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Reading the Old Testament
by John Barton
John Barton's revised classic text is intended for students who have already learned some of the techniques of biblical study and who wish to explore the implications and aims of the various critical methods currently in use. Chapters include: form criticism, redaction criticism, canonical criticism, structuralism, reader-response criticism, and postmodern approaches.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 1st 1984 by Westminster John Knox Press
(first published February 1st 1984)
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If cognitive dissonance didn't formerly describe your state of mind, anyone who is at all interested in struggling through the perspectives and epistemological bases of literary methods of biblical study will find their mind not only being stretched, but given a thorough shakeup by Barton. The book is incredibly enlightening by showing the circularity of various arguments, the assumptions and contexts around which they are based, and their relation to one another, but also incredibly stupefying ...more
This book is a useful and beneficial read, but for a relatively specialized audience. I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not have a solid background in hermeneutics. I certainly would not recommend it for a lay reader. It will make little sense without some background in Biblical interpretation. Taken straight and without a context, it will prove ponderous at best, and damaging to one's faith at worst. Without a background in some of the issues and history, it can feel as if read ...more
Worse than a rabid liberal who loves his methodology like an idol because it's new, or a conservative who loves his because it's old, is the moderate who never lands anywhere out loud. Barton decries every method of Biblical interpretation and ultimately lands nowhere with his support. But the man *reads* the Bible and things texts mean things, he just never shows his cards. For a book about how to read the Bible, you need a Ph.D in psychology to understand how to read Barton.
If you want an unbiased (ok, less biased) introduction to the classic Old Testament critical methods (source, form, redaction, canonical, etc.), John Barton is your man. He is less focused on the history of how they came about than he is on helping you know how they can be helpful in studying the Bible today. He explains how evangelicals fit into this arena, without being negative. Typical British scholar in that!
Terrific book for conservative evangelicals wanting to understand the method behind the madness of critical biblical studies. Barton overplays somethings when he characterizes source and form criticism as primarily a literary undertaking, but he does effectively make the point that source criticism does not necessarily equal the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis.
It is Barton who shows me what is the historical consciousness of modernity. Very informative and very inspiring. I admire his capacity of critical thinking in evaluating the different methodologies. He could have been equally critical of his own view.