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Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship

How the Bible Shapes Our Interpretive Habits and Practices

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A Fresh Approach to the Art of Biblical Interpretation

This book offers a fresh approach to the art of biblical interpretation, focusing on the ways Scripture itself forms its readers as wise and faithful interpreters. David Starling shows that apprenticing ourselves to the interpretive practices of the biblical writers and engaging closely with texts from all parts of the Bible help us to develop the habits and practices required to be good readers of Scripture. After introducing the principles, Starling works through the canon, providing inductive case studies in interpretive method and drawing out implications for contemporary readers. Offering a fresh contribution to hermeneutical discussions, this book will be an ideal supplement to traditional hermeneutics textbooks for seminarians. It includes a foreword by Peter O'Brien.

Foreword by Peter T. O'Brien
1. "Who Meditates on His Law":
The Psalter and the Hermeneutics of Delight
2. "In Your Mouth and in Your Heart":
Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Law
3. "This Kindness":
Ruth and the Hermeneutics of Virtue
4. "To Fulfill the Word of the LORD":
1-2 Chronicles and the Hermeneutics of History
5. "More Than for Hidden Treasure":
Proverbs, Job, and the Hermeneutics of Wisdom
6. "The Word of the LORD Came":
Zechariah and the Hermeneutics of Prophecy
7. "Everything I Have Commanded You":
Matthew and the Hermeneutics of Obedience
8. "Fulfilled in Your Hearing":
Luke and the Hermeneutics of the Gospel
9. "That You May Believe":
John and the Hermeneutics of Truth
10. "Beyond What Is Written"?
1 Corinthians and the Hermeneutics of Theology
11. "Taken Figuratively":
Galatians and the Hermeneutics of Allegory
12. "Today, If You Hear His Voice":
Hebrews and the Hermeneutics of Exhortation
13. "She Who Is in Babylon":
1 Peter and the Hermeneutics of Empire
14. "Take It and Eat":
Revelation and the Hermeneutics of Apocalyptic
Epilogue: Always Apprentices


"Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship is a refreshing and important call to think of biblical interpretation not in terms of mastering the text but of learning the craft of interpretation from the biblical authors themselves. Such apprenticeship is ultimately less methodological mastery than spiritual formation. While other books attend to the history of Scripture's reception in church history, Starling focuses on the way the biblical authors themselves received earlier texts and composed Scripture by means of inner-biblical interpretation. In an age of pervasive interpretive pluralism, where no single interpretive practice stands out as authoritative, Starling's case for contemporary interpreters to become apprentices to the biblical authors who know how to read the Bible, and themselves, in the light of Christ is a suggestion as timely as it is welcome."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"What is theological interpretation of the Bible? In this wise and provocative book, David Starling invites us to see how Scripture interprets Scripture. Highlighting various interpretive dispositions and practices at work within the two Testaments, he offers us models for our own continuing apprenticeship in reading the Bible as Scripture. The result (to change metaphors) is a hermeneutical feast to be tasted, tested, savored, and shared with others."

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary's Seminary and University, Baltimore

"Among Protestant interpreters, it is axiomatic that the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself. David Starling develops this proverb in a provocative, fertile direction--urging, first, that we attend to how Scripture itself has already interpreted Scripture and, second, that we learn from the patterns and habits of theological interpretation we find in Scripture. Working with texts from the Old and New Testaments, he insightfully demonstrates how our interpretive practices might be shaped through these exercises in practical wisdom."

Joel B. Green, dean of the School of Theology, professor of New Testament interpretation, and associate dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Practicing Theological Interpretation: Engaging

"Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship paves a distinctive pathway into the conversation on biblical hermeneutics. While conversant with the breadth of interpretive theory, David Starling enlists the Reformation sensibility that Scripture interprets Scripture and sets about studying the internal hermeneutic of select biblical authors. This case study approach is as refreshing as it is insightful. Starling takes seriously the whole book context as he attends to the ways Scripture functions for each author. He leads the reader through central motifs that emerge from his study--from a hermeneutics of virtue in Ruth to a hermeneutics of empire in 1 Peter. While Starling is careful to distinguish this 'inner-biblical interpretation' from the hermeneutical and theological work of contemporary readers, he suggests that we would do well to apprentice ourselves to the biblical authors in the development of our own hermeneutic. Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship offers a model for doing just that and will appeal to a wide range of readers."

Jeannine Brown, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary-San Diego

"Masters are often aware that they remain apprentices. David Starling has the wisdom of a master who knows we all remain apprentices as we seek to read Scripture. Yet he guides us through the scriptures with a delightful sense that we can learn to read with joy these wonderful texts. This is a book not to be missed by those who are charged with discerning God's word for the Christian people."

Stanley Hauerwas, professor emeritus of divinity and law, Duke Divinity School

"David Starling's Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship contributes usefully to the genre 'how to read the Bible' by focusing on the Bible's method of appropriating and applying its own teaching. It brings home in practical ways some of the more theoretical attention given recently to intertextuality and canonical studies. With commendable balance, the author shows how contemporary discussions of themes such as gospel and empire can help Christians read and apply their Bibles more accurately and faithfully."

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College

"David Starling's Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship actually makes biblical hermeneutics enjoyable! Not only does he sample books from all major parts of both testaments in light of key debates on biblical interpretation that fit them well, but he writes with elegant prose and interesting examples that make his work a real page-turner. Not only does he help readers understand what to do, and not do, with each part of Scripture, he also makes you want to go back and read the Bible itself with fresh lenses. This book should have a long and productive life for theological students and interested laypersons, but seasoned pastors and scholars can learn from it as well."

Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

"David Starling's hermeneutical studies are very helpful examples of theological exegesis and biblical theology intertwined. They are attentive to Scripture itself and to the challenges--both perennial and contemporary--of its reading. Their unifying idea is an important one: Scripture itself provides the church's most indispensable collection of hermeneutical exemplars."

Daniel J. Treier, Blanchard Professor of Theology, Wheaton College Graduate School

"Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship serves up a series of hermeneutical vignettes that reflect the array of Scripture. So the book is a rich menu of observations about the different kinds of material we meet in Scripture. It is a study that will lead you to reflect on how to read Scripture both better and well."

Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. David I. Starling

    David I. Starling

    David I. Starling (PhD, University of Sydney) is senior lecturer in New Testament and theology and head of the Bible and Theology Department at Morling College in New South Wales, Australia. He is the author or editor of several books, including...

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"With regard to thoughtful biblical interpretation, David Starling shows himself to be a master craftsman. Why? Because he has sat attentively at the feet of the prophets and apostles, learning the art from them. And like any genuine master craftsman, he is also an expert teacher, helping us undertake a more profound apprenticeship to God's word. This is a unique and uniquely compelling book."

Matthew W. Bates,


"Starling's book is outstanding in at least two ways. First, he has presented the difficult and complex topic of inner-biblical interpretation in a concise way, unhindered by technicalities or jargon, which is helpful to nonspecialists. Starling also skillfully integrates whole books' theology and rhetorical features--a feat not easily achieved! Second, by fronting an interesting focal issue at the beginning of a chapter and raising relevant pertinent questions, Starling engages his reader with an interesting modern hermeneutical concern for reflection. . . . Starling's work is to be commended. The overarching idea of his book is important and his observations of inner-biblical interpretations deserve a close reading."

Peter Ho,


"My skeptical impulse (do we really need another book on hermeneutics?) was dented by the commendations from such luminaries as Hauerwas and Vanhoozer, dispelled by the introductory chapter, and then shown to be foolish by the remainder of this fine piece of work which has something to offer everyone for whom reading and understanding the Bible matters."

Allan Chapple,

Expository Times

"The book is not an attempt to win an exegetical argument; rather it functions as an informed reflection on interpretive wisdom as it may be found in innerbiblical hermeneutics. The tone and focus remain constant throughout. As a result, readers of this journal who may not locate themselves within Starling's evangelical tradition will nevertheless find much food for thought through the author's extended meditation on what makes us faithful interpreters of Scripture."

James C. Miller,


"Starling looks at how biblical writers themselves received earlier texts and composed their own in light of those texts. What he discovers can guide and form modern readers in their own ways of receiving and interpreting Scripture. . . . Those readers who enjoy exploring theories of biblical interpretation will find Starling's work especially engaging."

John R. Barker, OFM,

The Bible Today

"[The] chapters are playful and thought-provoking. . . . Starling has written a very fine book. It is clear and instructive. I think students studying biblical interpretation would greatly benefit from reading at least the introduction and a few selected chapters, if not the whole book. He has, I think, also made it accessible for laypeople who are interested in becoming apprentices to interpretive methods found in Scripture."

Zen Hess,

Theology Forum blog