Original Research

The Bible as a human and fallible book? Contrasting Karl Barth and classical Pentecostal hermeneutical perspectives

Marius Nel
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 56, No 1 | a2821 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v56i1.2821 | © 2022 Marius Nel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 November 2021 | Published: 28 April 2022

About the author(s)

Marius Nel, Unit for Reformed Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Many Pentecostals share an affinity with Karl Barth’s theology of the Word along with a high view of the Bible that Protestants share. Like some Reformed theologians, they interpret his theology as follows: the Bible is not in any objective sense the word of God but becomes the word when it means something to us through the work of the Spirit. The objective content of biblical words meant little for Barth; only the encounter with God in the text is essential. The purpose of this study is to consider the appropriateness of such affinity. The study limits the discussion to Barth’s view about the Bible’s humanness and fallibility and compares it to the Pentecostal perspective, that the Bible requires the Spirit’s inner working in the reader to become God’s revelation, implying that biblical authors point to the witness of the Spirit that entails the revelation; readers should strive to find that witness prayerfully. As a result, the related issues of the Bible’s authority and the task of exegesis are also discussed. The research uses a comparative literature study of some Barthian and Pentecostal resources. As a result, this article submits that some Pentecostals’ perception of Barth’s views is incorrect. However, some tangent planes exist between Barth’s and Pentecostal hermeneutics. The article concludes that by recognising their significant influence, Pentecostals would establish room to further the nuances their hermeneutics represent. It contributes to considering one proponent of Reformed hermeneutics, Barth, and Pentecostal hermeneutics. It expounds one aspect of Pentecostal hermeneutics about the Bible’s humanness and fallibility, that has received scant attention in the available literature.

Contribution: The article contributes to the discourse about Pentecostal hermeneutics by investigating links between Karl Barth’s and classical Pentecostals’ theology of the word. It concludes that although some tangent planes exist between Barth’s and Pentecostal hermeneutics, Pentecostals regard the authority of the Bible as derived from the Spirit’s preference to use the Bible to speak to people.


Pentecostal hermeneutics; Karl Barth; Bible’s humanness; Bible’s fallibility; exegesis; Bible’s authority


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