Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 145:578 (Apr 1988)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Hermeneutics and the Spiritual Life,” Bruce K. Waltke, Crux 23 (March 1987): 5-10.

Recent evangelical studies of the hermeneutical method emphasize skill and technique so much that they neglect spiritual qualiÞcations needed for interpretation. Waltke points speciÞcally to the lack of discussion about the Spirit’s role in interpretation. He further points to the regrettable absence of the subject of reading the text devotionally in these studies.

Waltke argues that the goal of Scripture is to engender a personal knowledge of a personal God. A personal walk with God provides the correct lens for understanding Scripture. One’s spiritual life therefore becomes a more important factor for hermeneutics than one’s education. If one reads the Bible spiritually and humbly, prayerfully seeking the guidance of the Father who is the source of revelation, then, Waltke argues, one understands the Bible properly.

However, one must ask the question, “What does it mean ‘to understand’ the Bible?” There is a difference between knowing the content of the scriptural message and knowing what to do with that content. Can a person understand the content of the scriptural message through study without the Spirit? The answer is a qualified yes. For example the Pharisees understood, knew, or interpreted Jesus’ claim about Himself correctly; otherwise they would not have tried Him for claiming to be the Son of God. They “exegeted” His message, but they did not know the message in the sense of personally appropriating it, acting on it, or experiencing it so that it became a part of their lives. Application is where the spiritual qualifications Waltke promotes are crucial.

The Holy Spirit and spiritual life make a person more responsive to the message, but they do not necessarily teach more about the content. When David said to God, “Teach me Your ways,” he was asking God to help him apply and appropriate the truth. David already knew the content of the Law, which is comprehensible to anyone. This distinction is not clear from Waltke’s treatment. If this distinction is not kept in mind, the following erroneous implications may be drawn.

First, one might assume, “If I am leading a spiritual life I can understand the Bible without examining the text carefully.” Given the author’s distinguished career, it is unlikely he intends this meaning. The problem with this attitude is obvious: It suggests that God is asked to work outside a study of the biblical text.

Second, one might think, “My interpretation is correct, for I am walking with God and He has taught me.” Recognizing that th...

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