Perspectives On Biblical Interpretation: A Review Article -- By: E. Earle Ellis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:3 (Sep 2002)
Article: Perspectives On Biblical Interpretation: A Review Article
Author: E. Earle Ellis


Perspectives On Biblical Interpretation:
A Review Article

E. Earle Ellis*

* Earle Ellis is research professor of theology emeritus and scholar in residenc at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 22238, Fort Worth, TX 76122–0238.

The recent two-volume Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation edited by Dr. John Hayes is a notable achievement and the most extensive English work of its kind in over a decade.1 It enlists the support of some 400 contributors from Protestant (primarily), Roman and Orthodox Catholic (considerably), and Jewish confessions, who are largely American but include a good number from Canada, Great Britain, the European Continent, Israel, and Australia.

Among its most valuable features, the Dictionary offers numerous biographical sketches of individuals who have contributed to the interpretation of the Scripture in various times, places, and manners.2 In these brief essays alone it offers readers an education about the course of historical developments in biblical studies, an education that is very substantial even if a few names raise an eyebrow and some are overlooked that another editor might have included.3

A second profitable feature and a major element of the work is the history of interpretation of each biblical book4 and of the intertestamental Apocrypha. The emphasis on the patristic, Reformation or modern periods and on particular issues and representative figures vary with the interests of each contributor. But they are generally judicious choices, although the understandable focus on twentieth-century developments sometimes unduly shortens the discussion of earlier stages of interpretation.

The Dictionary also includes valuable pieces on ancilliary disciplines, such as “Archeology and Biblical Studies” or “Assyriology and Biblical Studies.”5 It has essays on some early Jewish and early Christian fictional,

pseudepigraphal, and other writings;6 on ancient rabbinic interpretations of Scripture—the Targumim, Midrash, the Talmud; one essay on the Dead Sea Scrolls7 and one on Islamic biblical interpretation in the Koran (essentially a dry hole).8 It considers “Maps of the Biblical World” and “Dictiona...

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