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Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study
by John Barton
One of the most reliable and helpful books on interpretive method is now available in a new and up-to-date edition. Firmly founded in the best scholarship, John Barton's Reading the Old Testament helps students to understand both the established methods of biblical study and the newer emerging trends.
Paperback, 316 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
(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.