Filling the gap between approaches that are too simple and others that are too technical, this book starts by equipping readers with general principles of interpretation, then moves on to apply those principles to specific genres and contexts.
* Field-tested in the classroom with nearly 600 students and various professors
* Numerous charts and sidebar highlights
* Hands-on exercises to guide students through the interpretation process
* Emphasis on real-life application
* Supplemented by a website for professors providing extensive teaching materials
* Accompanying workbook (sold separately)
Grasping God's Word progresses through the following five sections:
1. How to Read the Book: Basic Tools
2. Contexts: Now and Then
3. Meaning and Application
4. The Interpretive Journey: New Testament
5. The Interpretive Journey: Old Testament
Author Biography: J. Scott Duvall is dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies and Fuller Professor of Biblical Studies at Ouachita Baptist University where he teaches Spiritual Formation. Scott has co-authored Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach to Learning Intermediate and Advanced Greek and Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible.
J. Daniel Hays has been a professor atOuachita Baptist University since 1992, where his educational specialty is Old Testament and Biblical Interpretation. A former missionary to Ethiopia, he has authored or coauthored several books. Dr. Hays and his wife, Donna, have a daughter and a son at OBU.
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Read an Excerpt
The Interpretive Journey
Basics of the Journey
An Example--Joshua 1: 1-9
The Journey and Grasping God's Word
A wrinkled old man in the mountains of Ethiopia sips coffee and peers through weathered, ancient bifocals at his worn Amharic Bible to read once again the story of David and Goliath. A middle-aged woman is bouncing along on a bus in Buenos Aires, reading and reflecting on Psalm 1. A young Korean executive, on his way home to Seoul from a business trip in Singapore, flies above the clouds at 35,000 feet, reading and pondering the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5. And in a dorm room in San Diego, California, a young college student polishes off another Mountain Dew and then looks back down at her lap-top computer to finish reading Mark's account of how Jesus miraculously calmed a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee.
People all over the world love reading the Bible--and they have loved it for thousands of years. Why? People read the Bible because it is a fascinating book, filled with gripping stories and challenging exhortations. People read it because it is an important book, dealing with the big issues of life--God, eternal life, death, love, sin, and morals. People read it because they believe that in the Bible God speaks to them through written words. The Bible encourages us, lifts our spirits, comforts us, guides us, chides us, builds us up, gives us hope, and brings us close to the living God.
Some parts of the Bible are easy to understand, but much of it is not. Most Christians, however, desire to understand all of God's Word, not just the easy portions. Many of us want to be able to dig deeper into that Word. We want to see more and to understand more of the biblical text. We also want to know that we understand the Bible correctly. That is, we want to be confident that we can pull the actual truth out of a text and not just develop an arbitrary, fanciful, or incorrect interpretation. Our book is designed for such people. The process of interpreting and grasping the Bible is similar to embarking on a journey. Reading the text thoroughly and carefully lies at the beginning of the journey. From this careful reading we become able to determine what the passage meant in the biblical context--that is, what it meant to the biblical audience. Often, however, when we try to apply this meaning directly to ourselves, we run into problems. We are separated from the biblical audience by culture and customs, language, situation, and a vast expanse of time. These differences form a barrier--a river that separates us from the text and that often prohibits us from grasping the meaning of the text for ourselves. If that were not enough, the Old Testament widens the river by adding another major interpretive barrier that separates us from the audience. Between the Old Testament biblical audience and Christian readers today lies a change in covenant. We as New Testament believers are under the new covenant, and we approach God through the sacrifice of Christ. The Old Testament people, however, were under the old covenant, and for them the law was central. In other words, the theological situation for the two groups is different. There is a covenant barrier between the Old Testament audience and us because we are under different covenants.
Thus, the river between the Old Testament text and us consists not only of culture, language, situation, and time, but also of covenant. We have much more in common with the New Testament audience; yet even in the New Testament, the different culture, language, and specific situations can present a formidable barrier to our desire to grasp the meaning of the text. The river is often too deep and too wide simply to wade across.
As a result, today's Christian is often uncertain about how to interpret much of the Bible. How should we understand Leviticus 19: 19, which prohibits wearing a garment made of two types of material? Does this mean that obedient Christians should wear only 100 percent cotton clothes? In Judges 6: 37 Gideon puts out a fleece in order to confirm what God had told him. Does this mean that we should put out fleeces when we seek God's leading? Passages in the New Testament are not always much clearer. For example, Peter walks on the water in Matthew 14: 29. Does this mean that we should attempt to walk on water in our obedience to Christ? If not, what does it mean and how can we apply it to our lives today? Even if we cannot walk on water, how do we cross the river that separates us from the text?
Any attempt to interpret and to apply the Bible involves trying to cross the river. While often unconscious of their interpretive method, many Christians today nonetheless frequently employ an intuitive or feels-right approach to interpretation. If the text looks as if it could be applied directly, then they attempt to apply it directly. If not, then they take a spiritualizing approach to the meaning--an approach that borders on allegorizing the biblical text (which shows little or no sensitivity to the biblical context). Or else they simply shrug their shoulders and move on to another passage, ignoring the meaning of the text altogether.
Such approaches will never land us safely on the other side of the river. Those using the intuitive approach blindly wade out into the river, hoping that the water is not more than knee deep. Sometimes they are fortunate and stumble on to a sandbar, but often they step out into deep water, and they end up washed ashore somewhere downstream. Those who spiritualize, by contrast, try to jump the river in one grand leap, but they also end up washed ashore downstream with their intuitive buddies. Shrugging or ignoring a passage is to remain on the far side of the river and simply to gaze across without even attempting to cross.
Table of ContentsForeword . . .. . . . 9
Acknowledgments . . . . .. . 11
Preface . . . . . . 13
PART 1: How to Read the Book--Basic Tools
1. The Interpretive Journey. . . .. . 19
2. How to Read the Book--Sentences . .. . 28
3. How to Read the Book--Paragraphs.. . . . 45
4. How to Read the Book--Discourses .. . . 65
PART 2: Contexts--Now and Then
5. What Do We Bring to the Text? . .. . . 85
6. The Historical-Cultural Context . . . . . . 95
7. The Literary Context . .. . 115
8. Word Studies . . .. . . . 128
9. Bible Translations . .. . . 150
PART 3: Meaning and Application
10. Who Controls the Meaning?. .. . . 167
11. Levels of Meaning . .. . . 175
12. The Role of the Holy Spirit. . .. . . 196
13. Application. . .. . . 203
PART 4: The Interpretive Journey--New Testament
14. New Testament--Letters . .. . . . 217
15. New Testament--Gospels .. . . . 235
16. New Testament--Acts .. . . . 255
17. New Testament--Revelation . .. . . 271
PART 5: The Interpretive Journey--Old Testament
18. Old Testament--Narrative. .. . . . 293
19. Old Testament--Law . . .. . . . 316
20. Old Testament--Poetry . .. . . 334
21. Old Testament--Prophets . .. . . 356
22. Old Testament--Wisdom . . . 376
Appendix 1: Writing an Exegetical Paper . . . . . 397
Appendix 2: Building a Personal Library. . . 401
Scripture Index . .. . . 423
Subject Index .. . . . 427