Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hermeneutics Textbook Dilemma: And the winner is...

I had an intensely negative reaction to J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays's Grasping God's Word (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005) when I first considered it five years ago, so it is with some embarrassment that I have decided to adopt it as a hermeneutics textbook next semester.

I thought then that the book had a lot going for it: It is a well-written, thorough, how-to manual, pitched at the right level for college students and geared toward the evangelical market. But I couldn't get over their profoundly misguided 'principlizing bridge' approach to 'the interpretive journey', which the authors treat as a blueprint for the book:

So what changed? After taking a second look (on Scott's recommendation), I was impressed again with the book's positive features and how much its basic content suits what I want to do in the course. I also think that my disagreement with Duvall and Hays could be useful pedagogically. (David Jasper's A Short Introduction To Hermeneutics will also raise important questions that stand in tension with aspects of Duvall and Hays.) Finally, Grasping is a relatively easy read, which should offset some of the more challenging selections I am assigning from Augustine, Clifford Geertz, Richard Hays (a sharp critique of the principlizing approach), and N.T. Wright.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. In a future upper-level incarnation of hermeneutics it would be fun to assign Swartley's Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation (Herald, 1983) or something like it. The good folks at Baylor University press sent me an excerpt from Peter Leithart's brand new Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture, which also looks excellent and provocative.

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