Scripture and Its Interpretation

A Global, Ecumenical Introduction to the Bible


12. Protestant Biblical Interpretation

Reviewing the Chapter

  1. According to this chapter, what are some of the major Protestant traditions, and what are some of the key characteristics of each?
  2. In what sense are Protestants “people of the book”?
  3. What are some of the ways in which biblical interpretation may be understood as a problem for Protestant Christians?
  4. What does this chapter say about the shifts in Protestant biblical interpretation from the nation to the kingdom of God, from the individual to the community, and from the powerful to the powerless?
  5. How does this chapter characterize the shift in Protestant biblical interpretation with respect to the question of inerrancy and related matters?
  6. What is the main thrust of the shifts in Protestant biblical interpretation toward engagement, formation, and character?
  7. What are some of the issues surrounding Protestants’ interpretation of the book of Revelation and eschatology (doctrine of the last things)?

Engaging a Central Issue

Respond to the following claim Michael Gorman makes in this chapter (p. 237): “The future story of Protestant Christianity will no doubt remain the story of its biblical interpretation. Therefore the current divisions will be healed, or not, and the contemporary crises resolved, or not, through processes of biblical interpretation.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How and why do Protestant Christians, despite their historic deep commitment to the Bible, differ about so many topics and concerns related to Christian faith and life? Is this a good situation, a bad one, or a mixture of both? If you see it as at least somewhat problematic, what are some ways to address the problem?
  2. Which aspects of the various shifts in Protestant biblical interpretation described in this chapter have you seen or experienced, whether in the preshift or postshift setting? (For example, either nationalistic approaches to Scripture or more kingdom-oriented approaches? individualistic and/or communal approaches?)
  3. What do you think you can gain from the Protestant approach(es) to interpreting Scripture described in this chapter (whatever your own tradition)?