Case in point, Leland Ryken. Dr. Ryken is the father of Dr. Phillip Ryken, the successor to James Montgomery Boice at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is the late successor to the even more late Donald Gray Barnhouse. Read about Tenth’s august roll of influential pastors since its early years. Dr. Leland Ryken’s credentials include a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and he is professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he has twice received the “teacher of the year” award. He served as Literary Chairman on the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, and authored a wonderful book entitled, The Word of God in English, in which he explains the thinking behind what the ESV crowd has begun calling “essentially literal” translation, as opposed to “literal” (formal equivalence) and “thought-for-thought” (dynamic equivalence). As you may perceive, it sounds like a happy medium, and I think it is definitely a worthwhile achievement.
Leland Ryken also contributed to a good book by a group of evangelical scholars on the Origin of the Bible. But there are yet many others of his books around to which I’ve yet to get. But coming this September, his study Bible will be released. The Literary Study Bible!
from the ESV Blog’s post on the Literary Study Bible:
About The Literary Study Bible
A literary study Bible—what a great idea! Who better to conceive of such a Bible and to provide the notes than Dr. Leland Ryken, author and editor of numerous books explaining the literary forms manifest in the Bible and encouraging us to pay special attention to these forms. The Literary Study Bible represents the culmination of his efforts to aid all who read, study, preach, and teach the Bible. Find your understanding of Scripture improved and your appreciation for its literary beauty heightened.
“Any piece of writing needs to be assimilated and interpreted in terms of the kind of writing that it is,” write the coeditors. “The Bible is a literary book in which theology and history are usually embodied in literary forms. Those forms include genres, the expression of human experience in concrete form, stylistic and rhetorical techniques, and artistry. . . . [The use of these forms] has been inspired by God and [they] need to be granted an importance in keeping with that inspiration.”
I believe a resource such as this will help the evangelical church regain much ground lost since the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, when Dispensational hermeneutics misinformed the last several generations of evangelicals that “literal” interpretation should mean something more akin to “anti-figurative interpretation.” J. Ligon Duncan writes, “Secondly, Dispensationalists speak in terms of a literal interpretation of the Bible. This is a major rhetorical thing that you hear in discussion with Dispensationalist friends. ‘We interpret the Bible literally.’ Of course, the implication being that you don’t. We interpret the Bible literally, you don’t. You do something else to it. Whereas Covenant Theologians would argue, ‘We interpret the Bible literally, but, we believe that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament.’ We believe that the New Testament is the hermeneutical manual for the Old Testament. And Dispensationalists are suspicious of that. When you say that the New Testament must interpret the Old Testament, Dispensationalists get a little bit edgy, because they feel you are about to spiritualize something that the Old Testament has said for them very clearly. So that is a fundamental difference. The Covenant Theologian believes the New Testament has the final word as the meaning of that passage, whereas the Dispensationalist tends to want to interpret the Old Testament and then go to the New Testament and attempt to harmonize the particular teaching of the New Testament with their previous interpretation of that Old Testament passage, rather than allowing the New Testament fundamental hermaneutical control.”
Historically, literal interpretation meant “literary.” In other words, interpret the Bible according to the common rules which apply to whichever kind of literature you are reading. If we can get this understanding corrected on a grassroots level, the Light of the Gospel would shine all the brighter.