Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach
by W. Randolph Tate
Hendrickson Publishers, (3rd Edition) 2008
380 pages (hardcover)
Finding a decent hermeneutics text for introductory courses in biblical interpretation is difficult. Some texts can be either too thorough for the first year student, too narrow on methodology to give them a good overview, or too polemical. As for the last one, hermeneutical texts which begin with an inerrantists’ theology tend to resist helpful tools, like source criticism or postmodern considerations, like reader-response criticism. W. Randolph Tate’s Biblical Interpretation argues for a balanced, integrated approach to reading the text. His textbook, divided into units and complete with questions for the reader/student to ask, looks at the world behind the text, the world within the text, and the world in front of the text, and then argues for an integrated approach that is a modified communication theory of interpretation. “If the interpreter takes any of these interpretative thrusts in isolation (i.e. author-centered, text-centered, or reader-centered), consciously or unconsciously excluding the other two,” writes Tate, “hermeneutics becomes an unbalanced discipline.” (267) Tate’s communication model rests on the idea of a dialogue between the text and the reader. I’ve found this text, with its overviews of various methods—such as form criticism, postcolonial criticism, narrative criticism—and their relative offerings to the process of interpretation to be extremely helpful for the first-year student, but not overwhelming. It also allows the professor, who may use a communication approach, but emphasize a certain method more than others, to write it into his or her course with some ease. Having integrated this text into my yearly hermeneutics course, I highly recommend it.