Learn to observe, interpret, and apply the Bible. That is one of the greatest goals of life, for it is predominant means by which we grow in our knowledge of God.
How are churches doing in their responsibility to equip the saints (Eph 4:12) in this respect? Certainly, some do it well, with skilled ministers committed to teaching their people and preparing them to teach themselves. But my experience in Evangelical churches has been quite the opposite. Churches often have no strategic plan for equipping their people to improve their hermeneutics, much less to equip them for other tasks of the Christian life.
Richard Fuhr, Jr. and Andreas Köstenberger have demonstrated in their other works that they desire to equip ministers to equip the saints. Fuhr’s recent book on the prophets is a useful textbook that pastors could use to teach their people about the obscure corpus of the Twelve. Köstenberger has written a number of books that will serve ministers, and even his introduction to the NT is written with a heart for the church.
In this new book, Inductive Bible Study, Fuhr and Köstenberger combine their efforts and their heart for the church to help the saints learn to observe, interpret, and apply the Bible through the grid of history, literature, and theology. It would be read profitably by many ministers, and used effectively to equip the saints to read the Bible responsibly and apply it appropriately.
After introducing the book and its approach, the authors break the book into three more units focusing on observation, interpretation, and application. In Unit II on observation, they cover basic issues in Bible translation that all congregants would profit reading! One chapter teaches the reader to listen actively to the text while another teaches how to determine which terms are significant enough for further contemplation and study. Chapter six teaches on the literary features of different types of genres, while chapter seven has a very introductory lesson in discourse analysis and how to see the biblical documents as cohesive and coherent.
Unit III on interpretation provides a lesson on historical, literary, and theological contexts. It also teaches the concept of the rule of faith, by which we learn to interpret Scripture with Scripture. Three more chapters teach how to analyze the meaning of individual words (lexical study), how to synthesize biblical data to study themes and topics, and how to use secondary tools for research. Seminary students would profitably consult this chapter on commentaries, which teaches three reasons for consulting them (uncovering the historical, unlocking the literary, and unveiling the theological) and provides four tips for choosing commentaries along with a table of recommended commentaries (both Evangelical and critical). Properly using secondary sources is a continual problem for seminary students in their early years, so I was glad to see this chapter included and written so clearly.
Unit IV on application closes the book. I confess that application has become the most difficult part of the hermeneutical process as I have become more and more steeped in narratival biblical theology. How can an ancient story be authoritative and normative? Well, I’ve worked on that for years and appreciate the problem it poses, and that’s the same problem the authors address in the first chapter of this unit. Since they have made interpretation historical and contextual, they must help the reader overcome that new bridge they have built for them. To live Scripture out in the world, the authors remind us that we cannot do it apart from the role of the Holy Spirit (328-329). Finally, the authors advocate for biblical theology as the best theological method for inductive Bible study (341-348). Here the authors might have done well to be more integrative with the different kinds of theology, but I’m certainly sympathetic to their choice of biblical theology as being more in line with inductive Bible study.
In sum, this work is a great textbook for college or first-year seminary students. You could use it profitably to teach a class in your church, as long as you helped them through some of the more technical jargon. Lastly, you might just enjoy it yourself. Hermeneutics textbooks are always enlightening and challenging as it reminds us to continue refining our own lens through which we read Scripture.
Preview it or buy it here on Amazon.