Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hermeneutics Textbooks - Any Recommendations?

I am looking for an outstanding textbook suitable for a 2nd year college hermeneutics course. In the past I have used and, for various reasons, rejected the following:

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth.
3d ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Gorman, Michael J. Elements Of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide For Students And Ministers. Rev. ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2001.

Peterson, Eugene H. Eat This Book: A Conversation In The Art Of Spiritual Reading. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

Fee and Stuart's introduction to Biblical genres is still fairly unique, and much of the discussion remains helpful, but I found myself disagreeing with it so much in class that my students wondered why I assigned it. Eventually, I asked the same question and moved on to something else. I used Michael Gorman's Elements of Biblical Exegesis the first couple times I taught the course. It is a fine introduction to biblical exegesis, but so narrowly focused on writing an exegetical paper that it put a bit of a strait-jacket on the course, especially when I realized it was the big picture ideas more than the technical process that I wanted my students to internalize. I liked Eugene Peterson's Eat this Book the first time I read it, but--if I recall--student feedback wasn't as positive as I imagined it would be, and the content wasn't a great fit with what I want to do in class.

Last semester I assigned Jeannine K. Brown, Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: BakerAcademic, 2007), which required too much of my first and second year college students; I am also not as sold on the value of speech-act theory as she is. However, some students liked it better than the second textbook--David Jasper's, A Short Introduction To Hermeneutics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004)--which I do plan to use again this year. In my view, Jasper provides an excellent provocative introduction to issues in hermeneutics by way of a succinct historical overview. But what shall I use in place of Brown?

Jerry Camery-Hoggatt's, Reading The Good Book Well: A Guide To Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007) is excellent, though the title is misleading. The book is a guide to reading NT narrative, not biblical interpretation in general.

So what else is there? What do you recommend?


benbyerly said...

Time to write your own ;-).

I'll have to remember to check back for any suggestions you get.

Isaac Gross said...

That's funny, cause I was thinking the same thing, "Maybe write the book?" :) Cause with your job and a infant, there's time to be had right?

It seems like you're trying to find a happy medium between approachability and course content.

Do the students react well to the article readings? Of course I liked Wright, but I also remember enjoying Augustine. And the chapter from Slaves, ...

John Ottens said...

The answer to all of your problems: the Speculative Hermeneutics website, a safe path into orthodox biblical interpretation. Get a lifetime subscription for only $29.95.


d. miller said...

I thought of adding, "And don't ask me to write my own," but decided it would be best not to end the post with a rant. Comments, however, are another matter: If I'm not satisfied with what others have written--which for all I know suits how they authors teach--why should I imagine I can fill the gap, or that mine will be any less idiosyncratic? Ask me in another 10 or 20 years. If I still think the course is worth teaching, I might have something worth publishing. I'm not convinced young scholars should be the ones writing textbooks.

d. miller said...

To qualify my rant somewhat: I don't wish to imply that all scholars are created equal. Some young scholars are especially gifted to write accessible textbook-like books. Mark Allan Powell comes to mind. Judging from WorldCat listings, he completed his dissertation in 1988, at age 35. He then proceeded to write excellent short books (e.g., The Bible and Modern Literary Criticism, What Are They Saying about Luke? ... about Acts?, etc.) at the rate of about one a year. May his tribe increase.

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

Found this by blog by accident, but I'll give it a go. Try Moises Silva and Walt Kaiser's Intro to Biblical Hermeneutics. Not perfect, but a good overview. Plus, the authors don't always agree on every subject so it creates some good discussions

Then again, I read several years ago, so I don't remember all of it...