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Interpreting the Bible

Author(s): W. Randolph Tate

ISBN13: 9781565635159

ISBN10: 1565635159

Publisher: Hendrickson Publishing

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  • From A minore ad majus to Zion, and from source criticism to deconstruction, this extended glossary clarifies approximately 50 methods of biblical interpretation along with the terminology they employ. No mere catalog of definitions, it clarifies the fundamental role of methodology in the interpretive process while giving readers an accessible resource for understanding the complex vocabulary that accompanies serious biblical studies.

    - Provides an extensive catalog of terminology currently associated with reading the Bible as literature
    - Clarifies the various methods Bible scholars use to study biblical texts, highlighting the important role that such methodologies play in the interpretive process
    - Illuminates how different interpretive approaches can make a contribution to our understanding of the biblical texts
    - Written with the non-specialist in mind

    Nothing presently on the market is as comprehensive as Tates work. Though a handful of textbooks and handbooks serve specific niches, they are usually limited in scope to the New Testament, the Old Testament, or to narrower areas of study. This accessible resource offers ready access to the full spectrum of interpretive method. Now readers no longer need to sift through a complex assortment of books and journals to grasp the terminologies and methodologies so essential for the serious biblical interpreter.

    - Students and pastors
    - Scholars familiar with some interpretive methods but who need to explore others

  • W. Randolph Tate

    W. Randolph Tate is Professor of Humanities at Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri. He is author of Reading Mark from the Outside: Eco and Iser Leave their Marks and Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach.

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    'Confused about the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? Unclear about the "hermeneutical spiral"? This A to Z reference book will be a handy guide for those students of biblical interpretation who long for clear, succinct definitions of terms and the various approaches. Tate models this after the classic Handbook to Literature, which has coached thousands of students in the difference between literary criticism, narrative criticism, reader-response criticism and other techniques. His book, however, deals solely with methods of biblical interpretation, applying the various schools of thought to biblical hermeneutics. Particularly helpful are his explanations of contemporary approaches like mujerista theology (which merits a full six pages) and deconstructionism. No seminarian or biblical scholar should be without this easy-to-use reference work.'

    - Publishers Weekly

    'This extended glossary of the terminology currently used in interpreting the Bible focuses on the vocabularies of about fifty methods that biblical scholars use in speaking about biblical texts. The topics include actualization, African American criticism, apocalypse, biblical criticism, canonical criticism, chiasm, criteria of authenticity, cultural criticism, deconstruction, discourse analysis, epistolary literature, feminist criticism, form criticism, formalism, genre criticism, Hellenism, household codes, intended reader, intertextual criticism, journey motif, kerygma, liberation theology, literary criticism, marginalization, Marxist criticism, midrash, narration, new criticism, new hermeneutic, oral tradition, papyrus manuscripts, parataxis, philology, point of view, postmodern criticism, proverb, psychoanalytic criticism, queer theory, quest for the historical Jesus, rabbinic literature, reader-response criticism, reception theory, rhetorical criticism, Sachkritik, semiotics, social-scientific criticism, speech act theory, structuralism, subjective criticism, textual criticism, tradition criticism, transactive criticism, voice, womanist theology/criticism, and zealot. Also included are appendixes on (1) a new critical reading of Marks Gospel, and (2) a reader-response analysis of Marks Gospel. Tate is associate professor of humanities at Evangel University in Springfield, MO. '

    - New Testament Abstracts

    'Overall, this is an extremely helpful reference tool, and Tate deserves the gratitude of scholars, students, and lay readers alike for producing it.'

    - Review of Biblical Literature

    'In some ways the title of this book does it a disservice. It is likely to be overlooked by anyone not working in the field of religion and/or theology. This would be unfortunate as its usefulness to researchers in many areas is masked by its primarily religious title.

    'The book aims to bring together terms used by biblical scholars in interpreting the Bible, its history, texts, context and theology. The author acknowledges that it is modelled on a well-known reference book in the field of literature, A Handbook of Literature, published by Prentice-Hall. The fact that it follows the format of this much-respected book only emphasises how useful Tates work is, and it seems likely it will follow its model to become a standard reference work in its own field. The author claims that there are two reasons for producing the book at all: first, there is no comparable work available to scholars, preachers, pastors or the general enquirer and second there is a need to bring together in one place information about the many different methods used in biblical criticism, information about which is currently scattered over a wide range of disciplines and reference sources.

    'The work consists of a series of entries on many different topics, arranged alphabetically. These occupy 394 of the pages. The selective bibliography covers 27 pages and is divided up by broad subject headings. There are two linked appendices: the first is a new critical reading of Marks gospel and the second is a reader-response analysis of the Gospel of Mark. Finally there are author and Scripture indexes. The work covers a very wide range of topics, ranging through theology, history, linguistics, philosophy, literary criticism, politics and even bibliography. Entries vary in length considerably and it is not always the obvious terms that get the longest treatment. For example Morpheme gets four lines but Monotheism gets only one! At the other end of the scale Formalism gets five and a half pages, Cultural Materialism three and a half and Mujeristia theology/criticism (surely a phrase on every readers lips?) weighs in at nearly seven pages. Entries that give straightforward definitions do not have bibliographies or references attached but those dealing with particular theories, processes or concepts are provided with essential further references to allow the enquirer to pursue the topic further. There are numerous and extensive cross-references which make it much easier to find the necessary information, especially for the general reader who may not be familiar with the terminological structure of the disciplines involved.

    'The coverage of the book is very wide indeed and to say it is a handbook of terms and methods tells only half the story. Many of the concepts and methods described are equally well established in the area of literary criticism generally. For example semiotics (the study of signs and symbols) or postmodernism have a much wider application than the Bible. Neither is the book confined to theories or attitudes sympathetic to the whole idea of religion. The beginning of the entry for Reification shows the breadth of this work
    A term in MARXIST CRITICISM, especially that of Georg Lukacs, for the economic process through which social relations between humans are transformed in capitalism into relations between objects and things.
    In the same way, the technique called interiorization (by which the narrator of a story appears to understand the workings of the mind of the character about which the story is being told) is applicable across any form of literature which the story is structured in that way. At the other end of the scale from philosophy is a very practical entry for 'vellum' to explain what it is and why it has become interchangeable with the word 'parchment'. Each entry is clearly written and well structured, often with examples from Scripture to illustrate particular points. Although intended for scholars the non-specialist will easily understand most basic entries but, inevitably, many are highly technical and can be challenging in terms of vocabulary as well as the concepts they convey.

    'The Bible is a crucial element in the culture of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). It is a fundamental element in Western literature, philosophy and art and permeates thought-patterns and everyday speech in many cultures throughout the world. Whether or not one is a believer of any kind, the Bible cannot be ignored as a source of ideas, influences, aphorisms and stories. For these reasons alone this book deserves to be considered as a useful tool for the non-religious library or scholar. It provides a wealth of valuable information about many aspects of the Bible, literary criticism, social and cultural anthropology, philosophy ad philology. For the religious-minded it gives the opportunity to find depth and greater understand in many well-known and often over-played texts. As a scholarly work it stands with the giants in the field. Not only is it well written and excellently produced, but also the price is such that over-stretched library budgets can easily accommodate it to make it accessible to members of the general public. It should find a place on every academic library shelf and also in the most modest of private collections built up by pastors and general readers. Thoroughly to be recommended.'

    - Emerald Reference Review

    'The book is comparable to R.N. Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism (2001; IRBS 48:106): an extended glossary of technical terms used in both main-stream and avant-garde biblical studies. The main difference is that Tates book is about twice the size and more in favor of current literary criticism as exemplified by the work of Wolfgang Iser and, more generally, by William Harmon (ed.), A Handbook to Literature, Prentice Hall, 9th ed. 2003. Accordingly, many new items appear in Tates book, e.g. bricolage and long entries on New Criticism, Postcolonial Feminist Criticism, Socio-rhetorical criticism, Subjective criticism, and so on. An appendix offers two readings of the gospel of Mark, one with a focus on the literary structure of the work, and one from a reader-response perspective. , This is the most complete and up-to-date manual of biblical criticism. Very likely to be the authoritative standard resource on its subject, it is indispensable for everyone who seeks to understand why and how new types of literary criticism are developing into the leading paradigm of biblical studies. Highly recommended.'

    - International Review of Biblical Studies

    '[T]his is an extremely competent work and a valuable resource for both students and scholars.'

    - Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

    'Specifically, the overall scope of the dictionarys content can be assessed in four broad categories. One entails various terms that pertain to biblical research in general and therefore cover issues relating to authorship, textual criticism, Bible translation, intertestamental history, and Bible backgrounds. Another major portion of words include definitions of both older and more contemporary theological perspectives that continue to be influential in biblical studies and assorted doctrinal terms that explicitly affect the way one interprets Scripture as a text. Closely related are numerous articles on theories of language and philosophical schools that have become prominent in presentday academic discussions about textual interpretation. Another segment of terms covers multiple ideas that are germane to linguistics and literary studies. Also, in conjunction with the actual words that are defined in the dictionary itself, Tate includes selected bibliographies on literary theory, hermeneutics, and biblical studies, as well as two appendices on current structural-critical issues in the Gospel of Mark, which are indeed helpful for students who desire to engage in further research on any of these topics.

    'Tate has provided a helpful tool for beginning students as well as advanced graduates and even professors. The work is broad enough that it can be used in an array of disciplines whether they pertain to the areas of OT, NT, theology, linguistics, or philosophy of language. In addition, Tate maintains a difficult balance in being able to define terms accurately and many times concisely without being reductionistic or incoherent. So for the most part, a student can read a given article, be exposed to the fundamental usage of the word under consideration, and see how it coincides with other terms in the overall context of biblical and literary disciplines. However, the title can be a bit misleading for beginners; the book surveys terms that are not merely pertinent to biblical studies as such, since textual interpretation has become such a broad subject. But if a student or professor is interested in staying up to date on hermeneutics as a philosophical and/ or biblical discipline, having access to this work can definitely aid in that goal.'

    - The Journal of Evangelical Theology

    'This handbook should find its way into the library of every serious student of the Bible and could be used as a textbook for foundations courses in biblical studies.'

    - Teaching Theology and Religion

    'This is a useful handbook both for students and biblical scholars who need some guidance on navigating the terminological waters of the newer criticisms.'

    - Religious Studies Review


Interpreting the Bible