How should we interpret the Bible?  It will become clear to any student of hermeneutics that a variety of approaches has always existed within the Church. In fact, even “literal” interpretative methods are diverse. You can read about the different ways people have understood interpretation of the Bible by checking out the hermeneutics bibliography below. It includes primary sources from across time, as well as secondary scholarship. This list is in the process of being developed. Help me develop it! Let me know of any sources on hermeneutics within the Christian and Jewish traditions, especially primary texts. Click on the relevant link or scroll down to see all.

ANCIENT ISRAEL (c. 1200 B.C.E – 200 B.C.E.)

Fishbane, Michael. Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. (For a brief and free essay on the topic by Fishbane see also “Inner-Biblical Exegesis: Types and Strategies of Interpretation in Ancient Israel“)

Levinson, Bernard. Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation. Oxford and Boston:  Oxford University Press, 1997.

Levinson, Bernard. Legal Revision and Religious Renewal in Ancient Israel.  Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. (This book includes a helpful bibliographic essay).


Charlesworth, James H. and Craig A. Evans, eds. The Pseudepigrapha and Early Biblical Interpretation. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993.

Kugel, James L. The Bible As It Was. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997.

DEAD SEA SCROLLS (c. 200 B.C.E – 80 C.E.)

De Troyer, Kristin and Armin Lange, eds. The Qumran Legal Texts Between the Hebrew Bible and Its Interpretation. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis Theology Series, 61. Louvain: Peeters Publishers, 2011.

Henze, Matthias, ed. Biblical Interpretation at Qumran. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005.

PHILO AND JOSEPHUS (c. 20 B.C.E – 100 C.E)

Feldman, Louis H. Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998.

Borgen, Peder. Philo of Alexandria: An Exegete for His Time. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 86. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.


Carson, D.A. and H.G.M. Williamson, eds. It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Court, John M., ed. New Testament Writers and the Old Testament: An Introduction. London SPCK, 2002.

Evans, C.A. and Stegner, W.R., eds. The Gospel and the Scriptures of Israel. JSNTSup 104. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

Hays, Richard B. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

_________. The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2005.

Juel, Donald. Messianic Exegesis: Christological Interpretation of the Old Testament in Early Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.

Moyise, Steve, ed. The Old Testament in the New Testament: Essays in Honour of J.L. North. JSNTSup 189; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

_________. Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel. JSNTSup 148. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

Tuckett, C.M., ed. The Scriptures in the Gospels. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 131. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1997.

EARLY CHRISTIAN (c. 100 C.E. – 600 C.E.)

Origen (184/185-253/254). On First Principles, Book IV.

Augustine (354-430). On Christian DoctrineSee the preface, Book I (ch. 1-12), Book II, and Book III (ch. 26).

Gregory the Great (540-604). Epistle, part III-IV and Preface to his commentary Morals on the Book of Job.

See also:

O’Keefe, John J. and R.R. Reno. Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 2005.

RABBINIC (c. 220 C.E. – 1300 C.E.)

Fraade, Steven D. From Tradition to Commentary: Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Samely, Alexander. Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Sommer, Benjamin, ed. Jewish Concepts of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction. London and New York: New York University Press, 2012.

Zetterholm, Karin Hedner. Jewish Interpretation of the Bible: Ancient and Contemporary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012.

MIDDLE AGES (c. 600 C.E.-1350 C.E.)

Guibert of Nogent (1055-1124). How to Make a Sermon. See translation in:  George E. McCracken, ed. and trans. Early Medieval Theology (Library of Christian Classics, vol. 9; Philadephia: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006).

Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141). Didascalicon, Book 4-6 (see also the Latin) and On Sacred Scripture and Its Authors and The Diligent Examiner. For English translations for all three see: Franklin T. Harkins and Frans van Liere, eds. Interpretation of Scripture: Theory, A Selection of Works of Hugh, Andrew, Richard and Godfrey of St. Victor. New York: New City Press, 2013.

Peter Abelard (1079-1142). Prologue to Sic et Non.

Bonaventure (1217-1274). The Breviloquium.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Summa Theologica. See First Part, Q. 1, Articles 1, 9, 10, and his discussion of how the Church is to understand and apply the Old Testament found in First Part of the Second Part, QQ. 98-104.

Nicholas of Lyra (1270-1349). Postilla litteralis, First and Second Prologue and Postilla moralis, Third Prologue. For English translations of these Prologues and further discussion see: James George Kiecker, Hermeneutical Principles and Exegetical Methods of Nicholas of Lyra, O.F.M., Ca. 1270-1349 (Marquette University, 1978).

See also:

Boynton, Susan and Diane J. Reilly, eds. The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, and Performance in Western Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011.

De Lubac, Henri. Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture, volumes 1-4. Translated by Mark Sebanc or E.M. Macierowski. Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans, 1998, 2000, 2009, TBA (4th volume not yet translated). If these volumes are too much to read through, try his condensed discussion in Scripture in the Tradition (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2001).

Smalley, Beryl. Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1978.


Martin Luther (1483-1546). “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility.” See also his discussion of interpretive preferences and proper allegory in the introduction of Lectures on Deuteronomy, Luther’s Works, Vol. 9 (ed. by Jaroslav Pelikan; trans. by Richard R. Caemmerer. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1960).

John Calvin (1509-1564). Institutes, I (ch. 6-9).

Council of Trent, Fourth Session (1546).

Matthias Flacius Illyricus (1520-1575). Clavis Scriptural Sacrae. For a partial English translation see: How to Understand the Sacred Scriptures: from Clavis Scriptural Sacrae. Translated by Wade R. Johnson. Saginaw, MI, Magdeburg Press, 2011.

Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). Chapter 1.

Anna Barbauld (1743-1825). Devotional Pieces Compiled from the Psalms and the Book of Job: To Which Are Prefixed Thoughts on the Devotional Taste, on Sects, and on Establishment (in part of this work Barbauld challenges rationalistic interpretation of Scripture.)

See also:

George, Timothy. Reading Scripture with the Reformers. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Holder, R. Ward. John Calvin and the Grounding of Interpretation: Calvin’s First Commentaries. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006.

Sheehan, Jonathan. The Enlightenment Bible. Translation, Scholarship, and Culture. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Thompson, Mark D. A Sure Ground On Which to Stand: The Relation of Authority and Interpretive Method in Luther’s Approach to Scripture. Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2004.


Mary Louisa Georgina Carus-Wilson (1861-1935). Unseal the Book: Practical Words for Plain Readers of Holy Scriptures.

Hans Georg Gadamer (1960 first edition). Truth and Method. London and New York: Continuum Publishing Group, 2004.

Vatican II (1965). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.

Hans W. Frei (1974). The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

George A. Lindbeck (1984). The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.


Grondin, Jean. Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

Magne Saebø, ed. Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation I, From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages (1300). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1996.

Magne Saebø, ed. Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation II, From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2008.

Magne Saebø, ed. Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation III, From Modernism to Postmodernism (Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2013.


Here I give my personal recommendations, including books that address literary genre, social location of the interpreter, hermeneutical challenges, the role of the Spirit in appropriating Scripture for Christian faith and practice, etc.

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Poetry. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

Caird, G.B. The Language and Imagery of the Bible. London: Duckworth, 1980.

Cook, Stephen L. The Apocalyptic Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003

Davis, Ellen F. and Richard B. Hays, ed. The Art of Reading Scripture. Grand Rapids: WB Eerdmans, 2003.

Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. Scripture and Discernment: Decision Making in the Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996

Lapsley, Jacqueline E. Whispering the Word: Hearing Women’s Stories in the Old Testament. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.

Noll, Mark A. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Petersen, David L. and Kent Harold Richards. Interpreting Hebrew Poetry. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

Rae, Murray. History and Hermeneutics. New York: T&T Clark, 2005.

Sandy, D. Brent. Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Thompson, John L. Reading the Bible with the Dead. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2007.