• Sort All Books
  • Information

The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture

By Iain Provan

The Reformation and the Right Reading of Scripture
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.

1. Introduction: O Little Town of . . . Wittenberg
Part I. Before There Were Protestants: Long-Standing Questions
2. Scripture and Canon in the Early Church: On Chickens and Their Eggs
3. The Formation of the Christian Canon: The Pressure of the Twenty-Two
4. On the Meaning of Words: The Literal, the Spiritual, and the Plain Confusing
5. The Reading of Scripture in the New Testament: All That the Prophets Have Spoken
6. Literal Reading, Typology, and Allegory in Paul: A Rose by Any Other Name
7. Justin, Irenaeus, and Tertullian: False Economies and Hidden Treasure
8. Origen, Theodore, and Augustine: The Fertility of Scripture
9. How Shall We Then Read?: The Church Fathers, the Reformers, and Ourselves
10. The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: It's All Greek to Me
11. The Vulgate, the Renaissance, and the Reformation: When in Rome . . .
Part II. Now There Are Protestants: Scripture in a Changing World
12. The Perspicuity of Scripture Alone: A Lamp unto My Feet
13. The Authority of Scripture: Thy Word Is Truth
14. The Bible, the Heavens, and the Earth: The Beginnings of an Eclipse
15. The Emergence of Secular History: The Way We (Really) Were
16. On Engaging with a Changing World: Fight, Flight, and the Fifth Way
Part III. Still Protesting: Scripture in the (Post)Modern World
17. Source and Form Criticism: Behind the Text
18. Redaction and Rhetorical Criticism: The Persuasive Text
19. Structuralism and Poststructuralism: Texts and Subtexts
20. Narrative Criticism: Getting the Story Straight
21. Social-Scientific and Feminist Criticism Texts as Social Constructs
22. The Canonical Reading of Scripture: The End of Criticism
23. Postscript
Appendix: Modern Developments in Our Understanding of the Biblical Text

"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's new work is an impressive and timely book with an ambitious purpose—nothing less than an elucidation and defence of a reformed hermeneutic of Scripture in relation to the whole history of Bible interpretation, both pre- and post-Reformation. In it he defends a literal reading of Scripture, which he defines in terms of the dynamic relation of both the letter of the text and the communicative intentions of its human (and divine) authors." 

—Simon Burton, The Expository Times

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

Word Award in Biblical Studies - 2018 - - Winner

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 730 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL006080, REL006160, REL006400
 Baylor University Press

Other visitors also viewed:

The Pastoral Letters Peter The Sacred Body Ice Axes for Frozen Seas The Immortal Ten