Authorial Intent and Theological Interpretation

Jim Hamilton has some really insightful reflections on the difference between biblical theology and so-called “Theological Interpretation of Scripture” (TIS). In short, he says that authorial intent in typology may be the key. He proposes that biblical theology cares about authorial intent in typology while TIS does not. Some people may dispute with Jim whether this is a true distinction between biblical theology and TIS. In any case, I absolutely agree with his bottom line:

I argue that biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors… Authorial intent may be out of fashion, but I contend that without it we lack meaningful standards by which to demonstrate or disprove interpretations. Appeals to what the divine author intended seem to be more open to operating at theological levels that hover above the text rather than being embedded in the words that communicate the intentions of the human authors.

Read the rest of this here. If you haven’t already, you should check out Jim’s forthcoming book on the subject, What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns.


  • Scott Shaver

    Good article Denny:

    Likewise appreciate the bottom line …”authorial intent may be out of fashion but …we lack meaningful standards by which to demonstrate or approve interpretations.”

    Maybe it’s me but I sure see more “theological interpretation of scripture” than even just ten years ago.

    And really have no desire to bite that apple.

  • david bartosik

    I am failing to see the distinction as clearly as it may appear to others. However, if simply along the lines of authors intent…. I love hearing churches say we have a high view of scripture and then never seek authors intent! How can I come at a text and make it say whatever I want it to say without considering the intent of the person God spoke through to a spefici group of people.

    off to check out jims post.

  • Ian Shaw

    Many emergent pastors don’t even look at intent. A former pastor of a Michigan church doesn’t even use correct hermeneutics, as to make it say whatever he wants.

  • Tim Keene

    This post may be related back to an earlier post, 10th Sept, regarding Thomas Schreiner. In the post we were urged by Denny to take account of systematic theology. This is at odds with what Denny now urges which is to ignore theological interpretation.

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