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Listening to Scripture

An Introduction to Interpreting the Bible

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Looking for a guide to interpreting the Bible that is accessible, up-to-date, and theologically grounded? A renowned Old Testament scholar and coauthor of the bestselling The Drama of Scripture introduces us to reading the Bible with an ear toward hearing God's address. "When we read the Bible, we need to take off our shoes, as it were, because we are on holy ground," says Bartholomew. "We take up the Bible to read it, only to find that through it God speaks to us. This is the awesome potential of Bible reading and interpretation."

Bartholomew begins with a theological orientation, including topics such as the relationship between prayer, analysis, and reading Scripture; the Bible as the true story of the whole world; and reading the text in light of its literary, historical, and kerygmatic (proclamation) dimensions. He then explores the history of interpretation before discussing how we receive the Bible liturgically, ethically, and missionally. Throughout the book, exercises in lectio divina invite readers to engage both the head and the heart as they learn to interpret the Bible.

Professors and students of the Bible will value this work. It will also appeal to church leaders and other serious students of the Bible.

1. Running the Way of God's Instruction
2. The Bible as a Whole
3. How We Got the Bible
4. A Triadic Approach
5. Literature and Genre
6. Narrative and History
7. Kerygma
8. Listening to and Preaching the Bible Today
9. A Liturgical Hermeneutic
10. An Ethical Hermeneutic
11. A Missional Hermeneutic


"Like Aaron Copland in his classic What to Listen for in Music, Craig Bartholomew helps readers of the Bible to know what to listen for in Scripture and how to do so with attention and intelligence, in spirit and in truth. Bartholomew uses both ears, the academic and the devotional, and three hermeneutics (liturgical, ethical, and missional) to listen especially to what is most important: God's address, words that guide and govern the church today."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Listening to Scripture is remarkably expansive and accessible in its vision and applicability as it guides Christians through an integrative journey of personal devotions, academic study, preaching and teaching, and missional outreach. I am already incorporating the book's insights and devotional exercises into my own life, my undergraduate Old Testament classes, and my parish Bible study. Listening to Scripture is the integrative vision that I have been hungering for and that my students and fellow congregants so desperately need. Its vision and invitation encompass the wholeness of our being so that God's work of redemption flows into us and through us."

Megan C. Roberts, assistant professor of Old Testament, Prairie College

"Craig Bartholomew continues his important project of relocating a post-Enlightenment scientific hermeneutical approach to Scripture within the broader framework of listening to God's address. His earlier book on the issue was outstanding, but its length and academic depth proved challenging to many. In this new book, Bartholomew gives us a shorter and more accessible study that will be suitable for hermeneutics classes in seminaries. I plan to use it in my course. Devotional and warm, Listening to Scripture is also rigorous and challenging! A delightful book."

Michael W. Goheen, theological director, Missional Training Center, Phoenix, Arizona

"No one has taught me more about reading Scripture seriously as both an academic and a committed Christian than Craig Bartholomew. This accessible introduction to reading the Bible is needed in a time when, as Craig describes it, 'Bibles may be selling like hotcakes, and we may have several in our homes, but that does not necessarily mean a lot of listening and obeying is going on.' While I--and you--may not agree with all of Craig's methods or conclusions, this book is without a doubt an excellent primer for hearing the voice of our triune God in the text of Holy Scripture."

Matthew Y. Emerson, academic dean, Oklahoma Baptist University

"Once again, Craig Bartholomew delivers a must-read treatise on how to read the Scriptures. As he says, his aim is that we will read the Bible in such a way that it 'sets us running along God's ways in God's world, feeling his pleasure.' Suffice it to say that this book hits where it aims. Bartholomew reminds us that interpreting the Bible must not be divided into 'devotional' versus 'academic' activities. Rather, both head and heart remain engaged, founded on the fear of the Lord, beginning with prayer and ending with internalizing Scripture so that it becomes part of us, part of our way of being in God's world. Bartholomew calls his readers to consider the historical, literary, and theological dimensions--a triadic approach--and he leads readers to respond liturgically, ethically, and missionally. For such is the broad task of biblical interpretation. This is not just another classroom manual on hermeneutics. It's an exercise in hearing and joyfully obeying the voice of the living God."

Benjamin T. Quinn, associate professor, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; director of partnerships, BibleMesh

The Author

  1. Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew (PhD, University of Bristol) is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. He was formerly senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire and the H. Evan Runner Professor of...

    Continue reading about Craig G. Bartholomew


"[Bartholomew] is--trust me on this--one of the great scholars in Old Testament work today. . . . Listening to Scripture is plenty meaty, ideal for a college course or serious adult ed class. . . . I love the way he can cite technical scholars from across the theological traditions and yet offer reflective study questions that are more akin to devotional lectio divina sorts of prompts. He can talk about Newbigin's missional theories or the need to use the Psalms of lament around issues of injustice even as he invites us deep into the story, using our imaginations to meet the God behind the text, and hear the Spirit from the text. This is thoughtful and pious, creative and useful. I can't tell you now much I hope it is used in church groups and for Bible study leaders all over."

Byron Borger,

Hearts and Minds Books