The best textbook on hermeneutics?

Can you help me? I’m going to be working on a new module for Porterbrook Seminary. What’s the best practical book or textbook on exegesis and hermeneutics? I’m after something for Bible college students so something the next level up from Dig Deeper and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (both of which are excellent). We cover biblical theology elsewhere in the course so the focus is on hermeneutics. And it needs to be a practical guide that equips students to teach and preach the Bible.



21 thoughts on “The best textbook on hermeneutics?

  1. I’ve dipped into Grant Osborne’s ‘Hermeneutical Spiral’ and Vern Poythress’s ‘God-Centred Interpretation’ which were both on our reading list at Bible College, and found some helpful stuff in them. It’s not a textbook, but Ben Sargent’s Latimer booklet ‘As is it written’ explains and critiques lots of approaches to interpretation from Heidegger onwards in a very short space.

  2. I’d suggest you have a look at Duvall & Hays’ book, Grasping God’s Word (they also have an abridged version called Journey Into God’s Word). Published by Zondervan, both are available as Kindle books so you can download a sample and see what you think.

  3. Pingback: The best textbook on hermeneutics? | Pastor Leaders

  4. The Sargent booklet is excellent. It really exposes the problem with a lost of hermeneutics texts and courses, where instead of explaining models and methods for interpreting Scripture, the focus becomes an agenda-driven, item-by-item approach as in “here’s the proper interpretation of THIS verse, and THAT verse” or “Here’s what you should believe about THAT” and then read the viewpoint into the text. To me Biblical Theology is the best antidote for that approach, but I see you want to treat that discipline separately. Keep up the great work, sir.

  5. in seminary, we read Osborne’s Hermeneutical Spiral and Mcknight’s Interpreting the NT, but honestly I don’t remember anything from them. What’s helped me the most has been simple books like Robert’s “God’s Big Picture”, Goldworthy’s “Preaching the Bible as Christian Scripture,” Lawrence’s “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church.” I also took Gordon-Conwell courses on theology of the pentateuch by Gordon Hugenberger and a NT theology class from Greg Beale which have been foundational for me. I look back at my class notes from those lectures almost weekly. And of course all of Keller’s stuff.

  6. by the way all the lectures from those two courses were recorded and you can order them from gordon conwell.

  7. I would recommend Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors if you want Greek, or Douglas Stuart’s Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors for the corresponding Hebrew text.

  8. Although it’s a little old now (published 1987), ‘Has the Church Misread the Bible?: The History of Interpretation in the Light of Current Issues’ by Moises Silva is a good starter on the subject of hermeneutics. It begins with looking at some of the hermeneutical challenges (e.g. linguistic, historical, scientific, etc), and goes on to look at some of the tensions involves in interpreting the Bible (human vs divine, literal vs figurative, clear vs obscure, relative vs absolute). It’s probably not the definitive book on hermeneutics, though, as it really is focused on explaining some of the main issues in interpretations, and some of the historical approaches (both right and wrong), rather than providing a series of ‘how to’ steps. However, I think it’s useful foundational reading for anyone studying the subject

  9. I also used Osborne’s ‘Spiral’ – but it is a big book, and although practical it could be daunting. You may want to look at Klein, Hubbard and Blomberg’s “Introduction to Biblical Interpretation” – although may not be as practical as you’d need. Dan Doriani’s “Getting the Message” is good, but not sure it leads towards preaching/teaching as much. I have found Proc Trust’s preaching DVD’s (Jackman) to be really good on holding my hand through exegesis to sermon preparation. Otherwise Andrew Reid’s “Postcard from Palestine” (Matthias Media, but o/p??) is very practical with lots of practice in the Bible. Could a practical guide to hermeneutics be your next book…?

  10. Recommend Howard and William Hendricks’ “Living By the Book.” Bethlehem College and Seminary uses it in one of their early courses. ISBN: 0-8024-0823-0 by Moody Publishers

  11. Only because it has not been mentioned yet, ‘Introduction to Biblical Interpretation’ Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard.
    And Kostenberger has one out as well, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation.

    But I’m guessing you already know this.

  12. Tim,

    I recommend are “Basic Bible Interpretation” by Roy B. Zuck, and the “Introduction to Biblical Interpretation” by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard as well. I think “How to Read the Bible as Literature” by Leland Ryken is also worth a look.

    I’m unhappy with Fee and Stuart’s conclusion on Ecclesiastes in “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth,” seeing the majority of the book as a literary foil. “The true aim of the book, representing as it does the sort of ‘wisdom’ that Solomon could produce after he had degenerated from orthodoxy (1 Kings 11:1-13), is to show that such a view of life would leave you cold. The view presented ought to leave you unsatisfied, for it is hardly the truth. It is the secular, fatalistic wisdom that a practical (not theoretical) atheism produces.” I believe Ecclesiastes has so much more to offer. Aside from that perspective presented, their text is worth a read.

    I also enjoyed “The Art of Biblical Narrative” by Robert Alter, written from a Jewish (not Christian) perspective.

    May God bless your ministry!

  13. No one’s mentioned it yet, but maybe you could check out Robert Plummer’s 40 questions about interpreting the bible and Jeannine Brown’s Scripture as Communication – it might suit your needs.

  14. I’ll throw Goldsworthy’s “Gospel Centered Hermeneutics“, as well as his “Christ-Centered Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles” into the mix. I’m currently in the Advanced year of Porterbrook Learning through Porterbrook ROC in the US, and it seems that Goldsworthy’s material aligns well with what we’re learning. Thanks for putting this great stuff together! Excellent and practical education.

  15. Vern Poythress’s book is free on his website. I did not particularly find it helpful though. Some good stuff in it but too much of a slog.

    Kostenberger’s Invitation to Biblical Interpretation is excellent. Anything by Dan Doriani on application is worth getting.

  16. Tim, if you are still looking for a textbook recommendation, I would suggest Elliott Johnson’s Expository Hermeneutics and Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation. Johnson has thought through the science of meaning, interpretation, application, and validity like no other. He took Hirsch’s theory and applied it to Biblical hermeneutics. Not one review of the book criticizes his content, but only the format. Longman had very good words to say of the book in his review.

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