30%  Students will be assessed on their ability

  • to provide an introductory overview to specific issues and approaches assigned to them for presentation,
  • to go beyond the required reading from the Pontifical document to assemble a brief but relevant list of further readings,
  • and to lead discussion and field questions on the presentation.

20 % Students will be assessed on their ability

  • to identify points of comparison between the (Roman) Catholic approach presented in the Pontifical document and another approach to Biblical interpretation. (For example: "The primary differences between a Roman Catholic approach to Scripture and a ___ approach to Scripture are ____. What these differences suggest is ___.") 20%

30% Students will be assessed on their ability

  • to write a hermeneutically sensitive research paper that uses a target Biblical text to identify the range and results of Biblical methods that can be used for the interpretation of that text. (Proper formatting and error-less presentation are expected according to University standards.)

20%  A final, oral exam will provide students with an opportunity to draw class insights together.

Course Calendar (Fall 2018)

9 AM - 12 Noon / GUI 168

September 12

Introduction to the course


  • The state of the question today
  • Purpose of this document
September 19


A. The Historical - Critical Method

  • History of the Method
  • Principles
  • Description
  • Evaluation

A. Peter Beckman

September 26

B. New Methods of Literary Analysis

  • Rhetorical Analysis
  • Narrative Analysis
  • Semiotic Analysis

B.  Jason Lamantia

October 3

C. Approaches based on Tradition

  • Canonical Approach
  • Approach through Recourse to Jewish Traditions of Interpretation
  • Approach by the History of the Influence of the Text (Wirkungsgeschichte)

C.  Sean Ghormley

October 10

D. Approaches that use the Human Sciences

  • Sociological Approach
  • The Approach through Cultural Anthropology
  • Psychological and Psychoanalytical Approaches

E. Contextual Approaches

  • The Liberationist Approach
  • The Feminist Approach

D.  Edward O'Dea

E.  José Jonasse

October 17

F. Fundamentalist Interpretation


F. Peter Beckman


October 24


October 31


A. Philosophical Hermeneutics

  • Modern Perspectives
  • Usefulness for Exegesis

B. The Meaning of Inspired Scripture

  •  The Literal Sense
  • The Spiritual Sense
  • The Fuller Sense

A. Sean Ghormley

B. José Jonasse

November 7


 A. Interpretation in the Biblical Tradition

  • Rereadings (Relectures)
  • Relationships Between the Old Testament and the New
  • Some Conclusions

A.  Peter Beckman

November 14

B. Interpretation in the Tradition of the Church

  • Formation of the Canon
  • Patristic Exegesis
  • Roles of Various Members of the Church in Interpretation

B. Jason Lamantia

November 21

C. The task of the Exegete

  • Principal Guidelines
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Publications

D. Relationship with Other Theological Disciplines 

  • Relationship with Other Theological Disciplines
  • Theology and Presuppositions Reguarding Biblical Texts
  • Exegesis and Systematic Theology
  • Exegesis and Moral Theology
  • Differing Points of View and Necessary InteractionC.

C. Edward O'Dea

D. Edward O'Dea

Comparative Reports due no later than November 23

November 28


A. Actualization

  • Principles
  • Methods
  • Limits

B. Inculturation

C. Use of the Bible

  • In the Liturgy
  • Lectio Divina
  • In Pastoral Ministry
  • In Ecumenism


A. Sean Ghormley

B.  Jason Lamantia

C. José Jonasse


Friday Dec 7

9-12 Noon

Location: G168

Discussion of Comparative Reports
Comparative Reports due no later than November 23

Friday Dec 14

9 -12 Noon

Location: G168

Conjoint Final Exam (Oral)
Research Reports due no later than December 7

Primary Texts

Secondary Texts

  • Barton, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998
  • Barton, John. Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984.
  • Behr, Fr. John. Reading Scripture.
  • Billings, J. Todd. The Word of God for the People of God: An Entryway to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2010.
  • Cohen, Mordechai Z., and Adele Berlin, eds. Interpreting Scriptures in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Overlapping Inquiries. Assisted by Meir M.Bar-Asher, Rita Copeland, and Jon Whitman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Evans, Craig A., ed. The Interpretation of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity: Studies in Language and Tradition. Journal for the study of the pseudepigrapha. T & T Clark Academic Paperbacks. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Biblical Commission’s Document “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”: Text and Commentary. Subsidia Biblica. Roma: Pontificio Istituto biblico, 1995.
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical-Critical Method. New York: Paulist Press, 2008.
  • Fowl, Stephen E., ed. The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1997.
  • Goldingay, John. Models for Interpretation of Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans ; Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1995.
  • Hagen, Kenneth, et al. The Bible in the Churches: How Different Christians Interpret the Scriptures. New York: Paulist Press, 1985.
  • Hanson, Anthony Tyrrell. The New Testament Interpretation of Scripture. London: SPCK, 1980.
  • Hayes, John H., and Carl R. Holladay. Biblical Exegesis: A Beginner’s Handbook. 3rd ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
  • Methods of Biblical Interpretation, Excerpted from the Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2004.
  • Neill, Stephen, and N. Thomas Wright. The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861–1986. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
  • Neusner, Jacob. Judaism and the Interpretation of Scripture: Introduction to the Rabbinic Midrash. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.
  • New Testament Interpretation. Edited by I. H. Marshall. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.
  • Porter, Stanley E., and Dennis L. Stamps, eds. The Rhetorical Interpretation of Scripture: Essays from the 1996 Malibu Conference. Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.
  • Smart, James D. The Interpretation of Scripture. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961.
  • Spinks, D. Christopher. The Bible and the Crisis of Meaning: Debates on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture. T & T Clark Theology. London: T & T Clark, 2007.
  •  Stuhlmacher, Peter, translated, and with an introd. by Roy A. Harrisville. Historical Criticism and Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Toward a Hermeneutics of Consent. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977.
  • Swindell, Anthony C. How Contemporary Novelists Rewrite Stories from the Bible: The Interpretation of Scripture in Literature. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009.
  • Williamson, Peter S. Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture: A Study of the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, with a preface by Albert Vanhoye, Subsidia Biblica (Roma: Pontificio Istituto biblico, 2001).


A minimum of 10 hours / week of preparation for each class or exam.

Learning Outcomes

Students will demonstrate the ability to identify the major issues and methods in the study and interpretation of Scripture and in specific texts. They will be able to explain the issues and methods from a Catholic perspective and also be able to compare the Catholic perspective with alternative perspectives (ecumenical, inter-faith, etc.).


This course is intended to allow students to explore and develop their understanding of the primary issues and methods involved in the interpretation and use of the Christian Scriptures, particularly within a Catholic perspective.


  • Bible
  • "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church"  (presented by the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Pope John Paul II , April 23, 1993).
    • See also Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Biblical Commission’s Document “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”: Text and Commentary. Subsidia Biblica. Roma: Pontificio Istituto biblico, 1995.

THO 6318 Interpretation of the Bible


L. Gregory Bloomquist

sola Dei gratia