What does it mean to have a “biblical hermeneutic”? That is the question that Abner Chou sets out to answer in his Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers. To sort this out, one must recognize the pattern of development from the prophetic writers of the Old Testament, the writers of the New Testament, and how these writers interpreted the Scripture which came before them (22). If you’ve read any G. K. Beale or Kevin J. Vanhoozer, then you’ll be familiar with some of this argument. The idea is not an entirely new one: essentially, present day Christians are to imitate the hermeneutical practices of the Biblical authors, while also submitting to these ancient writers’ authority.
Chou charts the argument in a systematic and easy to follow manner. Jesus serves as the first model, demonstrating the need for 1) authorial intent, 2) grasping the meaning of the text, and 3) employing an intertextual reading (41-43). Essential to this argument is the recognition that Christians must beware “putting illegitimate restrictions on the author” of the Biblical text (45). Chou then goes on to work chronologically. He demonstrates how the prophets interpreted the Law and History books in an expected manner, while also breaking from norms to recognize meanings in the text that might have gone unnoticed originally (90-91). This is made possible by their concern for the future, enabling later interpreters to further develop the ideas stated in the prophetic books (120).
The apostles built upon this method. Chou argues for seeing continuity between the Testaments based upon this claim, specifically because of the claims which the apostles themselves made taking “the Old Testament as the basis for their reasoning” (152). He demonstrates this through a sample of the New Testament authors’s writings in terms of redemptive history and their usage of the Hebrew scriptures. Thus, through historical and literary examinations, coupled with exegetical exercises such as word studies, the present day Christian can enter into the tradition laid out by the Biblical writers (202-208). Chou sees this as important for every Christian, not just the scholar, even if it is not always easy to employ his prescribed methods (229).
Chou’s book is full of footnotes and contains a significant bibliography (which spans 18 pages). Despite this rather scholarly form, Chou manages to make his thesis rather accessible to a wide range of readers. Scholars will benefit from his engagement with other major thinkers on the topic of authorial intent (such as Peter Enns). Likewise, the lay reader can make use of his practical suggestions in how to read the Bible like the New Testament authors might have. Chou’s writing is clear and concise, a rarity in academic writing, and I have no doubt that this book will be a great help to anyone who wishes to better understand how to read and study their Bible.