Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
RAR 8:4 (Fall 1999) p. 213
Historical Handbook Of Major Biblical Interpreters, Donald K. McKim, editor. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press (1998). 643 pages, hardback, $29.99.
Why pay nearly $30 for a reference work that can’t be mined for clever quotes to slip into a sermon, Sunday school lesson or campfire conversation? Because preaching and teaching the Bible are not solo sports, and because ignorance of the saints who have labored in this vineyard is not a virtue.
Donald McKim, academic dean at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, has gathered essays on more than 100 biblical interpreters ranging from Justin Martyr in the early second century to such contemporary exegetes as Raymond Brown, Brevard Childs and radical feminist Phyllis Trible.
The collection is arranged in six chronological sections, with the twentieth century being divided into European and North American interpreters. An introductory essay offers a helpful overview of each section. As McKim himself notes, readers may quibble about who was included and who was left out. However, the breadth of his selections is without question one of the strengths of this sizable volume.
Essays on the individual interpreters place them in their historical and theological context, outline the major
RAR 8:4 (Fall 1999) p. 214
influences on their thinking, and note their major contributions to the history of biblical interpretation, frequently including quotes from the individual’s key writings. Most are four or five pages long. All conclude with bibliographical references for further study.
From The Church To The Academy
In reading through these entries chronologically, one cannot help but notice that for biblical interpreters in the early and medieval church, and even for some in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (such as Charles Hodge), reading Scripture was first and foremost an exercise in spiritual formation.
For these exegetes, to read Scripture was to be shaped and formed by Scripture’s ultimate author, the Holy Spirit, into the image of the living God; it was to learn about the nature and character of God, and about God’s intention for His human creation. As a result, reading and interpreting the Bible were simultaneously intensely personal and unavoidably communal. Scripture could not be rightly understood apart from the church, and, if rightly understood, could not help but make a difference in the readers’ faith and life.
But McKim’s work helps us see that as we enter the modern era, reading and interpreting the Bible have become quite antiseptic, a scholastic exercise undertaken with clinical detachment. The task o...
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