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Why Study the History of Interpretation?

Why should we study the history of biblical interpretation? Students in my history of biblical interpretation seminar and I came up with the following list:

  1. To learn to present your own views within the context of previous scholarship. Not engaging and interacting with others may indicate arrogance or laziness.
  2. To avoid dead ends and to learn from the mistakes of others. Unless we learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it.
  3. To be disabused of the illusion of our own originality. We may think a given proposal is original with us when in fact others may have set it forth already.
  4. To probe the way in which underlying presuppositions have translated into specific approaches and exegetical results in the past so we can predict outcomes.
  5. To gain perspective with regard to our own scholarship. Typically dissertations or monographs start out with a discussion of the history of research.
  6. For its apologetic value. Studying the history of biblical scholarship will help us defend the reliability of Scripture and the historicity of biblical events.
  7. To understand the internal logic of a given position even where we disagree with it and to formulate a cogent critique of its weaknesses.
  8. To learn about the personal lives of scholars and to understand why they arrived at a given position.
  9. To be educated about the way in which a given approach to Scripture ties in more broadly with larger cultural developments in intellectual history.
  10. To clarify the understanding of one’s own identity and calling at the interface of faith and scholarship and in the quest for academic integrity.

Resources

Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Andreas Kostenberger with Richard Patterson)

For the Love of God’s Word (Andreas Kostenberger and Richard Patterson)


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