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The Prophetic Imagination

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  1,816 ratings  ·  91 reviews
Writing in a popular, conversational style, Walter Brueggemann shows what the prophetic imagination is and why it can transform the present in powerful and unexpected ways.
Paperback, Second Edition, 151 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Fortress Press (first published 1978)
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Sarah Eisele
Reading this book was the first time I began to understand the Old Testament (or the Hebrew Scriptures). Brueggemann posits that a prophets job is to critizice, to point out the areas where a religious community is acting in opposition to God's principles, and energize, to encourage the community to return to God's love. This can be applied to such people as King David, Jeremiah, Amos, Abraham, and is to be reflected in modern-day preachers as well. I highly recommend this book to anyone interes ...more
Erin Thomas
It is almost cliche to say that our world has been numbed into apathy about a great many things, spirituality included. If fact, I believe it would be fair to say that many Christians have found their faith to be drained of mysticism and imagination. Taught that mysticism is evil or somehow against the Bible (untrue), evangelicals exhibit the same kind of legalism we point out in others. Services become a matter of "stand, sit, pray, sit, stand, [perhaps raise hands], sit, stand, listen to preac ...more
Jacob Aitken
Great in terms of propheticness, weak in terms of solution. Brueggemann appears to advocate perpetual socialist crisis as the ideal for living faith. A number of problems with his approach: he advocates that community must be formed around a prophetic leader. I agree, sort of. But for WB this prophetic leader is useless unless he has something to prophesy against. Thus there should be a perpetual bad guy, preferably white, male, and capitalistic. The philosophical marxism should be immediately a ...more
This is the best book I have ever read for understanding the prophets and prophecy genre in the Bible. Brueggemann points out that the work of a prophet is to criticize and energize. Provocatively, he opines that liberal Christianity is good at criticizing the Church and that conservative Christianity is good at energizing it. The two sides hold the related priorities of the compassion/justice of God and the freedom of God, respectively.

Moses is a prophet who calls out to the people of God in a
We read this as a part of of our theology and culture book group. There is a preface to the new edition (the first edition was published in 1978) that I found really helpful--"... the enmeshment of the United States church in the raging force of globalization and easy accommodation of church faith and practice to consumer commodification makes the urgency of "prophetic consciousness" palpable among us…"

For the most part, I really liked it. The role of lament and grief in penetrating the numbness
Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination provides a crucial interpretative lens and theoretical framework from OT (Moses, Kings David vs. Solomon, Jeremiah, and Isaiah) to NT (Jesus) in order to renew the prophetic tradition of lamentation (present) and praise (future), from Biblical to contemporary poetry and prose, as actual breakthrough and com-passion and non-violent resistance against the obdurate predominance of the authorities, oppressors, policymakers, and powerful as evidenced in ...more
C.H.E. Sadaphal
The bottom line: A revolutionary work of theological insight that inspires and transforms perceptions of reality.

The Prophetic Imagination simultaneously challenges the reader to rethink their current discernment of reality while illuminating an alternative consciousness that the Biblical prophets so vigorously championed. Brueggemann accomplishes this task by highlighting the initial paradigm-shifting, radical vision of Moses, and then extends his analysis through David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremi
Brueggemann's book helped reveal the oppressive structures present during the Old Testament period that I had previously been blind to prior (especially during David and Solomon's reign). It also reveals the OT prophets fight for peace and justice which continues to offer alternatives for todays believers against the oppressive powers that be in our own day.
I do like Brueggemann, but thought this book was very repetitive. I did like his core message about prophets not predicting the future, but helping people understand how to cope in present circumstances.
Brueggemann is a refreshingly brilliant OT scholar who wrestles with the text and draws scarily prophetic application. This book really makes me take a hard look at the dominant cultural script in America.
This was required reading for my class...ummm, not the most captivating read...although there were some thought-provoking parts in the area of how we approach ministry...
This book is jacking up my understanding of what it means to ministry, serve, and be. Where did All the flowers go?

I wrestle with these words...
Ed Bastien
Outstanding presentation of what prophecy looks like in Scripture and how it can be applied today.
Marianne Ogden
This is an important read for those who care about both thoeology and art.
Anna Wagner
One of the best books I read in Seminary.
I have such mixed feelings about this book! The general thesis that the prophets engaged in criticism and energizing through an appeal to imagination (and that modern Christians should do likewise!) is very thought-provoking. However, his interpretation of the prophets depends too much on modern liberation theology (or something like it), and seems forced on the prophets. I believe they saw idolatry, rather than a "royal consciousness," as the real bane of Israel's religion. The latter is a resu ...more
Adam Ross
I had a lot of trouble with this book. I wanted to like it given how many people in so many corners have commended it to me. And there is true insight here, but I feel those insights are concealed by a theological project that cannot be maintained. Suffice it to say that when I read the prophets I do not see what he sees. This is likely my own failing, and if he is right I want to know it.

Nevertheless, his position is that the Kingship in Israel was a step backwards from the Mosaic "revolution"
Classic Brueggemann.

We need to quit imagining prophets as only foretellers or social / political protesters, because "Most of all, [prophets] understood the distinctive power of language, the capacity to speak in ways that evoke newness 'fresh from the word.'" Newness that springs from trustfully covenanting rather than frantically consuming. An alternative way of being that emerges from being satisfied with relative scarcity that's actually shalom-full "enough" for everyone in the community.

Jeremy Garber
Walter Brueggemann makes the case that the essential role of the prophet – both biblically and in contemporary times – is to revive the memory of the community that they serve and to provide an alternative imagination that rejects the oppressive worldview that surrounds them. The call for the prophets was to remember both the pain and the promise of a universe in which God was an active and dynamic force rather than the static worldview of the surrounding cultures. Bruggemann interestingly and a ...more
Walter Brueggemann’s book “The Prophetic Imagination” is a book that addresses a worthwhile subject but proposes all the wrong answers. He contends that the contemporary American church is “so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or to act.” I can hardly quarrel with his premise. The problem I have with Brueggemann is that his book doesn't provide any biblically sound answers.

Bruggermann's reading of the prophets loses sight of God’s purpo
Disorganized thoughts and a messy attempt at creating a new lingo make the first 60ish pages a drag. The author has a nasty habit of explaining the simpler things repeatedly while leaving the more complex up to the reader to decipher. Around the middle of the book, if one is so patient and enduring, there's the reward of lightened conversation and hope and more new lingo, this time an attempt to clarify instead of rename. Brueggemann refers to prophecy as the "ministry of imagination." Poets hav ...more
David Campton
The cover note on this book suggest that Brueggeman writes in a “popular, conversational style” but there are not many conversations I have had that are as profound as the ideas discussed in this book… and indeed I would argue that Brueggeman’s prose has a poetic tone to it, possibly reflecting the prophetic texts that he wrestles with in this brief but important book. It was originally written over 30 years ago, but is even more relevant today, as it deals with the prophet’s role in not only cr ...more
Kevin Hoag
The problem is stated immediately; on page one I read, “The contemporary American church is so largely enculturated to the American ethos of consumerism that it has little power to believe or to act.” No mincing of words here!

At the heart of Brueggemann’s argument is the church’s need to recognize the freedom of God, in whose image we are created. The prophetic ministry nourishes a consciousness and perception alternative to the dominant culture. The claims of empire are “ended by the alternativ
Bryan Kibbe
An excellent book detailing the nature of prophetic ministry in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Brugemann is specific in his analysis, and especially insightful in articulating the twofold ministry of the the prophets to both criticize royal power and energize the marginalized for a future marked by hope. Significantly, Brugemann does not consign prophetic imagination to be a relic of the past, but instead excavates its distinctive features from Judeo-Christian scripture with the aim of motivatin ...more
I can't believe I haven't written a review for this-- took a couple years to finish it, but I had a lot of fun working through the second half during my off-hours in Iceland (I'm guessing I was through with it by April-- last memory of it was reading it in the section of Hjomalind dedicated to Marxist books, haha). Don't have time for anything in depth right now, b/c I would have to go back over it to refresh my memory, but I really liked his deconstruction of the "Royal Consciousness" and his a ...more
This book has been bandied about for years by folks whose opinions and hearts I respect, and yet it is only now that I get down to actually reading it. Perhaps it's been the term "prophetic", and my pre-cooked understandings of it, that has held me back for so long. Thankfully, He Who Loves Me is more patient than I am, and His plans always trump my own.

I have no doubt in my mind that God wants me to read this, and I do not say that lightly. Breuggeman is/was an Old Testament professor whose exp
Allan Tan
An incredible book, for me perhaps the most important book I've read this year.

Brueggemann, in steeping himself in the OT prophets and the psalms, looks seriously at the role of grief, lament, and tears (all of which Jesus expressed) in the prophetic office. These are not simply the actions an emotional person (or a "good" Christian), but Brueggemann offers that they are powerful acts of subversion that lead to newness of life. Only true anguish, groaning, weeping, lament, and death can lead to
Robyn Goodwin
Brueggemann so masterfully makes old testament theology personally convicting and practical. This book is a rare example of very rigorous intellectual exegetical theology made accessible to 'regular' Christians, in the pews (so-to-speak). So many theologians write for academia and other theologians, but not so here! I particularly loved his argument that we badly need poets, artists, and dreamers in order to overcome the numbing "forever" of the mortality-denying power-weiders... and the central ...more
Zach Perkins
This book is amazing for someone who is having trouble grasping the point of the Old Testament and the societal constructs of Israel. In everything, we see God giving freedom to the Israelites and them using this freedom as a license to go back to the old royal consciousness that kept them enslaved in the first place.

I also understand much clearer now how the Prophets of the Old Testament were not only the mouthpieces of God, but instruments of physical and social change. When a majority of the
This semester of Montserrat is called "Justice and the Prophetic Imagination," so this text really gets at the core of what we are studying. It was a hard book to get through, although it was an interesting analysis of importance of Biblical prophets and how there messages and actions are relative to our world today. For example, he spends a lot of time dissecting the alternative community of Moses. He also points to the fact that we live in a world dominated by a type of "royal consciousness" t ...more
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Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is the world's leading interpreter of the Old Testament and is the author of numerous books, including Westminster John Knox Press best sellers such as Genesis and First and Second Samuel in the Interpretation series, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christ ...more
More about Walter Brueggemann...
Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching Message of the Psalms Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now Theology Of The Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy

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“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that make it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” 3 likes
“Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.” 3 likes
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