by Larry W. Caldwell
Why do we need another book on Bible interpretation? Don’t we have enough books explaining the philosophy and mechanics of how to understand and teach the Bible? The simple answer is, no we don’t.
—Reviewed by Geoff Hartt, director, Hispanics for Christ; adjunct faculty, North Portland Bible College
Why do we need another book on Bible interpretation? Don’t we have enough books explaining the philosophy and mechanics of how to understand and teach the Bible? The simple answer is, no we don’t. The problem is that most texts are academic, Western-oriented, and dependent upon extra-biblical resources (concordances, commentaries, lexicons, etc.). Non-seminary trained leaders and those in the Global South without access to hermeneutical tools are left without a methodology they can actually use.
Drawing from his years of experience teaching Bible interpretation in the Philippines and other Majority World contexts (as well as North American seminaries), Larry Caldwell has designed a simple, reproducible seven-step process that focuses on the text and considers the culture in seeking to understand and teach the Bible.
In Chapter 1, Caldwell lays the foundation for this Bible interpretation method. He gives seven foundational points or assumptions behind his method. Most important to note is that it begins with recognizing that the Bible is authoritative and that the primary purpose of Bible interpretation is to make disciples. Caldwell also includes two other assumptions (which are generally minimized or missing in other Bible interpretation texts): the importance of the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding the interpretive process and the fact that interpretation is best accomplished in community.
Chapters 2-7 present and explain the seven steps in Caldwell’s model. The first five steps engage the text in a practical, Spirit-led manner so we can understand what God was saying. Caldwell calls this “Reading Strategies.” The final three steps consider application in the interpreter’s own life and culture. Caldwell calls this “Relating Strategies.”
The second half of the book, Chapters 8-15, apply the seven steps to eight genres of writing found in the Bible. With each, Caldwell gives a brief explanation of the genre and then applies the seven steps (Reading and Relating Strategies) to specific examples from the Bible.
Doing Bible Interpretation is not a text for hermeneutics courses taught in Western seminaries; instead, it is a practical book that could be used and taught anywhere since it doesn’t require extensive reference libraries or tools, remains faithful to the authority of scripture, and considers the unique culture doing the interpretation. In its simplicity, it provides a model that church leaders in the Majority World can actually use considering so many are bi-vocational or don’t have access to advanced hermeneutical training.
Lubeck, Ray. 2005. Read the Bible for a Change: Understanding and Responding to God’s Word. Waynesboro, Ga.: Authentic Media.
EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 2. Copyright © 2017 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.