Start your review of The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation Write a review Mar 23, Jimmy Reagan rated it it was amazing This massive book lives up to its subtitle of a comprehensive introduction to Biblical interpretation. Its the fullest volume I have seen on the subject and it brings the word encyclopedic to mind. Theres no way that you could find any subject in the field of hermeneutics not mentioned in this book. Its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness as it may be simply to prolix for some people. Still, Grant Osborne has had as much direction in the scholarly world for hermeneutics study as anyone in the last 30 years. Additionally, this busy scholar has written a few important commentaries along the way.
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For Osborne, the hermeneutical enterprise has three levels: 1 what it meant exegesis , 2 what it means for me devotional , and 3 how to share what it means to me sermonic. In this comprehensive overview of hermeneutical principles, Osborne addresses general hermeneutics Part 1 , genre analysis Part 2 , and applied hermeneutics Part 3. Two additional appendices deal with the problem of meaning and authorial intent.
Summary In Part 1, Osborne deals with context ch. Osborne identifies two areas of context: historical context and logical context. Historical context deals with the background information of the text authorship, date, etc. Chapters deals with three areas of linguistic study: grammar, semantics, and syntax. Grammar deals with the laws of language. Semantics is about the study of words, while syntax studies the sentence units.
Before a grammatical analysis of the text, the text must first be established through textual criticism. Chapter 3 addresses word study fallacies and provides a methodology for lexical studies. Chapter 4 argues that meaning is not found in individual words, but in the message of the entire utterance as a whole p. It ends with a lengthy analysis on figures of speech. Chapter 5 analyzes the use of historical-cultural backgrounds in Bible study. Osborne argues that value of archaeology is not primarily for apologetics, but for hermeneutics.
It provides significant information—regarding geography, politics, economics, etc. Chapters Part 2 focuses on genre analysis. Chapter 6 explores the OT Law, presenting the purpose of the Torah and a discussion on the sacrificial system. Chapter 7 highlights narrative criticism as one of four aspects to studying narrative.
Helpful discussion follows on key elements of a narrative: implied author and narrator, point of view, plot, characterization, setting, etc. The section on poetry chapter 8 includes an analysis on the structure of the Psalms, key features of Hebrew poetry metric patterns, parallelism, etc. Chapter 10 corrects erroneous views on prophecy and enhances the value of biblical prophecy. Chapter 11 deals with apocalyptic literature with revelatory communication, angelic mediation, esoteric symbolism, and pseudonymity as some of its formal features.
Regarding parables chapter 12 , Osborne argues that Jesus taught parables to prepare citizens of the kingdom, not to help the young to be responsible members of society p. Some features of a parable include earthiness, conciseness, major and minor points, repetition, and reversal of expectation. Chapter 13 focuses on the epistles, including discussion on letter-writing in the ancient world, form and authorship of NT epistles, and hermeneutical principles.
Osborne observes that the epistle is perhaps the simplest genre, and the general principles in chapters fit well in interpreting epistles. It includes a treatment on Jewish exegetical patterns pp. Prophecy is forward-looking and direct prediction of the NT event; typology is indirect and analogously relates the OT to the NT event.
The section on the components of theological construction proves to be valuable; the five components are Scripture, tradition, community, experience, and philosophy. Osborne provides valuable criteria for determining the validity of a theological position based on coherence, comprehensiveness, adequacy, and consistency.
Chapters 17 and 18 are on homiletics. Chapter 18 contains various tips and suggestions on sermon preparation. In some sense, Appendices 1 and 2 serve as the foundation for the entire book, but delegated to an appendix.
Osborne analyzes various philosophies and movements on determining meaning. Osborne seems to leave no stone unturned on significant hermeneutical issues. Its goal seems to serve not only the academy, but the church pulpit. In the onset, Osborne encourages his readers not to be satisfied with surface level Bible study, but to dig deeper for greater treasures p. Furthermore, Osborne views hermeneutics more than just a science and an art, but also a spiritual act whereby the interpreter depends on the leading of the Holy Spirit pp.
Part 3 of Spiral deals with the communication of truth from biblical theology to the sermon. Helpful Contributions Osborne has provided several helpful contributions towards biblical hermeneutics. First, his summaries of major works are valuable introductions to other fields in hermeneutics. Osborne has done a great job condensing large topics into a few pages. For example, his treatment on Biblical Theology summarizes thousands of pages from various authors explaining their BT method.
Throughout the book, Osborne introduces his readers to the major scholars in certain fields of interpretation e. In preparing the sermon the pastor takes that final outline and contextualizes each main point to speak dynamically to the congregation. However, I find that problematic and unnecessary. It is problematic because the busy pastor could easily skew the meaning of the passage…by ignoring the context from which they come.
Adams is not saying that one should neglect exegesis, but on the pragmatic level this would occur. The Hermeneutical Spiral, Page Third, Osborne cautions against extreme interpretation all throughout the book. For example, he addresses the fallacies in word studies in chapter 3. He warns about the weaknesses of narrative criticism in chapter 7. In other words, one must exercise caution before putting significant weight on interpreting Paul through Talmudic traditions. Fourth, Osbornes provides several insightful observations on his treatment of each section.
For example, on the parables, Osborne points out that the reversal of expectation feature is often lost on modern readers. Another example is the criteria for validity of doctrine in chapter 16 as an effective gauge for analyzing doctrines and creeds p. In other words, Osborne has gifted the church with a valuable resource for interpretive tools to be used when one works through passages of Scripture.
A Few Questions A few questions on specific discussions and some recommendations, however, are necessary. First, regarding diagrams in chapter 4, the various tools on paragraph diagramming were helpful, but to include a section on arcing and would be an improvement to this section p.
Certainly, a lexicon is greatly valuable, but a lexicon could still fall into the same trap as the theological word books. Third, the section on OT law chapter 6 may leave some readers wondering, how does one properly interpret OT law? How can it be applied?
There was no satisfactory answer given. Fifth, the discussion on typology p. Osborne has been consistent on warning against interpretive extremes, but he does not warn about extremes regarding typology.
Lastly, The Hermeneutical Spiral seems to deal primarily with the theory and philosophy of hermeneutics rather than the practice of hermeneutics. Osborne primarily deals with secondary literature on how scholars have understood interpretation. With that said, it is uncertain whether Osborne really had in mind pastors who are looking for a hermeneutics textbook as a guide for sermon preparation.
The work seems more for a theological student who needs to be introduced to the major hermeneutical works and theories in academia. This is true even on the grammar section pp.
With those commitments, Osborne has given a comprehensive treatment on the major issues regarding hermeneutics. The reading is not light work, but it accomplishes what Osborne says he desires to do—to demonstrate how hermeneutics encompasses not only meaning, but also significance. Share this:.
The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation
For Osborne, the hermeneutical enterprise has three levels: 1 what it meant exegesis , 2 what it means for me devotional , and 3 how to share what it means to me sermonic. In this comprehensive overview of hermeneutical principles, Osborne addresses general hermeneutics Part 1 , genre analysis Part 2 , and applied hermeneutics Part 3. Two additional appendices deal with the problem of meaning and authorial intent. Summary In Part 1, Osborne deals with context ch. Osborne identifies two areas of context: historical context and logical context. Historical context deals with the background information of the text authorship, date, etc. Chapters deals with three areas of linguistic study: grammar, semantics, and syntax.
“The Hermeneutical Spiral” by Grant Osborne: A Book Review
The Hermeneutical Spiral