Why have so many scholars ceased to believe in a type of inspiration that distinguishes the Bible from every other book? Why is fundamentalism so unsatisfying to modern people? This history of biblical interpretation from 1500 to the present answers these questions by showing how biblical scholarship has developed under the influence of internal and external factors.
In What Have They Done to the Bible John Sandys-Wunsch documents the changes that have taken place in biblical exegesis since 1500 and accounts for the major reasons for these changes. Answering the question of why fundamentalism is unsatisfying to modern people, Sandys-Wunsch maintains that this development was the result of occurrences both within and outside biblical interpretation. The "internal" developments consisted of work on the textual tradition, biblical languages, and the recognition of wider problems such as consistency, cogency, and coherence within biblical documents. External factors were the development of secular society, tolerance, academic freedom, a perceived dichotomy between the Bible and science, and information about human culture in general, both past and present. He concludes that after the Renaissance it was the application of historical considerations to both the internal and external factors of the biblical tradition that was the main source of the modern approach to the Bible.
The Rev. Dr. John Sandys-Wunsch, D.S.Litt., D.Phil., formerly a university professor and administrator in Canada and England, is a research fellow at the University of Victoria.
Sandys-Wunsch concludes that one can find value in the Bible today by seeing the Bible as part of ancient literature and as a religious foundational document.
New Testament Abstracts
The increasing interest in the history of scholarship is proving a great contribution to Biblical studies, as the present volume, a survey of the interpretation of Scripture from the Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century, splendidly demonstrates. It is the fruit of some thirty years research, wide-ranging, comprehensive and based on extensive reading. Its scolarship is of the highest order but the author has endeavored to make his work accessible to the general reader. No other book covers the same range or provides so valuable a resource for its particular field. This magestrial volume is likely to become a standard authority and to enjoy a long life.
Professor the Rev. Canon, J.R. Porter, London
The product of thirty years' research, this erudite and witty survey of biblical interpretation from approximately 1450 to 1900 seeks to reconstruct the history of modern biblical exegesis.
Old Testament Abstracts
Well researched but straightforward and laced with humor, this book is fun to read. It is also sobering. . . . The strength of the book consists in the concise and interesting descriptions of scholars, issues, and arguments.
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Dr Sandys-Wunsch draws on his immense learning to present in an accessible style the transition to modern biblical interpretation. He is particularly strong on the often-neglected seventeenth and eighteenth-century developments in Old and New Testament, setting them in their cultural contexts and making striking connections with contemporary issues. His work deserves to be warmly welcomed and carefully pondered.
Rev. Robert Morgan, Reader in New Testament Theology, Linacre College, Oxford
Sandys-Wunsch presents in a concise and witty manner an enormous amount of information drawn from often obscure and difficult texts. He explains in large part how biblical interpretation got to where it is today, liberates us from false opinions and expectations about the Bible and provides a sound historical basis on which to proceed with actualizing the Scriptures today.
. . . readers have a feast in store.
This book is not a textbook on `how to do' hermeneutics, neither is it a philosophical or methodological analysis of different types of hermeneutical approach. As a history, to great effect, it places changes in hermeneutical approaches within their historical contexts. It is lucid, readable and not infrequently amusing, with occasional, almost tongue-in-cheek asides. The book is entirely accessible to students who are focusing on the roots to current hermeneutics as well as to the generalist who seeks an overview to developments in biblical interpretation.
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
What have they done to the Bible? This gently tongue-in-cheek question gives voice to the suspicion and dismay which have greeted developments in biblical scholarship over recent centuries, especially in the church. [With Sandys-Wunsch]'s clear and often very witty style, he succeeds admirably at making the subject matter accessible to non-specialists. . . . Being able to survey this aspect of the history of interpretation forces readers to examine carefully their own attitudes and the wide range of factors which shape them, and to ask how our own responses to these challenges may be perceived in centuries to come.
Toronto Journal of Theology
Understanding the changes that have taken place over the years in the way the Bible is interpreted has more than merely historical merit. It alerts the reader to the probability of a variety of interpretive approaches today as well. Sandys-Wunsch identifies some of the reasons for change that surfaced within biblical exegesis itself, such as problems of consistency, cogency, and coherence.
The Bible Today
We owe this history of modern biblical interpretation to one of the most knowledgeable scholars in this vast and fascinating field of study. Form the 16th to the 19th Century, from humanist Renaissance to modern rationalism, John Sandys-Wunsch paints a broad picture that represents a welcome plea for critical thinking and freedom of conscience. In clear and lively language, he guides his reader through the works of each of the great biblical interpreters, and their respective era. In the process he shows how the bible, what Northrop Frye once called `the Great Code,' keeps providing each and everyone of us with the means of interpreting ourselves.
Jean-Georges Heintz, Professeur d'Ancien Testament, Faculté de Théologie Protestante, Université Marc Bloch de Strasbourg, France
. . . an accessible summary of the basic history, questions, and thinkers of modern biblical interpretation, which is ideal for an introductory audience.
Studies in Religion