Review: An Introduction to the Old Testament

13746569Walter 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.

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