Book Review: Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

4 April 2013 by Wes Bredenhof

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics
Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

The other day I mentioned this book by Graeme Goldsworthy.  Today I’m reposting my review from 2007.  Going through the book again, I’m impressed by Goldsworthy’s commitment to starting with what the Word of God says when it comes to developing principles of biblical interpretation.  He doesn’t call it that, but this is a Reformed approach because it honours the crucial principle of sola Scriptura.  Whether it comes to apologetics, worship, ethics, hermeneutics (or anything!), we have to begin with the Bible — and the Bible alone.  It’s so basic to being Reformed — and it’s in danger of being lost.


Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics:  Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation, Graeme Goldsworthy.  Downers Grove:  IVP Academic, 2006.  Hardcover, 341 pages, $20.15.

There is nothing more important than rightly understanding the Bible.  In its essence, we believe that the Bible is a clear revelation from God.  Yet because of the fall, what should be clear is many times clouded by human sin and weakness.  For this reason, when there are difficulties in understanding the Scriptures, it is the divine Scriptures themselves that must shed light and lead the way.

One man from our own tradition who understood this was Dr. Seakle Greijdanus (1871-1948).  Greijdanus was a professor of New Testament in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  In 1946 he published his most important work, Scripture Principles for Scripture Interpretation.  In this book (a summary of which can be found here), Greijdanus drew out in detail what it means to believe that “Scripture interprets Scripture.”  We call this a presuppositional approach to hermeneutics; this approach to the science of Scripture interpretation says that we have to begin with the presupposition that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God that also speaks to this science.

In Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy (a retired lecturer from Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia) follows the same presuppositional method of Greijdanus, develops it further, and applies it to our contemporary situation.  In the first four chapters, Goldsworthy lays out the presuppositions for a biblical way of interpreting the Bible.  While not mentioning Greijdanus, he does give credit to another Reformed theologian from our tradition who promoted presuppositional methodology, Cornelius VanTil.  In the following section, the author goes through the history of hermeneutics and illustrates the various ways in which the gospel has been eclipsed through different theological and philosophical developments.  In the final section, using what he developed in the first section and taking the cautions of history to heart, Goldsworthy proposes a reconstruction of “evangelical hermeneutics” along biblical, gospel-centered lines.  He concludes with a helpful section on “hands-on hermeneutics,” a “proposed list of some important ingredients in understanding the Bible.”

This is an important book for our age, an age (not unlike others) in which proper understanding of the Scriptures is under attack.  While it is a technical book that would serve well as a text for college and seminary students, informed “laypeople” would also benefit from Goldsworthy’s gold.  This is the third Goldsworthy book that I’ve read in the last year (According to Plan & Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture being the others) and while the other two are also worth recommending, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is the best.