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An Interview with Dr. Jeff Dryden on His New Book, "A Hermeneutic of Wisdom"

A Hermeneutic of Wisdom: Recovering the Formative Agency of Scripture by Dr. J. de Waal Dryden was published in July, 2018 by Baker Academic. Dr. Dryden is a professor of biblical studies at Covenant College.


A Hermeneutic of Wisdom explores how the Bible functions as a wisdom text, shaping Christian ethics and forming our loves. According to Jonathan T. Pennington of Southern Seminary, Dryden’s book “truly stands out,” among good books on hermeneutics. To better understand the purpose behind his new book, Dr Dryden answered the following questions:


How has your work as a professor of biblical studies at Covenant College inspired this book?


Dryden: This book is dedicated to the students I have taught over the last decade in my course on New Testament Ethics. Most of the material from A Hermeneutics of Wisdom is from that class. The first half of the book lists with the fundamental hurdles that students have to overcome in order to understand the Bible as a tool for wisdom rather than a bunch of ideas. The second half of the book develops models for reading the New Testament as a wisdom text. These are models that I developed with students with examples that show how the New Testament truly functions as a wisdom text. The book then seeks to answer the question of how this wisdom text should shape our lives in our desires, convictions, and actions.


What do you hope readers will take away from reading “A Hermeneutic of Wisdom?”


Dryden: While it might sound commonsensical to say that the purpose of the Bible is for the spiritual formation of God's people, a majority of the hermeneutical tools used to read the Bible actually deconstruct this intention and instead turn the Bible into a repository of theological ideas and historical facts. The book is intended to provide a different set of hermeneutical tools (questions we ask the text) that connect readers to the ways in which the Bible is meant to shape our character, not just our ideas. This is fundamentally what I mean by the phrase a "hermeneutic of wisdom."


How has writing this book shaped both your faith and your work as a professor at Covenant College?


Dryden: In my New Testament Ethics course, we spend of a lot of time in class reading biblical texts. This means that I get challenged by new things in the text when I read them with a new class. In my experience, the students in my classes want the Bible to speak to their real lives. Even though they know it is costly, they want to be challenged to embrace an authentic Christian life. That challenges me to pursue the same goal.


A Hermeneutic of Wisdom is available for purchase on Amazon and at other booksellers.