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A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.

A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament. By Bruce C. Birch, Walter Brueggemann, Terence E. Fretheim, and David L. Peterson. Nashville: Abingdon, 1999. 475 pages. Paper. $40.00.

A collaborative venture of Birch, Brueggemann, Fretheim, and Peters, all noteworthy for their commitment to both academy and church, this is a theologically imaginative introductory text written for seminary students. While seeing "introduction" in the title of a book often deters the expert, this book is rich with insight that can only help to invigorate one's Old Testament preaching and teaching, whether clergy or lay, seminary student or not. In particular, for those who cut their Old Testament teeth on something similar to John Bright's A History of Israel, a book resting peacefully on many a shelf, this introduction offers a breath of fresh air.

The theological commitment of the work is as follows: "The church reads the Old Testament faithfully only if its reading is not for its own sake but for the sake of the broken world to which it is sent--the world God loves and seeks to judge and redeem" (p. 28). The conviction that the Old Testament witness can make a formative difference for church and world drives the authors' refreshingly passionate and imaginative reading. The authors' theological framework highlights the tension between the diversity of voices and continuity of witness of the Old Testament. While acknowledging the "polyphonic" nature of the Old Testament, they stress a continuity of witness of the Old Testament's many voices to Israel's one God.

As a whole the book is seamless and easy to follow with good scripture and topical indexes and a brief bibliography at the conclusion of each chapter for further exploration. Chapter 1 effectively sets out the theological framework of the book. Chapters 2 through 12 follow the flow of the overarching story of the Old Testament, integrating portions of prophetic and poetic texts throughout. While the major thrust of the text is its theological reading, it should be noted that the authors combine insights from historical critical, literary, and socio-rhetorical analysis.

There is within this book a sound understanding that the Old Testament is a Word to be wrestled with and meditated upon, a Word that ultimately impacts our communities of faith and the world. The authors provide here a well-thought-out reading of the too-often-neglected portion of the Word. In addition to a place in an introductory seminary class, this is a book for clergy and lay persons to revive a passion for the Old Testament and would be a valuable reference in any library.

Samuel D. Giere

St Mary's College

University of St Andrews, Scotland
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Author:Giere, Samuel D.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:438
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