Bernard Ramm picture

Bernard Ramm

1916-1992

Prostestant Biblical Interpretation

Baptist Theologian and Apologist

Why Read This Book

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Dr. Bernard Ramm has written an excellent book on the subject of hermeneutics. The classic work on this subject is Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton S. Terry, originally published in 1890. Dr. Ramm's second edition was published in 1956, and it includes issues that arose since Terry's time. Nevertheless, after the sixty years since Terry, Dr. Ramm defines hermeneutics in much the same way, namely, as a science and art:

"Hermeneutics is the science and art of Biblical interpretation. It is a science because it is guided by rules within a system; and it is an art because the application of the rules is by skill, and not by mechanical imitation. As such it forms one of the most important members of the theological sciences" (p. 1).

Dr. Ramm also delineates essentially the same sequence of steps as did Terry:

"The study of the canon determines the inspired books; the study of the text determines the wording of the books [textual criticism]; the study of historical criticism gives us the framework of the books; hermeneutics gives us the rules for the interpretation of the books; exegesis is the application of these rules to the books; and Biblical theology is the result" (p. 10).

This hermeneutical approach to interpreting the biblical text used in conservative Christian circles was virtually universal up to the 1970s. But no longer. In a recent book on hermeneutics, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., wrote:

"The changes in the way texts are understood have been nothing less than earthshaking in the short time since Ramm wrote his volume. Almost every assumption that Ramm made has been challenged and tested by the winds of modernity and postmodernity" (Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 9).

Many conservative Christian scholars still approach the Bible using the classic system of hermeneutics explained by Terry, Ramm, and others like Kaiser. It is indispensable.

Dr. Bernard Ramm (1916-1992) was an evangelical Baptist theologian and apologist. His career included professorships at Bethel College and Seminary, Baylor University, and mostly at American Baptist Seminary of the West (1958-74 and 1978-86) where he was Professor of Systematic Theology. His writing was prolific--eighteen books and over a hundred articles and book reviews published in theological journals. Most of his writings were on biblical hermeneutics, religion and science, and apologetics.

His book presented here is Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics for Conservative Protestants, 2nd ed. (Boston: W. A. Wilde Co., 1956).

The entire book is reproduced except these items at the end the book:

INDEX OF NAMES

INDEX OF SCRIPTURE

INDEX OF TOPICS

The reason these are excluded is that they are based on the page numbers of the published book.

The TABLE OF CONTENTS is reproduced without the page numbers of the book, and the EPILOGUE is included at the end of chapter eleven.

Author's Prologue
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Preface
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Table of Contents

The Preface is by Wilbur M. Smith.

Chapter 1
Introduction

Subjects covered are (1) the need for hermeneutics, (2) a general introduction to the subject, (3) the interpreter's requisite tools, and (4) a minimum bibliography for exegetical work.

Chapter 2
Historical Schools

Ramm explains the nature of the (1) Allegorical, (2) Literal, (3) Devotional, (4) Liberal, (5) Neo-orthodox, and (6) Heilsgeschichtliche schools of interpretation.

Chapter 3
Protestant System of Hermeneutics

Ramm discusses (1) inspiration as the foundation, (2) edification as the goal, (3) the literal, cultural, and critical method as the best, and (4) an evaluation of this method including its limitations.

Chapter 4
The Perspective Principles of Interpretation

(1) Priority of the original languages, (2) accommodation of revelation, (3) progressive revelation, (4) historical propriety, (5) principle of ignorance, (6) interpretation vs. application, (7) the checking principle, (8) principle of induction, (9) preference for the clearest interpretation, (10) obscure passages must give right of way to clear ones, (11) unity of the sense of Scripture, (12) the analogy of faith.

Chapter 5
Specific Principles

(1) Study of words, (2) grammatical interpretation, (3) contextual interpretation, (4) interpreting according to the literary mold, (5) use of cross references, (6) interpretation of figurative language.

Chapter 6
The Doctrinal Use of the Bible

(1) The theologian must be a redeemed man, (2) doctrinal teaching rests on the literal interpretation of the Bible, (3) the main burden rests on the teaching of the New Testament, (4) exegesis is prior to any system of theology, (5) the theologian must not extend his doctrines beyond the Scriptural evidence, (6) the interpreter strives for a system, (7) proof texts must be used with proper understanding of procedure, (8) what is not a matter of revelation cannot be made a matter of creed or faith, (9) the practical nature of the Bible must be kept in mind, (10) the minister must recognize his responsibility to the church, (11) no doctrine should be constructed from an uncertain textual reading.

Chapter 7
The Devotional and Practical Use of the Bible

Ramm covers (1) the general use of the Bible for Christian living, (2) guidance from examples, (3) promises, and (4) the use of the Bible in preaching and teaching.

Chapter 8
The Problem of Inerrancy and Secular Science in Relation to Hermeneutics

Two topics are addressed: (1) infallibility and inerrancy and (2) the problem of science.

Chapter 9
The Interpretation of Types

Subjects addressed are (1) justification of typology as a biblical discipline, (2) schools of typological interpretation, (3) distinctions between typological and allegorical interpretation, (4) nature and interpretation of types, (5) kinds of types, and (6) symbolism.

Chapter 10
The Interpretation of Prophecy

Ramm discusses (1) confusion of terminology, (2) principles for interpretating prophecy, and (3) the meaning of 2 Peter 1:20.

Chapter 11
The Interpretation of Parables
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Epilogue

Covered are the (1) nature of parables and (2) rules for their interpretation. The epilogue is attached to this chapter.

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