6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Anyone interested in hermeneutics will benefit from reading this impressive book. It gives a detailed explanation of the difficulties facing anyone trying to understand the meaning of biblical texts as the original authors intended them to be understood. It is comprehensive and uses an impressive list of references to support the authors views. (There are something like 800 other authors they call on).
It is incomplete in the sense that it isn't in any way a balanced presentation of the subject. For example, where they refer to other authors it is where these authors ascribe to their views - even where these authors would usually be expected to disagree with them, for example, JP Meier.
They consistently advise and warn that interpretations often [or always?] reflect the interpreters own personal bias. It would help to know their own personal prejudices because they, themselves, highlight this tendency in talking about James, the brother of Jesus. They state that Acts 15 shows he was the head of the Church in Jerusalem but, "Eventually, after Peter arrived in Rome, he supplanted James in empire-wide significance".
Such a statement from 3 such highly qualified academics is astonishing. Did they really miss: Lk 22 where 'Peter's faith will strengthen his brethren'; Lk 24 where Jesus first appeared to Peter; Acts 1 where Peter headed the meeting which elected Matthias; Acts 2 where he led the apostles in preaching on Pentecost; Acts 2 where he received the first converts; Acts 3 where he performed the first miracle after Pentecost; Acts 5 where he inflicted the first punishment [Ananias and Saphira]; Acts 8 where he excommunicated the first heretic, Simon Magus; and so on....? These clearly show that while James may have led the Jerusalem church, the first amongst the apostles throughout the whole of the early church was Peter long before he went to Rome. Unless, of course, your personal prejudices do not allow you to see it.
Later, they briefly discuss difficulties in exegesis and textual criticism. An example they give is that Hebrew, when first written, was written without vowels. They quote Gen 1.1 written in the same way in English would be: 'NTHBGNNNGGDCRTD..." to highlight the difficulty. But the example is wholly misleading. An English document or book without vowels is impossible to read. Hebrew without vowels is not, because all words are based on a 'root word' having 3 consonants making it easy to read without vowels. After all they managed to do so until about 7AD when vowels were introduced to ensure correct pronunciation as the Diaspora grew. Today Hebrew [and Arabic] are still written without vowels except in specialized documents such as legal papers, dictionaries and so on. Even allowing that they discuss it '....only briefly', they are demonstrating either sloppy argumentation or just plain laziness.
So it is a valuable book giving a very good explanation of the difficulties in producing good hermeneutics. It should be read, though, with the authors' own caution in mind: remember that interpreters are influenced by their own prejudices and bias.