Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 147:586 (Apr 90) p. 234
Expository Hermeneutics: An Introduction. By Elliott E. Johnson. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990. 330 pp. $19.95.
This book on hermeneutical theory is for advanced students. Not a popular, simple work, it takes the reader into realms of linguistic and epistemological theory considered basic to interpreting the Bible.
Johnson, professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Seminary, begins by affirming the legitimacy of “literal” interpretation, by which he means that the sense of the passage is based on clues in the biblical text itself, which allows for figurative language, literary forms, and historical references. He holds that proper hermeneutics has five “premises”: literal, grammatical, historical, literary, and theological. These are discussed throughout the book as he develops his system.
The goal of hermeneutics is to know the intended meaning the divine Author and human author have expressed in the text. Early on, Johnson points out that a biblical text cannot have conflicting messages because then “the Bible’s claim to be revelation would be deceptive and false” (p. 34).
The book then discusses the steps of recognition (part 2), exegesis (part 3), application (part 4), and validation (part 5). Recognition “involves reading the text to comprehend the essential meaning of the whole text,” exegesis “involves reading the text to analyze the full range of meanings and implications necessarily intended,” application “involves relating the message of the text to situations and people of our day according to God’s working in the present” (pp. 75-76), and validation involves applying standards by which to judge the accuracy of proposed interpretations.
Some terms and definitions may be new and perhaps confusing. For example in the sentence, “The literal system affirms that the textually based meaning is recognized as a corresponding type of meaning” (p. 87), what is meant by “type of meaning”? “Type” is defined on the next page as “one text that is a member of a class of texts sharing at least one trait in common.” This, as Johnson says elsewhere in the book, is another way of saying “genre” or kind of literary form. But if that is the case, how is it that literal interpretation means that the meaning of a text “is recognized as a
BSac 147:586 (Apr 90) p. 235
corresponding genre”? Other terms that may seem unclear are “diagnostic component,” “shared conventions,” and “diagnostic trait” (pp. 255,280).
In the task of exegesis, “implications” are to be considered, that is, all the necessary meanings contained in the text. Johnson rightly suggests tha...
Click here to subscribe