There is a growing movement in evangelical Christianity to read the Scriptures theologically. The umbrella term used to describe this sort of reading is, unsurprisingly, “theological interpretation of Scripture,” “TIS” for short. TIS has increased in popularity as evangelical scholars have become more dissatisfied with the “assured results of critical scholarship.” The historical-critical method, the darling of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century biblical studies departments, sought to situate the Bible within its historical-critical context. But it went about this endeavor with a presupposition that Scripture was not divinely inspired, that God is not active in supernatural ways, and that the Bible came about through an evolutionary process of editing and redaction. Not every result of historical-critical scholarship is bad, and there is much to be learned from the scholarly work of those centuries; nevertheless, the fruit of historical-critical scholarship is tainted with these anti-supernatural biases. When the church feasts on anemic fruit, it likewise grows anemic.

Theological interpretation of Scripture aims to reorient biblical scholarship—and biblical devotion—by returning Scripture to its rightful owners, namely the church. This way of reading and interpreting Scripture, like historical criticism, starts with several presuppositions that are important for understanding why Christians should read the Bible theologically. First, this method “assumes some kind of communicative relation, mediated by the text, between the triune God and the church.” Simply put: God communicates with people through the Bible. Another way of saying this is that the Bible is divinely inspired: its words are not merely human words; instead, the words in the Bible are the very words of the holy God. Similarly, they Holy Spirit illumines Scripture. Without the Holy Spirit, we simply cannot rightly understand the Bible: “we are only good readers with God’s help.”

Russ Meek

Author, editor, and lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Ohio Theological Institute