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The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture

By Iain Provan

The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture
This edition is not available yet, but we welcome you to place a pre-order.
Hardback, 730 pages $49.95
Published: 31st October 2017
ISBN: 9781481306089
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics & Exegesis

In 1517, Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg’s castle church. Luther’s seemingly inconsequential act ultimately launched the Reformation, a movement that forever transformed both the Church and Western culture. The repositioning of the Bible as beginning, middle, and end of Christian faith was crucial to the Reformation. Two words alone captured this emphasis on the Bible’s divine inspiration, its abiding authority, and its clarity, efficacy, and sufficiency: sola scriptura.

In the five centuries since the Reformation, the confidence Luther and the Reformers placed in the Bible has slowly eroded. Enlightened modernity came to treat the Bible like any other text, subjecting it to a near endless array of historical-critical methods derived from the sciences and philosophy. The result is that in many quarters of Protestantism today the Bible as word has ceased to be the Word.

In The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture, Iain Provan aims to restore a Reformation-like confidence in the Bible by recovering a Reformation-like reading strategy. To accomplish these aims Provan first acknowledges the value in the Church’s precritical appropriation of the Bible and, then, in a chastened use of modern and postmodern critical methods. But Provan resolutely returns to the Reformers’ affirmation of the centrality of the literal sense of the text, in the Bible’s original languages, for a right-minded biblical interpretation. In the end the volume shows that it is possible to arrive at an approach to biblical interpretation for the twenty-first century that does not simply replicate the Protestant hermeneutics of the sixteenth, but stands in fundamental continuity with them. Such lavish attention to, and importance placed upon, a seriously literal interpretation of Scripture is appropriate to the Christian confession of the word as Word—the one God’s Word for the one world.

"I’ve been waiting years for a book such as this: a comprehensive treatment of the nature, history, and significance of the Bible’s literal interpretation. Here is a sustained argument for the importance of reading with the Reformers, which in Provan’s account means doing as they say, not exactly as they do. This is a brave book that sails against the prevailing winds of hermeneutical fashion, charting a ‘fifth way’ that avoids reductive historical, expansive postmodern, narrow literalistic, and unregulated spiritual ways of reading the Bible. Read literally, Scripture is not a wax nose that can be turned this way or that, but a divinely inspired, authoritative text with real bite."

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Using the magisterial Reformation for his compass, Provan surveys the current landscape of biblical interpretation and seeks to chart a faithful path forward. His sprawling, historiographical cartography explores the trails taken by those he styles as inveterate historical critics, unrepentant fundamentalists, modish postmoderns, and fashionable post-Protestants, all so he can offer a timely affirmation of ‘literal’ reading, rightly understood. Provan’s ‘fifth way’ entails a chastened, reframed use of critical methods, rather than capitulating to them or rejecting them. His ultimate destination is a renewed emphasis on ‘the Great Biblical Story as a canonical whole.’"

—Stephen B. Chapman, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Director of Graduate Studies in Religion, Duke University

"Iain Provan has given us here a vigorous affirmation on how to read the Bible as a Protestant. An important and nuanced argument set in the context of the wider Christian tradition and recent hermeneutical developments, this book stands out among the welter of recent writings on the Reformation."

—Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture

"This prodigiously well-read, well-written, elegant, and accessible study has a passionate and serious treatise to expound. As its title hints, it is not another book on the history of interpretation, except in the sense that Professor Provan believes that the history of interpretation, especially in the time of the Fathers and the Reformers, has vital significance for the twenty-first century. So, we need to pay attention if we are to get interpretation on the right track five hundred years after Luther posted his theses. Aspects of Professor Provan’s own thesis about literal interpretation are unfashionable and therefore need to be pondered with open minds."

—John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary


Iain Provan is the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College. He lives in the Vancouver, Canada area.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 730 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL006080, REL006160, REL006400
 Baylor University Press

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