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Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation Paperback – September 28, 2010
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"The message is a potent call to evangelicals to be evangelical in their hermeneutics. Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics will prove a useful tool for Bible students and pastors." (Michael J. Thate, Bulletin for Biblical Research, vol. 19, no. 1, 2009)
"Goldsworthy demonstrates the need for a robust biblical theological method that exalts Jesus, which is exactly what his book does." (Andrew David Naselli, JETS, June 2008)
"Amongst a spate of hermeneutics books, why should this one receive special consideration by readers interested in the subject? The first reason is the author. Graeme Goldsworthy has contributed numerous years in the classroom and multiple volumes in print to help the world understand the Bible better. The second reason why this book should receive special attention is because it offers so very clearly a general hermeneutics textbook from a well honed 'gospel-centered' approach. His summaries, bullet points, and analyses make this quite a usable text and a welcome contribution." (Matthew Cook, Evangelical Review of Theology, July 2008)
"This book is clearly written by an evangelical for evangelicals. Goldsworthy does present some helpful and balanced suggestions for hermeneutics, particularly when he writes of the need to do hermeneutics in the context of biblical theology as a whole." (Wilburn T. Stanch, Catholic Book Reviews, January 2008)
"The book is stellar in focusing on Christ as the hermeneutic of Scripture and reality. . . . It is a challenging and worthwhile read for the serious student." (Doug Smith, SharperIron.org, February 20, 2008)
"One of the more significant books of the year." (Preaching, November/December 2007)
"Goldsworthy articulates how we should interpret the whole Bible in light of the gospel. This is a readable book that is concerned first and foremost with the pastoral situation." (Preaching, Bible and Reference Survey 2007)
"This book was written to be a textbook, and will make a good one. It almost shouts 'I'm a ready-made syllabus!'" (Rich Ritchie, Modern Reformation, May/June 2007)
"Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is a clarion call for those who believe that the Bible is the word of God to interpret it like it is the word of God. It is chock full of insights useful to any thoughtful believer who wants to be able to read his or her Bible Christianly. Goldsworthy is to be particularly commended for his clear demonstration that a robust and believing biblical theology provides a solid foundation for knowing how to approach the Bible." (Mark Traphage, League of Inveterate Poets, foolishsage.com, 2007)
"Not a book best handled with casual reading. Rather, it is the type of book that must be approached with a certain level of hermeneutical angst and a willingness to perceive one's own hermeneutical shortcomings. It is also the type of book that should be read more than once, perhaps annually for a decade or so." (Miles Van Pelt, Reformation21.org, April 1, 2007)
About the Author
Graeme Goldsworthy is an Australian Anglican and Old Testament scholar. He was formerly lecturer in Old Testament, biblical theology and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia and continues to teach there part time. Goldsworthy is the author of According to Plan, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Gospel & Kingdom,The Gospel in Revelation and The Gospel and Wisdom. He has an MA from Cambridge University and a ThM and PhD from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.
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Graeme Goldsworthy's new book, Gospel-centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles for Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, is a profound study of the ideas and issues involved in hermeneutics - and especially the importance of taking the Gospel of the Crucified, Risen, and Exalted Christ as our starting point for interpreting Scripture. The book is divided into three parts and nineteen chapters, followed by a bibliography, and Name and Scripture indices.
Part One: Evangelical Prolegomena to Hermeneutics
Part one contains four chapters dealing with concepts foundational to the task of hermeneutics and the remainder of the book. Those chapters are:
*The Necessity for Hermeneutics
*Presuppositions in Reading and Understanding
*Towards a Biblical Theology of Interpretation
Goldsworthy states that "hermeneutics is about communication, meaning, and understanding" (24). These are the three dimensions involved in hermeneutics: the message/text, the sender/author, and the receiver/reader. Hermeneutics is about bridging the gaps (of language, culture, history, literature, etc.) that exist between the receiver/reader and the message/text and sender/author. When it comes to Scripture, God is the communicator, God's word is the message, and God's people are the receivers/readers.
The primary aim of this book is to show how all three of these dimensions in hermeneutics find their center in the person and work of Christ. "The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals him as the Word of God who is the truth. Jesus as the divine communicator, the saving message, and the human receiver demonstrates where the heart of true hermeneutics lies. The gospel is the power of God for salvation, which includes hermeneutical salvation" (53). Part one lays the groundwork for this kind of thinking and shows "from creation, through fall and redemptive history, to the new creation reveals a consistent approach to the basics of hermeneutics. In essence it shows that hermeneutic failure is due to human sin. The fact that we struggle for meaning and understanding as fallen creatures in a fallen world is ultimately problematic only if God has not acted to redeem the situation. But, because we believe he has acted redemptively in Christ, it is to this Christ that we must turn for hermeneutic salvation" (85).
Part Two: Challenges to Evangelical Hermeneutics
Part two is probably the most challenging section of the book, yet its value is great. The author shows how the Gospel has been "eclipsed" by the "invasion of non-biblical philosophical frameworks into the interpretive process" (91). What follows is both a survey of the history of hermeneutics and a biblically-faithful critique of the various schools of thought. In eight chapters Goldsworthy discusses The Eclipse of the Gospel in:
*The Early Church
*The Medieval Church
*Literary Criticism, and
The twelfth chapter on "The Eclipse of the Gospel in Evangelicalism" is especially insightful and relevant. This chapter is well worth reading, even if some readers preferred to skip over other parts. Goldsworthy deals with:
*Quietism: evangelical Docetism
*Literalism: evangelical Zionism
*Legalism: evangelical Judaism
*Decisionism: evangelical Bultmannism
*Subjectivism: evangelical Schleiermacherism
*`Jesus-in-my-heart-ism': evangelical Catholicism
*Evangelical pluralism, and
His summary of this chapter contends that "The irony of modern evangelicalism is that many of its aberrations have occurred because of a siege mentality and an attempt to ward off the effects of the enlightenment. When evangelicals become reactionary, they can often flee unwittingly into the arms of another enemy waiting in the wings . . . [The] matters raised in this chapter should move us to be more diligent in allowing the gospel to shape our hermeneutics, even if this means appearing to be somewhat tiresome in our questioning of some of the traditions of our evangelical culture" (180).
Part Three: Reconstructing Evangelical Hermeneutics
This final section contains the more positive and most valuable contributions Goldsworthy makes to the field of hermeneutics. In chapter thirteen, he begins by outlining several presuppositions for Gospel-centered interpretation:
*The sole content of Scripture is Christ (unity)
*Scripture is self-authenticating (authority)
*Scripture is clear and self-interpreting (meaning), and
*Christ is Lord of the Scripture
Chapters fourteen through eighteen take up the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of Scripture (chapters sixteen and seventeen respectively addressing "the two Testaments and typology" and "biblical and systematic theology") and contextualization. Chapter nineteen, "The Hermeneutics of Christ" is a summary of the main argument of the book, showing how interpretation of Scripture is shaped by the person of Christ, the work of Christ, the glorification of Christ, and the Spirit of Christ.
The following paragraph is an example of how Goldsworthy's Christ-centeredness works on a practical level: "The hermeneutics of the doing of Christ the fulfiller demand that we read carefully the Old Testament as a testimony to what he achieves in his life, death, and resurrection. The gospel is so dependent on its Old Testament antecedents that we can easily overlook some of its dimensions and texture if we do not carefully examine what it is that he fulfills. The Old Testament perspective on eschatology, with all the rich variety of its expectations of restoration, finds its resolution in the work of Christ. This includes the promises concerning the people, the place of God's kingdom, the temple, and redemption from sin. It also includes the promise of a new creation. Thus the hermeneutics of the cross of Christ must go beyond forgiveness of sin to the new creation. Jesus on the cross was putting the universe back together; he was restoring the true order of creation" (304).
This is not the easiest book I've read in recent months, but it is one of the most important. I found myself not just reading, but studying this book - rereading, highlighting, and taking notes. It is now on my mental list of books to read periodically. I would highly recommend this book to pastors and preachers who desire to be biblically-faithful and Christ-centered in their teaching and preaching of Scripture. For those who feel daunted by the length and weight of the book, I would suggest reading chapters one through four, nine, twelve, and sixteen through nineteen. But I think that pastors who will risk this book will find it compelling enough to return to again and again.
Goldsworthy, in a systematic fashion, divides Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics into three parts: prolegomena, challenges to evangelical hermeneutics, and reconstruction of evangelical hermeneutics. In Part One, Goldsworthy seeks to consider “the basic assumptions…of evangelical belief and biblical interpretation,” and he centers the upcoming arguments on the idea that “The person and work of Jesus provide us with a single focal point for understanding reality” (21). In a helpful second chapter, Goldsworthy sorts us into three main presuppositional stances. Most of us follow Tertullian, Aquinas, or Augustine in our presuppositional stances, which will, in turn, drive our hermeneutics. Goldsworthy demonstrates that he does not fall under Tertullian’s Fideism or Thomas’ Empiricism but Augustine’s model of Presuppositionalism. Then, consulting the four solas, Goldsworthy posits four pillar presuppositions, which will ultimately pave the way forward for further conversation:
“The principle of ‘grace alone’ points us to the ontological priority of God.” (47)
“The principle of ‘Christ alone’ points us to the soteriological and hermeneutical priority of the gospel of Christ” (48)
“The principle of ‘Scripture alone’ points us to the phenomenological and material priority of Scripture” (49)
“The principle of ‘faith alone’ points us to the ontological inability of the sinner and the epistemological priority of the Holy Spirit.” (50)
All in all, Goldsworthy wraps up his argument for a Biblical Theology of interpretation by pointing to “the centrality of Jesus Christ in the gospel as hermeneutic norm” (85).
In Part Two, the focus shifts to highlighting some “examples of major philosophical influences that have impinged negatively on Christian biblical interpretation in certain periods of the church’s history” (90). Goldsworthy calls these influences “eclipses,” and spends many chapters unpacking how the early church, the medieval church, Roman Catholicism, liberalism, philosophical hermeneutics, historical criticism, literary criticism, and evangelicalism itself, all in their own unique way pose challenges to our idea of proper hermeneutics. All of these chapters are important, but I would say two of the most helpful for me were his chapters on the early church and evangelicalism.
It is in Part Three where the pastor seeking a better understanding of healthy hermeneutics will find the most practical wisdom. Goldsworthy is arguing throughout this book, but especially here, that our practices need reform. To do so, we have to evaluate the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of hermeneutics. A couple of highlights from this section include Chapter 16, where Goldsworthy shows us how the Old and New Testament are related. “We conclude that there is no dimension of the Old Testament message that does not in some way foreshadow Christ” (251). Goldsworthy goes on to outline a huge table of “macro-typology” to end the chapter, showing the salvation history of the Old Testament and how Christ fulfills it. Another important chapter is his discussion on contextualization in Chapter 18, defining contextualization as being made up of six key parts: Bible translation, Scripture interpretation, gospel communication, believers’ instruction, incarnation of truth, and systemization of Christian faith (276).
My underlines fill the pages of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics. In the life of any preacher, writer, or student of God’s Word, we are subjected to the importance of treating the text before us with great care. We cannot fall off of either side of the horse. Goldsworthy’s book serves as tight, rigid, but solid and sure guardrails for our journey toward an evangelical hermeneutic. This is a must-have for seminary students and preachers.