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Bible, hermeneutics, Hebrew language, seventeenth century, Reformed theology, John Weemse


This dissertation presents a contextual and historical understanding of hermeneutical works of post-Reformation Reformed orthodoxy, and the flow of exegetical tradition within orthodox theology from the Reformation to the early seventeenth century. Virtually all of the older modern studies interpreted post- Reformation theology and its biblical study as "dogmatic," "deductive," "rationalistic," and "unspiritual," descriptions allegedly made in a comparison and contrast of the characteristics of post-Reformation thought with the theology of the early sixteenth century. These pejorative descriptions typically state that post-Reformation biblical exegesis was a deductive reading of dogmas into Scripture using a predetermined dogmatic analogy of faith. This dissertation offers an in-depth study of the biblical exegete and Hebraist, John Weemse of Lathocker and Prebend of Durham, as a representative of early seventeenth century Reformed biblical interpretation. This study argues both for the continuity of early seventeenth-century biblical exegesis with Reformation exegesis and for the progress of Protestant exegesis after the Reformation. There is substantial continuity of the doctrine of Scripture and of exegetical principles with the Reformers and there is progress and development away from them in hermeneutics, specifically in terms of advances in Protestant exegetical method in the employment of increasing textual and philological studies and rabbinic scholarship for Christian exegesis. Reading Scripture in its original languages was the foundation ofWeemse's exegesis. He enriched his efforts through grammatical and textual studies of masoretic scholarship, with a highly scholarly critical apparatus, by study of Hebrew literary convention, and with a broad knowledge of Hebrew customs and tradition. Weemse made a significant contribution in the history of biblical interpretation by making positive use of Hebraica and Judaica to establish a critical basis for Christian biblical exegesis. Another significant mark of post-Reformation exegesis was the instrumental use of scholasticism and humanism for a Christian reading of Scripture. Scholastic tools, as illustrated by use of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus with praise, and diverse linguistic tools borrowed from the then rapidly growing humanism were noticeably compatible for the post-Reformation orthodox. In a technical sense, post-Reformation biblical hermeneutic is neither medieval nor critical or historical in modern sense, but is in the tradition ofthe Reformation, concentrated on the meaning of Scripture as drawn from a grammatical, literal, textual, and contextual understanding. At the same time, its exegesis maintains commonality with medieval exegesis-the orthodox exegesis is church exegesis!-and commonality with the Reformers' motto that Scripture is the living Word of God to the church at present. Its biblical exegesis is not a precursor of the modern critical method; it was rather a pre-critical exegesis, even though it was supported by a more finely tuned theological, linguistic, and logical apparatus than the Reformers employed. This development of the orthodox period is not to be understood as a deviation from Reformation principles but was instead an answer to the challenge of the period that came from critical, philological study to maintain and refine the heritage of the Reformation theology.


  • A dissertation submitted to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
  • Gary J. Bekker, Academic Dean
  • © 1998 Jay Shim

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.