Text and Paratext: Book Order, Title, and Division as Keys to Biblical Interpretation by Greg Goswell
Context is king, so the maxim goes. Sensitivity to context―of a verse, chapter, or book―is essential for proper biblical interpretation. Yet the Bible contains another set of key clues that readers rarely consider. In Text and Paratext, Gregory Goswell explores paratext and its implications for biblical interpretation. Paratextual features are the parts of a text that surround the main text itself, such as a book’s canonical location, title, and internal divisions. These features have been intentionally added to support the text and direct readers. Different arrangements of the Old and New Testaments reveal connections and associations. A book’s title announces the focus of its content. Book divisions create breaks and form units of text. Commentary is baked into paratextual features, making every Bible a study Bible. Rather than veiling the text’s meaning, paratext highlights interpretive possibilities both ancient and fresh. While often overlooked, paratextual features guided interpretation throughout church history and should inform our study of Scripture today.
With the help of glossaries and study questions, Goswell’s study equips readers to understand paratext and its implications and become better interpreters of the Bible.
About the Author: Gregory Goswell is academic dean and lecturer in Old Testament at Christ College in Sydney.