McKenzie’s Approach to Biblical Interpretation
In his book, How to Read the Bible – History, Prophecy, Literature, McKenzie says that to understand the Bible, one needs to be aware of the genre. He writes a chapter on each of the genre – history, prophecy, wisdom, apocalyptic and epistles. As he introduces each genre, McKenzie explains misconceptions on what the genre is presenting or how it should be understood. He goes on to explain the genre, using illustrations to highlight the key concepts. In his book, McKenzie provides a guide to reading a biblical text and interpreting it to gain a better understanding of what the writer intended.
McKenzie’s main argument is that the best way to understand biblical text is to understand the author’s original intent relying on the evidence found in the text. The key to understanding the evidence lies in the genre of the text itself. Starting the book with an introduction focusing on Jonah, he presented his argument that the Bible needs to be approached as a library of books with different genre rather than one book that is understood literally.
I found McKenzie to be very engaging in his presentation. It is a book that any person with little or no theological background could understand. The major issue not addressed in this book is whether God or humans authored the Bible. If humans are the original authors, then McKenzie’s arguments are valid. However, if God is the author, then a more orthodox interpretation looking at God’s intent is a valid option. McKenzie in his thesis does not offer any other options to interpreting biblical texts.
McKenzie limited himself in the interpretation of each genre by providing only one method of interpretation rather than providing a number of different methods. In doing so, he has done a disservice to himself. He challenges the idea of reading biblical text as literal histories, and also applying it literally to our present situation. Despite this, he himself insists that there is only one method of interpreting texts and that is through the intent of the authors. This method could easily be challenged by more orthodox students of the Bible. Therefore, even though McKenzie provided a good argument for his method, he should have offered other ways of looking at Scripture.
I agree with McKenzie’s argument that biblical texts cannot be disconnected from the culture it was written in. Interpretation of Scripture needs to take into consideration the original culture and circumstances that the original recipients were in.