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The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd Edition Paperback – June 1, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and was a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature. His most recent books include Disruptive Grace: Reflections on God, Scripture, and the Church and Journey to the Common Good.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 151 pages
  • Publisher: FORTRESS PRESS; 2 edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800632877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800632878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament and is the author of numerous books, including Westminster John Knox Press best sellers such as Genesis and First and Second Samuel in the Interpretation series, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, and Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erin J on November 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Walter Brueggemann is the most dynamic writer of Old Testament Theology in the World. Here he deals with the Prophetic imaging of an alternative community which God's people are called to be. In the OT Israel is always called to not succumb to the idolatry of the royal powers and center its life around Yahweh as an alternative people who practice real justice, mercy, and love. Brueggemann offers great insight into the texts of the Old Testament. You will always say "wow, why did I not see this before" when reading a Brueggemann book. I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in the Bible.
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If there is one thing the world needs today, it is prophets. Not the zany kind you get in some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where apparently the goal is to put the Psychic Hotline out of business.

No, Bruggeman paints a portrait of the Biblical prophet as one who contends against the normal order of society and culture which has set itself up at the expense of the marginal, the outcast, the poor, and the weak. Bruggman calls this "the royal consciousness" but I think we could also refer to it as "the Powers that Be" and here in the United States goes by such names as "the multinational corporation" and "politics in Washington D. C."

Bruggeman argues that the prophet does not contend against such entities with arms and use of force, but with the much more powerful weapon of imagination and creativity.

To make this point, he uses the examples of Moses against Pharaoh, Jeremiah against the Monarchy, and Jesus against the religion of Israel.

One of the things that so struck me about this book is that ever since I was in high school, every time I took one of those odd (and error-prone) "spiritual gift inventory" tests, I always came up with "Prophet" as my top spiritual gift.

When I was a pastor, and because I didn't believe that prophets (the way I thought of them) were in use today, I interpreted this to mean that I was to proclaim or "forthtell" the Word of God, rather than foretell future events or predict the future.

Bruggeman has given me a window by which to look at the world and current events through the lens of prophetic imagination. Imagining a different world. A different way of doing things. A different order.
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Here is an extraordinarily valuable little book (104 pp. of text) for Christians who would like to better understand the essence of the prophetic impulse and the nature of the subsequent ministry that may be derived from it. Those with Pentecostal or Charismatic backgrounds or experiences will discover a profound spiritual resonance and a clear biblical insight in THE PROPHETIC IMAGINATION by Walter Brueggemann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978/1983).

Brueggemann shows convincingly from the ministries of Moses, Jeremiah, and Jesus, how each man in response to either an oppressive empire (Egypt) or unjust, religious community (pre-exilic Judah and first century Israel) employs "radical criticism" to "dismantle" the dying or dead culture. Solomon's imperial rule is also examined as an example of how a "royal consciousness" may serve to subvert even the community of promise resulting in satiation and the inevitable numbness and death. Second Isaiah (Isa. 40-66) serves as the primary example of the second aspect of the prophetic task; namely, "energizing" the despairing community with hope.

Brueggemann presents his thesis concerning the would-be Christian prophets' need for personal anguish, grief, and mourning as contrasted with the less painful exercise of mere anger and apathy while he ministers as God's instrument. For me it was surprising and gratifying to discover that an Old Testament professor from a mainline Protestant tradition could supply such compelling insights concerning both the tasks and the traumas of God's prophets. Not even my Pentecostal seminary professors helped me in this regard as much as this short read.
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Too many people see the Old Testament as nothing more than a boring succession of weird stories about people who lived a long time ago and far away. The great thing about Brueggemann's book is that he shows the power and depth of the book along with its applicability to the 21st century. Others do this as well, but all too often they take passages and stories out of the Old Testament context to make their points. Brueggemann's book keeps the context in tact AND shows how it is relevant to today. I especially liked chapter two, "Royal Consciousness: Countering the Counterculture," it made me see the stories of Samuel and Kings in an entirely different light.
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The Prophetic Imagination is a profound and illuminating book, applying observations of the socio-political tensions in the Biblical narrative, and touching on human psychology. The observations, then, facilitate a close comparison of the imperial critique found within scripture and that of present consumerist society; This book effectively extends the imperial critique found in scripture to the present day empire. In doing so, Brueggeman nicely demonstrates the kind of message that needs to be heard today. Brueggeman uses the condition and the message found in the biblical narrative from Moses and the Exodus, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jesus to demonstrate what kind of message this can be.

This book is insightful and well-written, and I think it may have the affect of reinforcing interest in reading the Old Testament. I would highly recommend this book.

The following is a summery of the major points made in the text. It should be mentioned that I pulled these references from the 1978 version.

In The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann's review of the Old Testament narrative leads him to recognize general characteristics of the imperial consciousness, and in the prophet's task to "evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us."(13) The world of empire, according to Brueggemann, is sustained by three interconnected elements: The Economy of Affluence, Politics of Oppression, and the Religion of Imminence (that is, domestication of God). Hence, the empire ignores God's freedom (that God cannot be domesticated) and his justice (his advocacy of the oppressed). The royal consciousness, then, leads people to apathy about suffering and death, and despair about power to new life.
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