Carl's Reviews > The Prophetic Imagination

The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann
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's review
Mar 16, 11

bookshelves: christianity
Read in April, 2009

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 analysis of the role of the "Prophetic Imagination", including the work of hope and the work of mourning, in the Old Testament as well as the Gospels. Not everyone will feel comfortable with this book-- it takes a critical view of the temple, for example (as opposed to the tabernacle)-- but I think it works. But that's probably a very big discussion right there, and you would have to read the book first. I also will not say whether I agree with all of Breuggemann's theology outside this book (also another discussion), but I will say that I am inclined to respect his opinion b/c he shows himself to be a very competent scholar-- and I appreciate how this book holds up much better than most Biblical criticism in the world of post structuralist theory, even though (if I remember correctly) he laments in his introduction that he wrote this book before he became fully aware of the post structuralist turn in Biblical studies. Well, anyway, fascinating book, whether or not you like all the parts. Apparently an early articulation of Breuggemann's theme of a "unsettling God", a God who escapes and even undermines our ideological constructions. Particularly relevant for understanding Moses, the Prophets (esp. Isaiah and Jeremiah, if I remember correctly) and Jesus (from the Christian perspective, obviously, as a sort of culmination of the "Prophetic Imagination"-- Moses again, and for good this time.

Anyway, obviously I recommend this for other Christian readers, but I believe it would hold up as a "reading" of the prophetic thread throughout Biblical literature for anyone interested. Wish I could comment on how it relates to contemporary Biblical crit., though-- I can see connections to NT Wright's work (though I should note that they apparently differ quite dramatically in their stance on homosexuality, at least-- don't know about other things). I have heard a PhD in Near Eastern lit. argue that there are two poles in the Old Testament, the Prophetic pole and the Apocalyptic pole-- I would like to read her dissertation now to catch up on the latter, but it might be too specialist for me...
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