Porter, Stanley E., and Sean A. Adams, eds. Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation: Volume 2: Prevailing Methods after 1980. Biblical Studies Series 2. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2016. PP 526. ISBN 9781498292900. $60.00 USD [Digital]. Source for Book Cover.
Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation is a reference work, which outlines pillars of Biblical Interpretation. The word “pillars” seems to refer to scholars and to their scholarly method of Biblical interpretation.
The multi-author volume contributes to a body of literature that outlines the history of Biblical Interpretation (ix). The work has four unique features. First, it does not provide a sequential history of interpretation of the OT or NT or even both testaments. Second, it is selective in terms of which pillars that it includes. Third, it focuses on both the scholar and the type of biblical interpretation that the scholar uses. Fourth, it highlights recent and mainly NT scholars (x). The purpose of this second volume in the Pillars series seems simply to sketch modern interpretive methods of Biblical interpretation (xxv).
To this review this work, I did not read every chapter to summarize and critique it. The work is simply too large and is meant to be a reference work. I therefore read two chapters that were of particular interest to me (for reference!), and I evaluated these chapters on the basis of whether or not they accomplish the purpose for which this multi-author work was written.
Chapter 19 Peter Stuhlmacher and Biblical Theology by Michael P. Naylor (pp. 158-178)
Michael Naylor provides a delightful but brief biography of Stuhlmacher (158-159). I found this narrative personally interesting and helpful to situate Stuhlmacher’s academic work. It was especially illuminating to learn that Stuhlmacher was an ordained minister and regular preacher. Knowing that Stuhlmacher was a pastor helps to explain why he might criticize the historical-critical method, which makes the NT become “a ruinous heap of hypothetical possibilities” (164; quoting Stuhlmacher in Historical Criticism, 54–55, 61–64.).
Another helpful observation that Naylor makes is that he presents Stuhlmacher’s work as intentionally breaking away from Rudolf Bultmann (170 and other places). Stuhlmacher’s opposition to Bultmann once again helps to situate his scholarly contribution.
The end of the article provides an example of exegesis in line with Stuhlmacher’s interpretive method. But the exegesis is not an excerpt from the writing of Stuhlmacher. Rather, Naylor uses Stuhlmacher’s method to exegete 1 Timothy 6:11-16. The example helps to clarify what Stuhlmacher’s exegesis might look like in practice (173-6). The chapter ends with a bibliography, which will benefit those who want to pursue understanding Suhlmacher and his method further.
Chapter 28 Brevard S. Childs and the Canonical Approach by Joel Barker (pp. 359-379)
Joel Barker helpfully chronicles Childs’ approach to Biblical Interpretation, the canonical approach. In essence, the canonical approach to the Bible interprets the Bible in its final form rather than, for example, seeking to understand literary layers behind the text. The canonical approach still values critical methodologies: “ It is more accurate to assert that Childs attempted to establish himself as a post-critical interpreter who no longer assumes that he can reach some neutral objective plane from which he can adjudicate his understanding of the Scriptures” (372).
Barker also helpfully summarizes the criticisms made against Childs from James Barr and John Barton (369-74). Finally, he applies Childs’ canonical method to Acts 2:14-21 (374-6). Barker’s chapter ends with a bibliography, which will benefit those who want to pursue understanding Childs and his method further.
Pillars focuses on recent NT interpretation and contains fewer articles on OT Interpretation. The ostensible reason is that OT scholarship was not deemed suitable for this volume (x). Tt seems more likely that the editors simply did not want to or could not find authors to write in these areas. There tend to be fewer OT students than NT students, and this may be way Pillars has fewer OT articles than it does NT articles.
The volume is an overall success, although the selective nature of this volume means that it cannot discuss very Pillar of Biblical Interpretation. Of course, this lack of comprehensiveness means that each chapter can spend more time talking about a pillar of Biblical Interpretation rather than merely a short entry. So it is a trade-off. I would, nevertheless, recommend the volume for Biblical Studies students and scholars.
Author’s note: I was given a digital copy of the book for review by Wipf and Stock, but I am under no obligation to give the book a positive review.