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An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination Paperback – November 30, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eminent Old Testament scholar Brueggemann (Theology of the Old Testament) offers a clear and eloquent introductory study of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament that surpasses many older introductions such as Anderson's Understanding the Old Testament and Bright's A History of Israel. Focusing on the literature of the Old Testament rather than on the ways that such literature grows out of the history of Israel, he emphasizes that the development of the Old Testament was an act of imaginative remembering. It evolved through what he calls a "traditioning" process, whereby the texts grew dynamically out of a confluence of historical, ideological, political and religious forces in Israel. Brueggemann arranges his introduction in canonical order (Torah, prophets, writings) to demonstrate the ways that various themes built upon one another and how the texts reflect the ongoing development of Israel. For example, the "writings"-which include Proverbs, Psalms and Job as well as Esther and Daniel-reflect, in Brueggemann's view, the diversity of life and faith characteristic of post-exilic Judaism. Brueggemann's reading of the Old Testament makes it alive for us today. As we interpret the text in our own times, we engage in the "traditioning" process, for each time we read, new meanings are disclosed to us. Although Brueggemann sometimes veers off into territory for which a background in biblical studies is necessary, his crystal clear prose, lucid ways of telling stories and canny theological insights make this introduction a real gem.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament, and is the author of numerous books, including Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination and Reverberations of Faith: A Theological Handbook of Old Testament Themes.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (November 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664224121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664224127
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have been a fan of Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of biblical studies from Columbia Theological Seminary, since I encountered him through his text 'Theology of the Old Testament', which formed the basis of a course I took my first year in seminary. Brueggemann has a clear and strong writing style, coupled with definite and innovative ideas about the development of the Hebrew Scriptures as they have come to us.
Brueggemann looks at things from a canonical perspective, ordering the books differently from what most Christians would be used to in their Bibles. Starting with the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, he then proceeds through the prophets and then to the writings. following the canon of the Hebrew bible, and a more likely ordering of original authorship. While all texts have gone through a processes of being handed down, often edited/redacted in the process, their original ideas or events occurred in a particular order.
Brueggemann gives due respect to Brevard Childs and his ideas of canonical criticism while recognising that this can become a limiting tool, and so Brueggemann introduces the idea of imagination as a counter. True to form from his early text 'Theology of the Old Testament' and other texts, Brueggeman looks for the truth that resides in the tension between, in this case, in the tension between the normative and the imaginative becoming of the community.
Brueggemann brings in the wide range of biblical scholars in the course of his study, ignoring very few noted names along the way. This makes his text an ideal book for introductory courses in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament for undergraduates and seminarians. Brueggemann also puts forward his own interesting arguments and interpretations for consideration.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books on the `Old Testament.' What makes Brueggemann's analysis so compelling is his ability to offer a coherent and comprehensive reading of the Old Testament, while equally dealing with the difficulties, disunities, and flat-out confounding passages that fill the `Old Testament' cannon. Brueggemann does so by looking at, what he refers to as, the `Christian Imagination.'

In short, Brueggemann is not as concerned with how the `history' of the Old Testament does or does not match up with the historicism of late scholasticism. After all, I think we can all agree that a person writing in the age of antiquity would have a substantially different method and/or intent in his or her written approach than would an eighteenth or nineteenth century historian. For starters, the Jewish writers of antiquity were writing a narrative history, not a history accompanied with narratives. This is an important distinction. In short, their end goal was to tell their story, which they also believed to be God's story. This story inevitably incorporated, and even required, elements of history; yet it was the story itself that always took first priority.

Accordingly, Brueggemann's reading of the `Old Testament' is cohesive and coherent because he understands that it must be read as the narrative story of a historical people, not as a history of a narrative people.
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Format: Paperback
Compared to Prof Brueggemann's other Old Testament books, my big surprise is a title of The Old Testament rather than The Hebrew Bible! Added surprise is a sub-title of The Canon and Christian Interpretation. In OT Survey classes he contrasted his approach between Jewish interpretation with Christian inter. So I noted his quotes in using the 4 I's of Interpretation, Ideology, Inspiration, and Imagination! They occur in the Intro and near the end of his chap on Torah. On Page 11 "Now it will occur to an attentive reader that these facts of the traditioning process-Imagination, Ideology, and Inspiration (my caps)-do not easily cohere with each other! Specifically the force of human ideology and the power of divine imagination seem to be definitionally at odds. Precisely! That causes the Old Testament, to be endlessly complex & problematic, endlessly interesting and compelling."

This carried me back to 2002 sessions at Montreat and Columbia upon first hearing his process of interpretation: "The interface beween the canonical and imaginative is exactly the way in which the most responsible and faithful interpretation takes place." I can see & hear his trip from well-neglected notes on the podium up to the chalk-board, as he hastily wrote the Hebrew for his key scripture. In the dramatic Isa 6, after writing the "living creatures," he sailed down the steps, waving wildly his arms all around the wall of the classroom singing "Holy, Holy, Holy!"
He seemed propelled alongside us into the living words of the Prophet. He earned his standing ovation! That was not the only Incident to stress his "Imaginative Remembering.
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Brueggamann sets out to examine the Canon and Christian Imagination according to the Hebrew canon and often times, according Jewish interpretation rather than Christian. For the former, his order is: the Torah, the Prophets consisting of, The Former Prophets, - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; and the Latter Prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. Then the scrolls of Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and the Song of Solomon. Finally, he examines what he considers the revisionist historical corpus of I & II Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, with Daniel arriving last. For the latter, I can cite his rejection of Paul's doctrine of the Fall, although he encourages a constant interpretative method akin to the New Perspectives (p38-39) and his insistence that the author of Hebrews `misread' Jeremiah 31 and completely missed the author of Jeremiah's intent (pg 189). On the other hand, Brueggamann deals especially well with Proverbs 8 as seen through the eyes of John's Prologue. Overall, until it comes to his disavowing of anything remotely connected to supercessionism, he presents a balanced view of Christian use of the Hebrew Scriptures.

His path is not always what one would expect. While he uses historical criticism, his method involves the focus on what he calls the `end of the traditioning process.' For the author, it is not greatly important how a book came together, but the theology of the book in final form. For him, the process is far from over and should continue now that the canon has been delivered to the `interpretive community of the church'. He makes a strong case that the bible contains more light than a simple `reportage' view can give, and indeed, suddenly becomes a conservative Protestant as he makes his case that more study is needed.
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