Scripture as Communication

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

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"This is a very well written and engaging book that should prove to be a very helpful aid to both instructors and students specializing in the field of biblical hermeneutics and communication theory."--Tony Costa, Review of Biblical Literature


Jeannine Brown believes that communication is at the heart of what we do when we open the Bible, that we are actively engaging God in a conversation that can be life changing. In this basic guide to the theory and practice of biblical hermeneutics, Brown proposes a communication model as an effective approach to interpreting the Bible. Drawing upon thinkers such as Kevin Vanhoozer, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Anthony Thiselton, she first explicates and then demonstrates how such a model can enhance our ability to understand Scripture. Brown's fresh, engaging voice comes through in this clearly written guide for professors, students, and church leaders.



"Brown has written an excellent text for hermeneutics classes that is clear and well organized and reveals a superb mastery of the material. Understanding texts as a form of communication rather than as art is a helpful correction to recent trends in interpretation."--Robert H. Stein, senior professor of New Testament interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"In an engaging and conversational style, Jeannine Brown addresses the complexities of hermeneutics and explains how an understanding of those complexities can help readers develop a healthy hermeneutical self-consciousness as they read Scripture, God's communicative act. She defines important terms and addresses major hermeneutical theories, providing a realistic appraisal of hermeneutical challenges while also offering positive, practical guidelines. Above all, Brown reminds us that reading Scripture is learning to discern a communicative act initiated by God. Such a hermeneutical journey is about treating Scripture as an encounter with a friend, not as a code to be broken. Brown stresses, therefore, what is often lost in similar treatments: that authentic hermeneutical inquiry is not only grounded in faith but also moves us toward a deepening of that faith."--Peter Enns, Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies, Eastern University

"Jeannine Brown has proven herself to be a reliable guide for those committed to serious engagement with Christian Scripture. Her 'communicative act' model prioritizes the biblical text without undermining the importance of either authors or readers. Complex issues are clearly explained. Controversial issues receive fair-minded treatment. Talk about interpretation is coupled with examples of interpretation. Scripture as Communication will be attractive both to students beginning the journey of biblical interpretation and to those already well on the way."--Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This book contributes substantially to the current conversation within Christianity on interpretation theories and biblical hermeneutics. Jeannine Brown draws from speech-act theory, relevance theory, literary theory, and narrative theology to offer a balanced approach, which she terms the communication theory of interpretation. By grounding her communicative model in the incarnation, she convincingly combines truth and interpretive method, and she does so with impressive clarity and ease. Without any loss of depth, Brown clarifies complex ideas with the help of excellent illustrations that make this book accessible to anyone from pastors to students to experts in the field. A significant achievement!"--Jens Zimmermann, associate professor of English, Canada Research Chair in Religion, Interpretation, and Culture, Trinity Western University

"Scripture as Communication is a helpful introduction to biblical interpretation that begins in the right place--the question of the nature of the text--and stays in focus throughout. Brown's emphasis on meaning as communicative act enables her to take the best from several models of interpretation and to do justice to author, text, and reader alike. Moreover, because it strikes a judicious balance between attending to issues and particular New Testament texts, this book combines the best of both the theoretical and the practical hermeneutical worlds."--Kevin J. Vanhoozer, professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"After teaching biblical hermeneutics at Wheaton College (IL) for over a decade, using the same text with each successive generation of students, I switched to Brown's new book on the topic. What a delightful choice! Well and clearly written, challenging without shooting over students' heads, conversant with current debates in the field, and practical. She uses a communication model that ties together authors, texts, contexts, and readers. If you're jumping into this field, Brown's tome is the place to start."--Gene L. Green, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College

"Jeannine Brown's Scripture as Communication is an ideal textbook for introductory hermeneutics courses, steering a middle course between the advanced hermeneutical volumes of Thiselton and Vanhoozer and overly-simplistic books on Bible study methods. The work provides a sound theoretical and philosophical foundation for students to engage the fundamental question of the 'meaning of meaning' in the biblical text."--Mark L. Strauss, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego

The Author

  1. Jeannine K. Brown

    Jeannine K. Brown

    Jeannine K. Brown (PhD, Luther Seminary) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary and author of Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics and The Disciples in Narrative Perspective: The Portrayal and Function of the...

    Continue reading about Jeannine K. Brown


"A solid introduction to biblical hermeneutics based on a communication model--that is, by learning how Scripture communicates, we capture the meaning of the text. This is a solid volume that will be of particular interest to those of us whose calling involves communicating the gospel."--PreachingNow

"Brown offers a clear and concise hybrid of recent scholarship and traditional introductory topics. . . . Scholarly yet practical, Scripture as Communication surveys the historical and theoretical foundations of the modern hermeneutic debate, while never losing sight of helping readers in their ability to interpret and contextualize the Bible. . . . Scripture as Communication is an innovative and useful bridge between traditional undergraduate discussions of Bible study methodology and graduate study of hermeneutical history and theory. Intentionally written as an introduction to hermeneutical theory supporting her approach, Brown surpasses expectations by introducing the reader to key issues traditionally plaguing hermeneutic discussion. . . . Brown offers a useful, clear, and engaging introduction to hermeneutical approach that is in step with recent hermeneutical research. A useful textbook for upper-level undergraduate courses in hermeneutics or as a bridge into the hermeneutics debate of a graduate course, [it] will undoubtedly find an appreciative and wide audience in colleges and seminaries."--Lester J. Hicks, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Offers the reader a fresh approach while at the same time providing a different angle on how to treat the subject of biblical hermeneutics from an introductory perspective. Brown delightfully engages the reader with her own personal stories and peppers the book with a dash of humor. . . . While many books dealing with hermeneutics have been written within the field of biblical scholarship, Brown broaches the topic with a challenging and up-to-date perspective. . . . Brown concludes her book with five appendices . . . that supply the reader with suggestions and pointers on various topics. . . . Brown also supplies a very good and comprehensive bibliography related to the topic of biblical hermeneutics by other scholars in the field. In summary, this is a very well written and engaging book that should prove to be a very helpful aid to both instructors and students specializing in the field of biblical hermeneutics and communication theory."--Tony Costa, Review of Biblical Literature

"Brown's basic introduction to the discipline of hermeneutics offers a clear and practical interpretative model that highlights the communicative nature of the Christian scriptures. By rooting this communicative model in the theological concept of the incarnation, Brown bridges the world of systemic theology and biblical studies, and by doing so makes a significant contribution to the various current theories and debates on the nature of the text and the discipline of interpretation. . . . Brown does not steer away from contentious or difficult issues in discussing the art of interpretation, but translates them for the reader into simple and palatable concepts, while pointing the way forward toward erudite and practical interpretative strategies. . . . Scripture as Communication is a highly accessible book that lay readers, students, ministers, and scholars alike will find to be rich in interpretive theory but practical enough in its application. Brown's book makes an important and timely contribution in our common quest to understand and apply the message of scripture."--Corné J. Bekker, Religious Studies Review

"For the intended readers, this book will be both affirming and challenging. It will help those who are suspicious of literary theory to see the value of it, while issuing appropriate warnings against some of the more grandiose claims that its theorists sometimes make."--Steve Moyise, Theological Book Review

"The first part of the book focuses on essential background information and historical movements and developments that put in context the study of hermeneutics. . . . Part two of the book is a good primer on the world in which Scripture took place. . . . Brown is at her best when specifically discussing the communicative aspects of hermeneutics. The chapters that deal with communications and genre are rich and helpful. Those who are serious about understanding hermeneutics and in learning to become better biblical interpreters will find this book an invaluable resource. . . . It's well worth the effort to read the book and interact with its prescriptions."--Scott Noble, Minnesota Christian Chronicle

"Jeannine Brown has given us two books for the price of one. Both are nice introductions for seminarians and those interested in biblical interpretation; and, both revolve around a communication model for interpreting the Bible. . . . Part One . . . could serve well as an introduction to hermeneutical terms, concepts, and issues like authors, texts, readers, and meaning. In Part Two, . . . Brown introduces readers to the practices of biblical exegesis. Throughout, Brown writes like a teacher who is genuinely interested in having her students understand the model she is proposing--a refreshing spirit I wish more authors would have. She peppers the book with personal illustrations, especially in the first half where she is trying to make clear the communication model for interpretation. In the second half, Brown helpfully provides numerous examples from the biblical text itself to illustrate points related to genre, language, and the social world of the Bible. . . . Brown's discussion of textual meaning and its complexity is very accessible and should prove helpful to those students entering the conversation. The practical sections in the second half of the book are where the real payoff is found. I cannot think of a more manageable discussion of genre, language, social worlds, and canonical context. . . . I highly recommend this book to instructors looking for a textbook for a hermeneutics or biblical interpretation course, especially those in an evangelical context. Independent students and other interested readers are also urged to read Scripture as Communication."--D. Christopher Spinks, Reviews in Religion and Theology

"Presumably aimed at students in a seminary setting, the book is written in a relaxed style, avoids unnecessary jargon and yet handles its broad theoretical themes with confidence and clarity."--Alison Jack, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Several recent trends in biblical scholarship have been at work to emphasize theological readings of Scripture and to view Scripture as communication from God, not merely a lifeless object available for observation and investigation. While these trends have been greatly encouraging for those who bristle at the bifurcation of biblical and theological disciplines, it is not an easy thing to understand how to teach more fruitful and life-giving approaches in theological schools or undergraduate classes in Bible study methods. The ongoing scholarly discussion of theory is not necessarily reflected in the publication of practical guides or teaching tools. Brown's volume will go a long way in filling this void, as it is a very well-put-together and clearly written work that will prove a gold mine for teachers and pastors. It may also be used with great profit as a textbook for students since Brown writes as a seasoned and skilled teacher. . . . This text will serve very well as a textbook in Bible study methods courses for undergraduates and seminary students and as a resource for professors teaching courses such as these. The structure of the book could easily help teachers to envision an entire semester-long course, and Brown does well to point to further resources in each of her chapters. This is a very useful volume that will serve professors, students, pastors, and anyone interested in serious Bible study for quite some time to come."--Timothy G. Gombis, Bulletin for Biblical Research

"A fresh model for understanding Scripture. . . . Brown does not simply rehash the same hermeneutical principles that can be found in most surveys. She begins with the larger question: 'What is the Bible?' which then produces some related 'how-to' skills. . . . Brown's style of writing is compelling. . . . Brown does an exceptional job of leading through the theoretical back into the practical. . . . Brown has provided a helpful reconsideration of hermeneutics for both pastor and scholar. Her style blends technical discussions with practical stories from her experiences as well as an abundance of biblical examples. Thorough footnotes and ample bibliography allow for either a quick refresher in hermeneutics or a deeper study of the topic of Scripture as communication."--Dean M. Erickson, Word & World

"The model [Jeannine Brown] presents is . . . conversant with modern and postmodern trends in communication theory and literary criticism. Brown presents her model clearly with reader-friendly anecdotes and with manifold examples of how the application of theoretical points affects the exegesis of actual texts. . . . Brown's book would serve well as a textbook in classes on hermeneutics. It is perhaps best designed for schools within the Protestant tradition that want to promote traditional interpretive strategies but that also want students to be well informed regarding ideological options and to be cognizant of the challenges to author-heavy conceptions of meaning that have been raised in recent years."--Mark Allan Powell, Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"[Brown] has an engaging style, making complex ideas and concepts understandable for a wide audience. Her method is made clear through the use of many excellent illustrations. Anyone who desires to improve in the ability to read the Bible in a distinctively Christian manner and to be shaped by the Scriptures will find this book helpful."--Glenn R. Kreider, Biblicotheca Sacra

"A clear strength of this volume is the way Brown structures the content of her book and develops the various elements of her interpretive method. . . . Another notable strength is the keen attention given to illustrations. Indeed, her text is rife with brief case studies, pithy anecdotes, and extended illustrations, both in examples of biblical interpretation and in explanation of theoretical concepts. . . . Brown defines the terms that would be unfamiliar to a beginning hermeneutics student as they are introduced. While seeking to explain introductory hermeneutical issues, Brown also integrates and evaluates a wide range of scholarship. . . . This combination of illustration and interaction broadens this volume's readership and renders it valuable to the novice as well as veteran in the hermeneutical conversation. . . . Brown achieves her task of equipping the willing student to begin thinking of and responding to 'Scripture as communication.'"--Ched Spellman, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"[Brown] clearly writes for persons who come to the Bible as a sacred text that reveals God. Scripture as Communication will be a useful textbook in college and seminary classrooms that share this perspective."--N. Clayton Croy, Trinity Seminary Review

"If you are teaching an introductory course on biblical hermeneutics or need a resource for a class that touches on the subject matter, you might consider Jeannine K. Brown's book. . . . Brown provides a clearly written and accessible discussion that takes students through complex theories, while presenting her own perspective on Scriptural interpretation."--Women Biblical Scholars blog