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An Introduction to the Old Testament, Third Edition: The Canon and Christian Imagination

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In this updated edition of the popular textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt introduce the reader to the broad theological scope of the Old Testament, treating some of the most important issues and methods in contemporary biblical interpretation. This clearly written textbook focuses on the literature of the Old Testament as it In this updated edition of the popular textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt introduce the reader to the broad theological scope of the Old Testament, treating some of the most important issues and methods in contemporary biblical interpretation. This clearly written textbook focuses on the literature of the Old Testament as it grew out of religious, political, and ideological contexts over many centuries in Israel's history. Covering every book in the Old Testament (arranged in canonical order), the authors demonstrate the development of theological concepts in biblical writings from the Torah through postexilic Judaism. Incorporating the most current scholarship, this new edition also includes concrete tips for doing close readings of the Old Testament text, and a chapter on ways to read Scripture and respond in light of pressing contemporary issues, such as economic inequality, racial and gender justice, and environmental degradation. This introduction invites readers to engage in the construction of meaning as they venture into these timeless texts.


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In this updated edition of the popular textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt introduce the reader to the broad theological scope of the Old Testament, treating some of the most important issues and methods in contemporary biblical interpretation. This clearly written textbook focuses on the literature of the Old Testament as it In this updated edition of the popular textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt introduce the reader to the broad theological scope of the Old Testament, treating some of the most important issues and methods in contemporary biblical interpretation. This clearly written textbook focuses on the literature of the Old Testament as it grew out of religious, political, and ideological contexts over many centuries in Israel's history. Covering every book in the Old Testament (arranged in canonical order), the authors demonstrate the development of theological concepts in biblical writings from the Torah through postexilic Judaism. Incorporating the most current scholarship, this new edition also includes concrete tips for doing close readings of the Old Testament text, and a chapter on ways to read Scripture and respond in light of pressing contemporary issues, such as economic inequality, racial and gender justice, and environmental degradation. This introduction invites readers to engage in the construction of meaning as they venture into these timeless texts.

30 review for An Introduction to the Old Testament, Third Edition: The Canon and Christian Imagination

  1. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This was my first sustained, scholarly reading in canonical studies. Prior to this, my primary exposure was to source criticism with its emphasis on the historical context of the text of the Old Testament. Typical of Walter Brueggemann, this overview was thorough, thought provoking, steeped in extensive scholarship and well worth the investment of time and brain cells. I know I have only retained a fraction of the material presented. A re-read is in order as well as additional reading in this fi This was my first sustained, scholarly reading in canonical studies. Prior to this, my primary exposure was to source criticism with its emphasis on the historical context of the text of the Old Testament. Typical of Walter Brueggemann, this overview was thorough, thought provoking, steeped in extensive scholarship and well worth the investment of time and brain cells. I know I have only retained a fraction of the material presented. A re-read is in order as well as additional reading in this field.

  2. 4 out of 5

    B.J. Richardson

    A famous author, I believe it was Tolkien but I might be wrong, once happened to read what a certain literary critic had to say about one of his books. His response was something along the line of, "Wow, there a lot in there. I had no idea I was so smart." Sometimes we try a bit too hard to read into the text far more than was intended or even healthy. This thought came to me more than once while reading Brueggmenn's imaginative Introduction to the Old Testament. Let's do a brief thought assessme A famous author, I believe it was Tolkien but I might be wrong, once happened to read what a certain literary critic had to say about one of his books. His response was something along the line of, "Wow, there a lot in there. I had no idea I was so smart." Sometimes we try a bit too hard to read into the text far more than was intended or even healthy. This thought came to me more than once while reading Brueggmenn's imaginative Introduction to the Old Testament. Let's do a brief thought assessment. I've written a daily devotional that now has well over seven hundred posts. Imagine that the best one percent of these are all that is saved and carried down through the ages. They become a seven chapter book, "First BJ". Now lets pretend I put my pen down for a couple decades only to pick it up again and five of my distant later posts centuries later become "Second BJ". Hopefully, after twenty years, I am a much better, or at least a much different writer. My voice, my style has changed. Can you imagine how the literary critics will "insist" that First and Second BJ must have had different authors? Lets go a step further. Three of my early surviving posts are exhortation, two are encouragement, and two are straight up praise. Clearly they had different authors who were later combined by another editor who... This kind of imaginative interpretation of the authorship and canonization process of the Tenakh are found throughout Brueggmann's work. Also, I halfway tempted partway through to go back and count how many times he says something along the lines of "scholars say" and find that he is only referencing one of his earlier books in the footnote. To be fair, Brueggmann does provide valuable insight on how Jews in the exilic and Persian post-exilic periods would have read and interpreted earlier scriptures to speak to their current situation. He also works through his survey in the order the books are found in the Tanakh rather than in the Christian Old Testament. This is a unique approach for me and does make points of connection I would not have noticed otherwise. In summary, this was not close to the best OT survey that I have read but it does push the fine liberal tradition of imaginative scholarship into the twenty-first century. I give it three stars but it is much closer to two than four.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    I'm not a huge fan of this author right out of the gate, but it's a required reading for class, so I'm taking this with a huge grain of salt. Know that this writer gives no credit to God for the authority or inspiration of the Old Testament at all, but rather choses to interpret the text as written down by people, for people, in order to inform people about their collective culture and constructed history. A quote, to help prove my point: "While the canon eventually received something like an off I'm not a huge fan of this author right out of the gate, but it's a required reading for class, so I'm taking this with a huge grain of salt. Know that this writer gives no credit to God for the authority or inspiration of the Old Testament at all, but rather choses to interpret the text as written down by people, for people, in order to inform people about their collective culture and constructed history. A quote, to help prove my point: "While the canon eventually received something like an official acknowledgment or promulgation, it is undoubtedly the case that canonization fundamentally reflects the tried and tested usage of the religious community. These books were recognized to be the most recurringly useful, reliable, and “meaningful,” that is, judged to be true teaching. This does not mean in every case that they are the “best” books from a religious, moral, or artistic perspective, but that the community of faith was drawn to them."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    OMG, this book is deadly dull - why use a single word when 5 will do the job and make the work that much more annoyingly difficult to follow? What might have otherwise been an interesting topic was totally lost in this overly high toned academic rendering. Talk about falling asleep over your studying - I've read phone books that were more informative and entertaining. Thankfully I have covered this information many times before so the ponderous weight of this text book was less of an issue for m OMG, this book is deadly dull - why use a single word when 5 will do the job and make the work that much more annoyingly difficult to follow? What might have otherwise been an interesting topic was totally lost in this overly high toned academic rendering. Talk about falling asleep over your studying - I've read phone books that were more informative and entertaining. Thankfully I have covered this information many times before so the ponderous weight of this text book was less of an issue for me than it was for first time readers.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justin McRoberts

    I return to this pretty regularly to help find a trajectory for teaching the "Old Testament." Some of the overviews are more extensive than others but on the whole Brueggemann's knowledge and insights are great foundations for wise teaching. (I'm borrowing here on Mark Labberton's definition of Wisdom.. "the Character of God, In action, in context." I return to this pretty regularly to help find a trajectory for teaching the "Old Testament." Some of the overviews are more extensive than others but on the whole Brueggemann's knowledge and insights are great foundations for wise teaching. (I'm borrowing here on Mark Labberton's definition of Wisdom.. "the Character of God, In action, in context."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Darwin Ross

    The fact of the matter is that the Bible IS NOT the Word of God; rather, it CONTAINS the Word of God. To maintain the first view is to make of the Bible a magical object, worshiped and resorted to as an idol; and all of that in place of ever needing to appeal to the person of God at all - you just need to know chapter and verse and you're good to go! I thank God every day now for the existence of biblical criticism - negative as it might be, at times - for it has destroyed the Bible as a magical The fact of the matter is that the Bible IS NOT the Word of God; rather, it CONTAINS the Word of God. To maintain the first view is to make of the Bible a magical object, worshiped and resorted to as an idol; and all of that in place of ever needing to appeal to the person of God at all - you just need to know chapter and verse and you're good to go! I thank God every day now for the existence of biblical criticism - negative as it might be, at times - for it has destroyed the Bible as a magical object and as an idol standing in the place of God. Yet, for those who hold to the second view, that the Bible CONTAINS the Word of God, the Bible remains the place to go, in order to seek out and build a relationship with God and to uncover God's will, though not just in a mindless, reductionist search for a chapter and verse (with or without proper exegesis and in place of resorting to the Holy Spirit). I enjoyed reading Brueggeman's well-thought-out and well-written book, because it helped me begin to reconstruct a truthful view of the Bible - of what it really is, and why it is as it is, beginning with the Old Testament. His concept of "creative imagining" - with respect to both the formation of the text and its interpretation - ultimately made sense to me. After displaying this concept through all of the OT books, he gives a more complete explanation of it in his final chapter entitled, "The Hiddenness of God and the Complexities of Interpretation." Anyone seeking the truth about the Bible - as well as the truth within it - should read Walter Brueggemann's An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben Smitthimedhin

    An exciting look at the world of the Old Testament, especially in light of its canonical form. Brueggemann balances the OT’s canonical order for Christians (Gen. – Malachi) with the Jewish canon (Gen. – Chronicles) and explains why we should pay attention to its final shape. He borrows heavily from Brevard Childs, arguing that the canon is the shape of Israel’s imagination, which includes borrowing and reinterpreting past stories to understand the present and the future. The exodus story, for ex An exciting look at the world of the Old Testament, especially in light of its canonical form. Brueggemann balances the OT’s canonical order for Christians (Gen. – Malachi) with the Jewish canon (Gen. – Chronicles) and explains why we should pay attention to its final shape. He borrows heavily from Brevard Childs, arguing that the canon is the shape of Israel’s imagination, which includes borrowing and reinterpreting past stories to understand the present and the future. The exodus story, for example, is not only about the Israelites escaping from Egypt; it also serves as a model for later “liberation” narratives of Israel, as when it frees itself from Babylonian captivity or oppressive Roman rule. That the shape of the canon is different for Christians as it is for Jews is significant. For Christians, the OT ends with prophecies concerning the Messiah who will save Israel (and ultimately humanity), which is fulfilled in Christ. For Jews, the story ends in the sweeping “historical” narrative of Chronicles, functioning as a reminder of Israel’s past, present, and future; Israel looks forward to building a second temple and reinheriting the land of their forefathers. Still, this does not mean all imaginative interpretations are valid – Brueggemann argues that it is the job of the church, via its creeds and teachings, to be faithful to previous models of reinterpretations and to extrapolate truth that is consistently orthodox. This was refreshing compared to the old historical model of reading the OT (is it historical fact? Did it really happen? What did it mean to the original audience?), which can be impossible to discern. I’m in agreement with Brueggemann for the most part, although I hesitate to say that both Jewish and Christian reinterpretations are valid.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brigitte

    An excellent overview that provides key historical and cultural contexts for each book, explanations of core themes, and insight into authorship(s). For Christians, it also is helpful in understanding the links between Christ and the O.T. and the N.T. with the O.T.

  9. 4 out of 5

    John Kight

    Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. Brueggemann has authored over a hundred books and several scholarly peer-reviewed articles. Co-author Tod Linafelt is a former student of Brueggemann at Columbia and is currently Professor of Biblical Literature in the Theology Department of Georgetown University and the author and co-author of a number of books and articles. Together, Brueggeman and Linafelt have revised and Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. Brueggemann has authored over a hundred books and several scholarly peer-reviewed articles. Co-author Tod Linafelt is a former student of Brueggemann at Columbia and is currently Professor of Biblical Literature in the Theology Department of Georgetown University and the author and co-author of a number of books and articles. Together, Brueggeman and Linafelt have revised and expanded Brueggemann’s best-selling Old Testament introduction and brought new life to a critical classic. This revised and expanded second edition of An Introduction to the Old Testament has several new features that build on the success of the previous edition. First, Brueggeman and Linafelt have included a substantial new chapter on the literary art of the Old Testament. The focus of the new chapter rests on the differing literary resources of biblical narrative and biblical poetry—the two largest genres of the Old Testament. Second, Brueggeman and Linafelt have included a number of textboxes throughout, which take the following two forms: (1) close readings and (2) Midrashic moments—the former focusing on interesting and illuminating details, and the latter focusing on specific examples of the biblical text being put into interpretive use. Finally, each of the chapters has been revised and updated accordingly, and the bibliography has likewise been updated with works published since the first edition. Brueggeman and Linafelt have provided an excellent introduction the Old Testament. The hermeneutical focus of the book invites the reader into the world of the Old Testament, allowing them to exit with a renewed a sense of literary understanding. Moreover, the scope of the volume is quite impressive and the reader is certain to benefit greatly. Still, much of the criticism that plagued the previous edition remains within the second edition—particularly for the conservative evangelical readers. There are a number of unsettling statements that permeate this volume and many readers will undoubtedly find Brueggeman and Linafelt to be disconnected with their traditional Christian convictions concerning the Old Testament. For example, only a few pages into the volume, Brueggeman and Linafelt seem to affirm that the majority position within biblical scholarship views the Old Testament as historical fiction—at least that it is unreliable in an effort to provide guidance concerning historical facts (p. 6). Similar assertions are found throughout. Still, this should not hinder the reader from taking hold of the wisdom and insight that can be gleaned as he sifts through the mounds of chaff. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination by Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt is an excellent introduction into the literary world of the Old Testament. Brueggeman and Linafelt will make you think critically about the traditional understanding of the Old Testament, and for the trained mind, such interaction will only work to strengthen convictions. There is a lot that I personally disagree with in this book, both in methodology and interpretation. Nevertheless, the benefit of interacting with two sharp-minded scholars in the field of Old Testament studies is an indispensable opportunity—and this volume is perfect for that occasion. The revisions and expansions to this volume are welcomed and I trust that it will continue to yield similar success as the previous edition. If you are looking for an introduction to the Old Testament that will function as a critical companion to many of the standard works in the field, An Introduction to the Old Testament is likely the best volume on the market. It comes highly recommended for the careful reader! I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Missjgray

    Had to skim through this because it is a library book. I'm not sure if I'm "supposed" to agree with Brueggemann, but I find his approach of a Spirit-filled writer of Scripture meeting a Spirit-filled reader to be fascinating. Had to skim through this because it is a library book. I'm not sure if I'm "supposed" to agree with Brueggemann, but I find his approach of a Spirit-filled writer of Scripture meeting a Spirit-filled reader to be fascinating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Prothero

    Great scholarly study.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lance

    I am currently reading

  13. 5 out of 5

    KA

    An excellent introduction to the themes, composition, and history of the Hebrew Bible, with sustained attention to issues of supersessionism and anti-Jewish readings.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rothrock

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jillian Westerfield

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Hawk

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aubry Smith

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Holt

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robert Martin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cory

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Fulton

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Dombroski

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shaun-michael

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jared

  28. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Catherine McNiel

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Philip

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