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Out of Babylon Paperback – October 1, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. A past president of the Society of Biblical Literature, he is one of today's preeminent interpreters of Scripture.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1426710054
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426710056
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia (1986-2003), and formerly Professor of Old Testament (1961-1986) and Dean (1968-1982) at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who considers "evangelical pietism" his "spiritual home" (ix), Brueggemann remains a formidable Old Testament scholar and author of nearly 60 books, hundreds of articles, and several commentaries on the Bible.

Inspired by the 2003 Emmylou Harris song, "Time in Babylon," Brueggemann essentially answers in Out of Babylon, "How might the church living in the United States empire faithfully carry out its calling?" Brueggemann advocates for a model of "accommodation and resistance"--an approach through which the church can avoid the "one-dimensional accommodation [to empire]...of the extreme Right" and the "one-dimensional resistance [of empire]...of the extreme Left," given that "resistance without nuance leads to irrelevance and marginalization" (151-153). He arrives at this conclusion by mining the Old Testament prophets and the Psalms for insights on the relationship between the "local tradition" (14) of Yahweh adherents, on the one hand, and the "all-defining empire" (10) in which they live, on the other.

Brueggemann employs this study chiefly as an aid for contemporary Christians "who must live agilely in the midst of the deeply problematic power of the U.S. empire" (1). He observes, "As the Jews in the Babylonian Empire had to struggle with the seductions and insistence of empire, so Christians in the midst of U.S. empire must struggle for a peculiar identity" as well (15).

Brueggemann segments his work in eight chapters.
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Israel, over its biblical history has lived under some of the largest and most expansive empires in history. Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Rome. Those are some massive empires to dwell under. Walter Brueggemann, an established Old Testament scholar and professor wrote a pretty accessible book on how Israel's faith was shaped while awaiting empirical take-over, sitting under this empire, and longing for freedom from empire to return to their land and their way of life.

At risk of over-simplifying, Brueggeman takes us on a journey of Israel v. empire in order to shape our understanding today of how our local tradition of faith today fits into empire in its contemporary context. He has some sharp principled points on how empire functions. Empire displays privilege (social stratus), limitless prosperity, assimilation of diverse cultures in varying degtrees, violence to achieve results and others as the icons of powerful empirical rule.

Israel, he argues, attempted to tell an alternative story to empire, a story Brueggeman loosely refers to as the "local tradition of faith".

This local tradition of Israel, with its alternative story to the way things are and the way life is meant to be lived, is then accountable to their story. As God shares with them how to "do life", Israel is tempted to live an empire sort of life. Much of the book looks at the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel as voices for the alternative story God is trying to tell, and warnings that as Israel desires to be empire, they will also own the consequences of being an empire. Downfall.

This book is for those who are interested in the explosive theme of empire throughout Scripture, that also draws out implications for living under empire today. He touches on the balance of accomadation and resistance that a local tradition of faith today needs in order to stay true to the alternative story while living with the "facts on the ground" of living life within empire
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From Egypt to Assyria, to literal geographical Babylon, on to Persia and then Rome, the bible witnesses to a series of empires that dominated the daily lives of the people of God; scripture also provides accounts of creative, resourceful, and effective ways people learned to live with and even thrive in spite of foreign hegemony. Although Babylon in the book title serves as a cipher for imperial regimes everywhere, WB also writes extensively about the southern kingdom Judah's actual Babylonian Captivity during the sixth century, at the same time reminding us "Babylon" bears the weight of geographically relocatable interpretations (page 111).

Out of Babylon references Emmylou Harris' song "Doin' time in Babylon." When they sentence you to do time, you can't choose get out of jail free. As Christians can we live faithfully surrounded by empire and its deathly apparatus? Is it living faithfully with empire, living faithfully in spite of empire, or another possibility? Our contemporary situation in the USA closely parallels the exiles' in Babylon (faithful in Rome, Spain, Great Britain...) as accretions, outrages, attractions, and demands of empire surround and often seem to overwhelm us. Truly we cannot escape to some ideal oblivion, an unknown nowhere – remember erewhon? – and in the power of the Spirit we need to create local, covenantal life where we are'in spite of empire.

Late during the last century people rejoiced as the Union Jack of British imperialism stopped flying over one colony after another, yet every one of us in the USA deals daily with inescapable excesses of global USA political and economic empire.
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