If you are teaching an introductory course on biblical hermeneutics or need a resource for a class that touches on the subject matter, you might consider Jeannine K. Brown’s book Scripture as Communication: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics. Brown provides a clearly written and accessible discussion that takes students through complex theories, while presenting her own perspective on Scriptural interpretation. Brown proposes a model for treating exegesis as communication, stating that “interpersonal categories are truer to an understanding of the Bible as Scripture and more useful than models that primarily emphasize the text as code” (p. 15). While not taking a simplistic understanding of authorial intention, she does stress the importance of not treating the text as purely autonomous as though no communication was being attempted by the writer.
The book has twelve chapters divided into two main sections: “Theoretical Perspectives on Scripture as Communication” and “Practical Guidance for Interpreting Scripture as Communication.” The first section covers terminology and summarizes various theoretical models already circulating such as speech-act theory, relevance theory, and literary theory. She discusses various perspectives on authorial intention, the relationship between text and reader, and how we define “meaning.” Brown also provides a short overview of two hundred years on hermeneutics, starting with Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In the second section, Brown discusses practical matters of interpretation such as attending to genre (especially poetry, epistle, and narrative). The choice of genre is intentional on the part of the author as a way to communicate. For example, poets tend to use sounds and images to make a point. In other chapters, she also discusses the languages of Scripture and how language works as communication, along with the social world of the Bible, literary context, and canon. Finally, Brown addresses how we might recontextualize Scripture so that its sacred message shapes us in the here and now.
Thanks to BakerAcademic for providing a complimentary copy of this book upon request.