Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
ATJ 27 (1995) p. 108
Robert H. Stein: Playing by the Rules: A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Books. 1994, 219 pp., $11.99
Are you looking for a book to use in your small group or Sunday class? Do you interact with people who think the Bible can be used to say whatever we want? Are you ready for a refresher in the basics of solid evangelical hermeneutics? Then here’s the book for you! Anyone who wants to use the Bible accurately would benefit from reading and using Stein’s Playing by the Rules.
Robert Stein is professor of New Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary. He has published several books on hermeneutics, focusing in particular on the gospels. Playing by Rules condenses some of his earlier work for a general audience. His inclusion of many useful diagrams aids this.
However, Stein has also added new material to address recent trends in interpretation. He views the goal of interpretation as discovering what the text “means” (p. 18). But where does this meaning come from? Our postmodern culture claims that the text can mean one thing to me and another to you. In other words, the reader is the source of meaning. Stein cogently refutes this idea and makes a strong defense of the traditional view that the author gives a text its meaning. His book develops the rules by which we, the readers, can most accurately discover that meaning.
Stein’s second chapter is basically a glossary of the most important technical terms used in the book. This is very useful as it clarifies his vocabulary before confusion occurs. This chapter alone is a useful reference to have. He also has an interesting chapter on the Spirit’s involvement in hermeneutics. His analysis of 1 Cor. 2:14 is both a good example of how to apply his rules and also shows that the Spirit’s role is not “to cover for laziness in the study of the Word of God” (p. 70)!
While the first part of his book focuses on general rules for interpretation, the second examines eleven literary forms found in the Bible. His points are clear and concise, often arranged into guidelines for practical use. These sections contain many examples. One thing which was missing, however,
ATJ 27 (1995) p. 109
was a way to determine the particular form of a passage. The ideas given were too basic. For example, to detect poetry, Stein recommends looking at the different type-set used (p. 104). However, he interprets Col. 1:15–20 as poetry even though it is not printed as such in English translations.
In spite of this, Stein has provided a very useful guide to biblical ...
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