very well laid out, including entries of varying sizes, followed by short bibliographic sections. The scope of the entries is extremely wide. . . . For students looking for a quick-reference tool to easily facilitate reading technical essays and books in the field of biblical studies, this handbook will provide a very helpful starting place. . . . To the interested lay reader or student, this handbook provides helpful entries on foreign terms and technical concepts employed by scholars within the field of biblical studies. This handbook has much to offer even the biblical scholar who, although proficient in many areas, will need to turn to quick, lucid descriptions of key concepts and methods from tangential fields of study."

Seth M. Ehorn,

Expository Times

"The encyclopedic character of this updated volume makes it more than a simple handbook. It includes issues related to biblical interpretation as well as social and cultural anthropology, literary criticism, and interpretive theory. . . . Many of the entries include short bibliographic suggestions for those who wish to go deeper into a particular issue. An extensive bibliography is found at the end of the book, along with an authors' index and a Scripture index--all helpful aids. The book belongs in any serious biblical library. It will serve as an excellent resource for student and scholar alike."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Tate, with his extensive background in the humanities and the numerous years of teaching (over four decades), masterfully explains the ideas and terms of interpretation in a readable form that students should find helpful in their biblical and theological studies. . . . The value of the volume is that it is compact and readable with information relating to hermeneutics. With the field of biblical studies being increasingly specialized, there is not enough cross-pollination, or even literacy, of different approaches to hermeneutics. In that sense, Tate's handbook increases awareness of the ever-expanding field of biblical and theological interpretation."

Donald H. Kim,

Southwestern Journal of Theology

"Tate's original purpose has not changed in the second edition, that is, to make critical approaches for interpreting the Bible accessible not only to scholars but to students and non-specialists. . . . Tate's handbook has all the features one would expect from a work of this calibre: cross-references, bibliographies, definitions, hypotheses, but also longer manageable synopses, methods and concepts, some of which may previously have been unknown or not deemed to be of any relevance. . . . Since biblical studies is increasingly interacting with the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, culture, literary studies, and communication sciences, scholars, students, and non-specialists are faced with a proliferation of new terms and concepts. . . . We can safely assume that Tate will continue to sift through scholarly works in preparation for a third edition. In the meantime acquisition of the present edition is imperative for dedicated interpreters."

Margaret Mollett,


Praise for the Previous Edition

"Confused about the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? Unclear about the 'hermeneutical spiral'? This A to Z reference book will be a handy guide for those students of biblical interpretation who long for clear, succinct definitions of terms and the various approaches. Tate models this after the classic Handbook to Literature, which has coached thousands of students in the difference between literary criticism, narrative criticism, reader-response criticism, and other techniques. His book, however, deals solely with methods of biblical interpretation, applying the various schools of thought to biblical hermeneutics. Particularly helpful are his explanations of contemporary approaches like mujerista theology (which merits a full six pages) and deconstructionism. No seminarian or biblical scholar should be without this easy-to-use reference work."

Publishers Weekly

"This is an extremely helpful reference tool, and Tate deserves the gratitude of scholars, students, and lay readers alike for producing it."

Steven L. McKenzie,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The work covers a very wide range of topics. . . . Entries that give straightforward definitions do not have bibliographies or references attached but those dealing with particular theories, processes, or concepts are provided with essential further references to allow the enquirer to pursue the topic further. There are numerous and extensive cross-references which make it much easier to find the necessary information, especially for the general reader who may not be familiar with the terminological structure of the disciplines involved. . . . Each entry is clearly written and well structured, often with examples from Scripture to illustrate particular points. . . . This book deserves to be considered as a useful tool for the non-religious library or scholar. It provides a wealth of valuable information about many aspects of the Bible, literary criticism, social and cultural anthropology, philosophy, and philology. For the religious-minded it gives the opportunity to find depth and greater understanding in many well-known and often over-played texts. As a scholarly work it stands with the giants in the field. Not only is it well written and excellently produced, but also the price is such that over-stretched library budgets can easily accommodate it to make it accessible to members of the general public. It should find a place on every academic library shelf and also in the most modest of private collections built up by pastors and general readers. Thoroughly to be recommended."

Graham P. Cornish,

Emerald Reference Review

"This is the most complete and up-to-date manual of biblical criticism. Very likely to be the authoritative standard resource on its subject, it is indispensable for everyone who seeks to understand why and how new types of literary criticism are developing into the leading paradigm of biblical studies. Highly recommended."

International Review of Biblical Studies

"An extremely competent work and a valuable resource for both students and scholars."

P. P. Jenson,

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

"Tate has provided a helpful tool for beginning students as well as advanced graduates and even professors. The work is broad enough that it can be used in an array of disciplines whether they pertain to the areas of OT, NT, theology, linguistics, or philosophy of language. In addition, Tate maintains a difficult balance in being able to define terms accurately and many times concisely without being reductionistic or incoherent. So for the most part, a student can read a given article, be exposed to the fundamental usage of the word under consideration, and see how it coincides with other terms in the overall context of biblical and literary disciplines. . . . If a student or professor is interested in staying up to date on hermeneutics as a philosophical and/or biblical discipline, having access to this work can definitely aid in that goal."

Everett Berry,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This handbook should find its way into the library of every serious student of the Bible and could be used as a textbook for foundations courses in biblical studies."

Edmund Kee-Fook Chia,

Teaching Theology and Religion

"This is a useful handbook both for students and biblical scholars who need some guidance on navigating the terminological waters of the newer criticisms."

Fred W. Burnett,

Religious Studies Review