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Reading Scripture with the Church

Toward a Hermeneutic for Theological Interpretation

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"The essays and responses in this volume bear witness to what is an encouraging renewal of an approach to the Bible that has much significance for church life and may restore balance in academic biblical study. . . . Thoughtful and stimulating."--Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, Catholic Biblical Quarterly


Reading Scripture with the Church is the result of years of debate and discussion among four leading scholars of biblical interpretation. In this volume, ideal as a supplementary hermeneutics textbook, each of the four contributors offers insights on his particular theory of theological interpretation of Scripture.

A. K. M. Adam suggests that interpreters break free from the constraining effects of approaching interpretation as translation, embrace the abundance of meaning in Scripture, and envision biblical theology as "signifying practice." Stephen Fowl interacts with Thomas Aquinas's interpretive practice and advocates a model of "bounded plurality" of meaning in the "literal sense" of Scripture that should inform our hermeneutical judgments. Kevin Vanhoozer describes a method of theological interpretation based on viewing the Bible as God's communicative action, given with a certain intention and given to elicit a certain response from the reader. Francis Watson adopts the single identity of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the four Gospels, as a hermeneutical model describing the possibility and limits of plurality in interpretation.

Each author also responds to the other three. Points of agreement are affirmed, and disagreement clarified. The goal is to lead students to embrace the task of theological interpretation with energy, caution, and precision.


"These elegant scholarly essays by four of the leading advocates for theological interpretation of Scripture in the church are a splendid intervention in current debates about the nature, settings, and ends of biblical interpretation and deserve to be pondered by all who are interested in the place of Scripture in church and theology."--John Webster, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews

"The four interactive essays in this book are an important step in the effort to move biblical interpretation forward. The authors invite us to move from an excessive reliance on particular historical methods to an integration of these with the theological practices and insights of God's people from the past and present. The book signals an ecumenical optimism springing from what has already been achieved and points out ways to bring about a deeper joy in 'the encouragement of the Scriptures' and a closer union with the center of unity, Jesus Christ, who is still, in the power of the Holy Spirit, making himself known in and through his church."--Francis Martin, Cardinal Adam Maida Chair of Biblical Studies, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

The Authors

  1. A. K. M. Adam

    A. K. M. Adam

    A. K. M. Adam (PhD, Duke University) is tutor in New Testament at St. Stephen's House, Oxford.

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  2. Stephen Fowl

    Stephen Fowl

    Stephen E. Fowl (PhD, University of Sheffield) is department chair and professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland.

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  3. Stephen E. Fowl

    Stephen E. Fowl

    Stephen E. Fowl (PhD, University of Sheffield) is professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore. He has written numerous books, including commentaries on Philippians and Ephesians, and is the coauthor of Reading Scripture with the...

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  4. Kevin J. Vanhoozer

    Kevin J. Vanhoozer

    Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, University of Cambridge), one of the world's top theologians, is research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He previously taught at Wheaton College and the University of...

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  5. Francis Watson

    Francis Watson

    Francis Watson (PhD, University of Oxford) is Research Chair in Biblical Interpretation at Durham University. He previously held the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen and taught at King's College London. Among his...

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"For those unfamiliar with [the authors'] work or the broader conversation about theological interpretation, the book is a concise introduction to the issues on the topic and to the ideas of four of the most active thinkers on these issues. . . . The volume demonstrates a hermeneutic for the reading of scripture with the church. The hermeneutic seen here is a conversation with voices from among the many contemporary perspectives within the church. To the informed reader the volume offers finer points on several of these perspectives and to the curious reader a lively introduction to the renewed theological conversation that has been ongoing within the church for many generations. The indexes on scripture and subjects make the volume all the more helpful to readers. All together the volume is highly recommended for students of the current theological trends in hermeneutics and could serve as a nice supplement to university, college and seminary biblical interpretation courses."--D. Christopher Spinks, Reviews in Religion and Theology

"The significance of this project is its juxtaposition of contributions from four major voices in recent theological hermeneutics. . . . Reading Scripture with the Church thus provides a handy entry-point into . . . what is now an expanding conversation around theological hermeneutics of Christian Scripture."--Joel B. Green, Review of Biblical Literature

"This is an engaging, provocative book whose brief size belies its great significance."--Wendell Willis, Restoration Quarterly

"[The] four major presentations are followed by the responses the speakers make to each other and a conclusion by the editor. . . . I am in general agreement with their shared position and am grateful to them for making it available."--O. C. Edwards Jr., Sewanee Theological Review

"Four scholars, two from New Testament Studies and two from theology itself, have each contributed an essay addressing some aspect of the theological interpretation of the Bible. . . . The authors' closing responses invite the reader into the dialogue that has engaged these theologians for several years. Both biblical scholars and theologians will find this book of interest."--Dianne Bergant, CSA, Bible Today

"All four authors clearly demonstrate a passion for the church and how our understanding of interpretation impacts the practice of our faith. . . . Short responses from each theologian that address, challenge, and clarify some of the finer points of the main essays . . . could prove for some to be the most enjoyable part. . . . We are privileged to observe the mutual respect and consideration they have for one another--a truly delightful end-cap to an engaging book. Reading Scripture with the Church should prove to be an enjoyable book for anyone who has even a cursory interest in Biblical hermeneutics, especially for those who are interested in how it relates to the lived theology of the church. . . . Even those lacking any background in this field will gain a vivid snapshot of some of the current Biblical and theological debate. I would highly recommend this book for those who are already familiar with one or more of the contributors, as both its patchwork of diversity and its common thread will engage scholars and lay theologians alike. . . . This book might find itself being used in a variety of settings, as one of its most valuable characteristics is its vignette-like look at current Biblical interpretation theory. For youth ministry professionals, this has the potential to be a valuable resource for reentering the hermeneutical discussion. . . . Its subject matter is most appropriately suited for a course on Biblical hermeneutics or interpretation theory in an undergraduate setting. . . . It challenges us to consider how our conception of Biblical interpretation informs our daily actions, the manner in which we proclaim the gospel, and perhaps even how we use Scripture to theologically undergird our understanding of the spiritual formation of youth and young adults."--Jason Brian Santos, Journal of Youth Ministry

"The cast assembled for this volume is stellar. Each writer has already distinguished himself as a major player in hermeneutics. . . . They engage in a debate that is learned, civil, and, as the title indicates, churchly. . . . The book proves that theologians and biblical scholars from differing perspectives can have fruitful conversations with one another. In the struggle to negotiate hermeneutical chaos and control, both novice and seasoned students of the Bible will find benefit in this slender volume."--N. Clayton Croy, Trinity Seminary Review

"The essays and responses in this volume bear witness to what is an encouraging renewal of an approach to the Bible that has much significance for church life and may restore balance in academic biblical study. The four authors are good representatives of this development. . . . All the essays and responses are thoughtful and stimulating."--Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Feathers fly as the authors reply to one another in ways that only friends of many years, and intellection companions close enough to disagree passionately, can do."--Jason Byassee, Books & Culture

"The four creative essays and four engaging responses in this book offer a generous feast of insights and perspectives on the assumptions and practice of biblical interpretation in the life of the church. . . . The authors' perceptive self-revision and critical engagement with one another in the four responses demonstrate how an energetic and honest conversation can be sustained constructively and gracefully. Their well-positioned arguments contribute to further clarification on the issues under discussion and open up new vistas for a broader and deeper understanding of the nature and purposes of the theological interpretation of Scripture. The church has much to learn from their clarion call for a hospitable openness to contending interpretations as we discern the theological contents of Scripture. Scholars and preachers alike will find these hermeneutic proposals and exchanges of ideas instructive and thought-provoking and these wise reflections on Scripture and the church invigorating."--John Y. H. Yieh, Anglican Theological Review

"These essays evidence the greater ease with which an increasing number of exegetes and systematicians can dialogue with each other and the benefits of that conversation for their respective disciplines. . . . As well as being a fine example of a historical criticism that is theologically open, these essays would function well as an accessible introduction to the interpretative refinement of pre-critical exegesis."--Seamus O'Connell, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Church leaders and scholars will find this dialogue refreshing. These are important voices in the contemporary hermeneutical discussion and they are discussing important issues. . . . The structure of the book allows the readers to eavesdrop on an important hermeneutical conversation."--Terry Hebert with Glenn R. Kreider, Bibliotheca Sacra

"[A] constructive dialogue."--Matthew Levering, The Thomist

"Each author employs 'practicing-theological-exegesis' for engaging scripture. I find this 'live-out the text' exegetical approach fascinating, being truly philosophical in the purest sense. . . . There is a response section by the four authors reflecting on each other's respective works. They are worthwhile and highly stimulating. . . . These learned authors . . . have engaged in biblical and theological studies. Their acumen penetrates the heart and leaves a lasting presence for the mind. Something new is forming out of the old, as [this volume] imbue[s] new life with a classical discipline."--John Ahn, Religious Studies Review