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Houses of the Interpreter
Reading Scripture, Reading Culture

By David Lyle Jeffrey

Houses of the Interpreter
Paperback, 300 pages $49.95
Published: 30th March 2009
ISBN: 9781602582392
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Biblical Studies, All Literature, All Religious Studies, Religion & Literature

In Houses of the Interpreter, David Lyle Jeffrey explores the terrain of the cultural history of biblical interpretation. But Jeffrey does not merely rest content to chart biblical scholarship and how it has both influenced and been influenced by culture. Instead, he chooses to focus upon the "art" of Biblical interpretation--how sculptors, musicians, poets, novelists, and painters have "read" the Bible. By so doing, Jeffrey clearly demonstrates that such cultural interpretation has deepened the church's understanding of the Bible as Scripture and that, remarkably, this cultural reading has contributed to theology and the practice of faith. Jeffrey's chapters effectively root the theological issues central to any hermeneutical enterprise (e.g., Scriptural authority, narrative, the Old Testament as Christian Scripture, the role of the reader, gender, and postmodernism) in specific authors and artists (e.g., Chaucer, Bosch, Sir Orfeo, C. S. Lewis)--and he does this in constant conversation with literature, both eastern and western.

Preface and Acknowledgement

PART ONE: Scripture in the House of Theology
1. How Firm a Foundation...?
2. Masterplot and Meaning in Biblical Narrative
3. Self-Examination and the Examination of Texts
4. Charity and Cupidity in Biblical Tradition
5. The Gospel according to Isaiah

PART TWO: Scripture in the Houses of Art
6. Authority and Interpretation in the House of Fame
7. Chaucer's Friar's (Unpaid) Rent
8. Conversion in the English Saints' Plays
9. Parody and Piety in Bosch's Haywain
10. Sir Orfeo's Harp: Music for the End of Time

PART THREE: Scripture in a House of Mirrors
11. Reading Wisely, Reading Well
12. Reading the Bible with C.S. Lewis
13. Scripture, Gender and Our Language of Worship
14. The Teaching Authority of Jesus and the Fatherhood of God
15. Postmodern Theology and Perennial Truth


"These essays are vintage Jeffrey--lively, literate, and learned, rich in wit and wisdom, ranging from ancient epic to medieval literature and art to postmodern parody, distinguished by a passionate erudition that attends with single-minded, open-hearted illumination to the interpretation of Scripture across cultures. Above all Jeffrey's writing enacts the kind of intertextual theological resourcement that our own houses of culture so desperately need: building up the Christian literary imagination through the scriptural education of our loves. Jeffrey brilliantly displays the virtues he holds up as characteristic of the exemplary reader: the rigorous analytic disciplines of the pilgrim mind, and the generosities of an open-hearted imagination."

—Travis Kroekers, McMaster University, Ontario

"This absorbing book presents David Jeffrey at his best. An astute literary critic, Jeffrey constantly reminds readers of the intersection of scripture and culture. Jeffrey's call for the reconnection of criticism and theory with the scriptural understanding that has been the tradition of the Church carries with it radical implications for the Christian reader, who is called upon to exhibit humility before the text, to read with caritas, and to be alert to the dangerous shifts of authority in the contemporary language of worship and scripture translation. Jeffrey's is a compelling and elegant argument."

—Jill Pelez Baumgaertner, Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies, Wheaton College

"This wide-ranging collection of essays, dealing with important subjects in biblical, medieval, and modern literature and theology, is in a double sense a major work of Christian scholarship. From the purely scholarly point of view it deals confidently and with finesse with disparate phases of the rich and variegated history of Christian thought; but it is also refreshed and animated by an authorial faith-perspective shared by great humanists from Augustine through Erasmus and More to Toynbee and R. W. Southern."

—John V. Fleming, Princeton University

...this collection will likely appeal to scholars, teachers, and students who share the author's interest in contemporary Christian thought and its implications for scriptural understanding in the modern age... Recommended.


David Lyle Jeffrey is Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities at Baylor University. Jeffrey earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University and is the author or editor of 12 books including A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (1992) and People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture (1996).

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 300 pages
 9in x 6in

 Baylor University Press

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