Models for Interpretation of Scripture

ISBN 978 1894667 40 1
340 pages.
Published 1/1/2004



This definitive study looks at the task of interpreting Scripture by exploring four broad models for understanding Scripture, namely, “witnessing tradition,” “authoritative canon,” “inspired word,” and “experienced revelation.” The diversity of interpretive approaches implied by the use of these four models is carried further by a methodological catholicity and openness within each of the four major divisions of the book. For instance, in dealing with the interpretation of scriptural narrative, Goldingay carefully explains how literary approaches to Scripture and a concern for the history narrated in the Bible’s stories can be held together with other interpretive focuses. In his discussions of differing approaches and focuses in interpretation, Goldingay is impressively clear and informative and demonstrates a sophisticated ability to respond to and challenge what other scholars have written. Throughout this volume, Goldingay continually moves toward the interpreter’s final task-communication to others of what has been gained in interpretation.He asks, for example, what are the implications of the different interpretive strategies for Christian life, human liberation, preaching and Christian community life. He demonstrates his conclusions with numerous examples of interpretation-his own and those of others-of specific Bible passages. 

JOHN GOLDINGAY is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author of numerous scholarly books and commentaries on Daniel (Word Biblical Commentary) and Isaiah (New International Biblical Commentary). He has also written several more popular expositions such as After Eating the Apricot and Men Behaving Badly.

A thoughtful, useful and eminently readable teaching tool on biblical interpretation offers common sense judgements and practical examples. I commend it.

Anthony  C  Thistelton

Goldingay is extremely thorough in this book. He examines multiple approaches to reading Scripture, he is fair charitable towards all of them, and his final conclusion synthesizes a lot of prior analysis very well. There are a few moments in which he goes on tangents about some pet peeves in interpretation (i.e., understanding homosexuality in interpretation), but it’s not enough to deter me from rating it as a must-read for Biblical exegetes.


1. Introduction: Scripture’s Varied Forms 1

Approaches to the Interpretation of Scripture 2

Approaches to Preaching 7



2. Witness in the Form of Story: Beginning from the Text 15

History and Story 15

Focusing on the Story’s Own Form and Structure 21

Looking for the Structures under the Surface of the Story 24

Deconstructing the Structures in the Story 27

The Story and Its External Referents 31

Authors and Audiences 33

3. Beginning from the Audience 36

The Audience Implied by the Story 36

The Role of Ambiguity and Openness in Stories 39

What We Bring to Stories 42

What We Read into Stories 45

Is It Audiences That Make Sense of Stories? 46



Why Is There Diversity in the Way People Understand Texts? 50

4. Scripture as Witness: Some Implications

for Interpretation 56

As Witness Scripture Points Us to God’s Deeds

More Than to Our Obligations 56

Witness to One Story: Implications in Terms of Typology 61

Witness to One Story: Implications for

Liberation Hermeneutics 66

5. How Stories Preach 71

How Biblical Stories Preach 73

How Stories Engage Their Readers 76

Interpreting the Parables 78

The Parable of the Broadcaster 84



6. Scripture as a Collection of Norms for Behavior 89

The Meaning and Applicability of Scriptural Commands 91

The Diverse Perspectives and Levels of Scriptural Commands 94

Pointers from Jesus’ Handling of the Torah 96

The Authority of Jesus and the Authority of the Torah 99

7. Handling the Variety of Levels in Scripture 104

The Canon within the Canon 105

The Place of a Hermeneutic of Suspicion 106

Compromises in  the Canon 114

8. Interpretation as a Feature of the Canonical Process 121

Canonical Reapplication 121

Forms of Books 127

Complexes of Books 132



9. The First Testament Prophets in the Second Testament 141

Prophecy in Matthew 1-2 142

Matthew’s Aims and Methods 144

Conscious and Unconscious Meanings 148

10. The First Testament Prophets in the Modern World 152

Traditional Figurative Interpretation 152

Contemporary Figurative Interpretation: Allegorical,

Devotional, Liberationist, and Preterist-Millennialist 155

The Characteristics of Figurative Approaches 160

11. Interpreting a Historical Word 167

The Place of Historical Interpretation 167

The Process of Historical Interpretation 171

The Role and the Nature of Biblical Criticism 174

The Presuppositions of Tradition and of Criticism 177

12. Hearing the Words of God in the Words

of Human Writers 183

The Risk, Promise, and Ultimate Aim of

Historical Interpretation 183

Interpretation That Goes Deeper Than the Historical 186

Hearing the Word of God in the Words of Isaiah or Ezekiel 189

Critical Interpretation and Interpretation in Faith 194




13. Interpreting a Revelation 203

Revelation and Myth 204

The Concepts of Myth and Demythologizing 209

The Complementarity of the Objective and the Self-Involving 212

14. Interpreting Accounts of Human Experience 216

How Such Interpretation Starts 216

How Such Interpretation Develops 221

Interpretation in the Context of an Interpretive Tradition 226

Interpretation in the Context of History 229

15. The Corporateness of Scriptural Interpretation 233

The Context of a Confessional Community 233

The Context of the Academic Community 236

The Context in Society 238

The Context of the Universal Church 242

The Universal Human Context 247

16. Subjectivity and Objectivity in  Interpretation 251

Exegesis and Appropriation 252

Exegesis and Application 256

Appropriation and Communication 262

The Complementarity of the Reflective and the Experiential 264

17. Reflective Expository Preaching 266

Discovering How the Text Addressed Its Hearers 267

Discovering How the Text Applies Today 272

How Expository Texts Communicate,

and How We Communicate 279

Guidelines for the Expositor 283

Abbreviations 288

Bibliography 290

Index of Authors 317

Index of Scriptural and Other Ancient Jewish

and Christian Writings 324

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