This article lists the best books to help Christians understand the principles on how to read and interpret the Bible. The author of these books assume the inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of Scripture.
Two Introductory Books on Biblical Literacy and Hermeneutics (Bible Interpretation)
- A Primer on Biblical Literacy (Cory Marsh - 2022)
- This is the first book (154 page book) I would read. Marsh's short introduction to hermeneutics and how to interpret the Bible is found in chapter three.
- Full Book Review on A Primer on Biblical Literacy
2. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible (Robert Plummer - 2021)
- This is the second book (368 pages) I recommend for everyday Christians that want to gain a strong basic foundation on how to interpret the Bible.
- Full Book Review on 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible
Most Christians will have a sufficient foundation on biblical hermeneutics through these first two books. For Bible teachers and future preachers, once you have read/understand the principles found in these first two books, then consider the books listed below.
Top 3 Books on Hermeneutics
- Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Louis Berkhof - 1950)
- Berkhof's short textbook (about 175 pages) is my favorite book to read and reference as a starting point for Reformed biblical hermeneutics. After a brief introduction on the definition and importance of hermeneutics in chapter one, the author covers the history of hermeneutic principles observed by the Jews before Christ and the Christian church after Christ in chapters two and three.
- In chapter four, some assumptions are explained with their implications. They include the divine inspiration of the Bible, the unity and diversity of the Bible, and considerations and prerequisites needed by the interpreter.
- The final three chapters covers three pillars of interpretation: grammatical interpretation (chapter five), historical interpretation (chapter six), and theological interpretation (chapter seven).
2. Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton)
- This book, updated in 2002, is another terrific introduction to Biblical hermeneutics. It includes most of what Berkhof covers in his book, but it covers a few additional topics more deeply.
- McCartney interacts a bit more with historical critical methods, typology, biblical genre, and authorial intent. McCartney is an excellent compliment to Berkhof, and if studied in parallel, will together aptly serve any Bible student.
3. Exegetical Fallacies (Donald A. Carson - 1996)
- Aptly titled, Exegetical Fallacies is a book dedicated to expose and explain the most common mistakes Bible interpreters make as they study and interpret the Bible. Carson gives very clear examples and explanations on the things to avoid in Bible exegesis (Word-Study Fallacies, Grammatical Fallacies, Logical Fallacies, and Presuppositional and Historical Fallacies). This book is an excellent complement to Berkhof and McCartney, but this book is not a book on general hermeneutics unlike the two books discussed above.
Next 3 Best Books on Hermeneutics
4. Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Bernard Ramm - 1970)
- There were not many books that successfully presented the system of hermeneutics characterized by conservative Protestant Christians until this book was written by Bernard Ramm. This is an excellent book that can serve as an alternative to Berkhof.
5. Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments (Milton Terry - 1890)
- Terry's book is an excellent supplement to Berkhof and McCartney. Although this book is a little more dated, written in the late nineteenth century, it does provide a deeper discussion on certain topics that are merely introduced in the other books. These topics include Hebrew poetry, figurative languages, and more specific hermeneutical topics (interpretation of parables and allegories, typology and symbols, dreams, messianic prophecy, and Old Testament and New Testament apocalpytic writings.
6. Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays - 2020)
- Now entering it's fourth edition, this modern textbook on hermeneutics is one of the most popular textbooks used today in Bible colleges and seminaries. If you want to avoid older, more academic writing, this book is a suitable third book to read after the first two introductory books (1) Primer on Biblical Literacy and (2) 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible.
Middle Tier Books on Hermeneutics
- Toward an Exegetical Theology (Walter C. Kaiser Jr.)
- Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Andres J. Kostenberger with Richard D. Patterson)
- In All the Scriptures: The Three Contexts of Biblical Hermeneutics (Nicholas G. Piotrowski)
- God-Centered Biblical Interpretation (Vern S. Poythress)
- Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (Moises Silva)
- Evangelical Hermeneutics (Robert L. Thomas)
Other Recommended Books on Hermeneutics
- Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (G.K. Beale)
- Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition (Craig A. Carter)
- The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers (Abner Chou)
- Getting the Message: A Plan for Interpreting and Applying the Bible (Daniel Doriani)
- Symphonic Theology (Vern S. Poythress)
- Dispensational Hermeneutics (Michael J. Vlach)