The Bible is unique among literature, because—unlike other written works—the Bible contains the principles which determine and govern its own interpretation. This landmark work on Reformed hermeneutics introduces readers to a method of interpreting Scripture as the uniquely inspired Word of God. Berkhof affirms the inspiration of Scripture, affirming and expanding upon B. B. Warfield’s definition of inspiration. Berkhof also explores the unity and diversity of biblical texts, the style and genre of Scripture, and Reformed principles of exegesis—firmly rooted in the spirit of the Reformation: that everyone has access to read and interpret Scripture.
Louis Berkhof was born in 1873 in the Netherlands, and immigrated with his family to West Michigan in 1882. In 1893, he began attending the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church (now Calvin Theological Seminary), where he studied under Hendericus Beuker and was influenced by the writings of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. Berkhof graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 and became the pastor of First Christian Reformed Church in Allendale, Michigan. He attended Princeton Theological Seminary from 1902 to 1904, where he studied under B.B. Warfield and Geerhardus Vos. H. Henry Meeter, a friend of Berkhof, remarked that “Berkhof frequently said that he owed more to Vos than anyone else for his insights into Reformed theology” (Reformed Theology in America, 156).
Berkfhof returned to Michigan in 1904 and became pastor of Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. In 1906, he was appointed professor of exegetical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, and in 1926, became professor of dogmatic theology. He also delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton in 1921. On September 9, 1931, Berkhof became president of Calvin Theological Seminary, where he served until his retirement in 1944. During his lifetime, he wrote prolifically, including numerous volumes on theology, social issues, politics, education, and missions. In addition to his books, healso published countless articles in Reformed periodicals, such as The Banner, De Wachter, and the Calvin Forum. He also served as the first president of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod in 1946.
Louis Berkhof died in 1957.
“Hermeneutics and Exegesis are related to each other as theory and practice. The one is a science, the other an art.” (Page 13)
“By inspiration we understand that supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Holy Spirit, by virtue of which their writings are given divine truthfulness, and constitute an infallible and sufficient rule of faith and practice.” (Page 41)
“They adopted the fundamental principle of Plato that one should not believe anything that is unworthy of God. And whenever they found things in the Old Testament that did not agree with their philosophy and that offended their sense of propriety, they resorted to allegorical interpretations.” (Page 16)
“Over against the infallibility of the Church they placed the infallibility of the Word. Their position is perfectly evident from the statement that the Church does not determine what the Scriptures teach, but the Scriptures determine what the Church ought to teach. The essential character of their exegesis resulted from two fundamental principles: (1) Scriptura Scripturae interpres, that is, Scripture is the interpreter of Scripture; and (2) omnis intellectus ac expositio Scripturae sit analogia fidei, that is, let all understanding and exposition of Scripture be in conformity with the analogy of faith. And for them the analogia fidei=the analogia Scripturae, that is, the uniform teaching of Scripture.” (Page 26)
“In this period, the fourfold sense of Scripture (literal, tropological, allegorical, and analogical) was generally accepted, and it became an established principle that the interpretation of the Bible had to adapt itself to tradition and to the doctrine of the Church.” (Page 23)