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The Prophetic Imagination

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  3,593 ratings  ·  187 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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Erin Thomas
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Eisele
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Marianne Ogden
Nov 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an important read for those who care about both thoeology and art.
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brueggemann's imagination about how to live out kin-dom continues to challenge me to expand my thinking process.
Adam Ross
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
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"
Aaron Guest
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, 2016, re-reads-2016
12/21/2016: read again. And can't think of a more penetrating, immediate must-read for "orphaned believers"-- to borrow the OtR lyric. Filled with insight and commentary on the OT that bears remarkable and necessary relevance to today.

6/22/2015: A book I will return to again and again.
Nov 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: biblical-studies
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
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
Alex Stroshine
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I absolutely love the cover, but alas, the book seemed to me tediously repetitive. One problem with a book like this, being as influential as it is (I wanted to like it!), is that a lot of its thought has already been filtered down through other books I have read. As others point out, there are also some questionable interpretations made by Walter Brueggemann regarding the biblical text; I cannot speak to that but it does feel like Brueggemann reads the present into the past. I do appreciate the ...more
Rafael Sales
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm without word on this book!

This book brings me a new way to see the suffering in the world and like a Christian how I might to embrace the grief and show the hope in Christ!

I recommend this book ever!
Morgan Bell
May 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brueggemann offers a stellar and sweeping biblical exegesis to build a prophetic ecclesiology ultimately grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
L O V E this one - it was not an easy read but it was like excavating one thought-provoking treasure after another.
Joe Reed
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry-reader
We need a generation to rise up and give the imagination of heaven... less noise of all that’s wrong with the way things are and more leadership to what is the heart of God.

Another mandatory read.
Erin Henry
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't think I can summarize this book better than the author can. He discussed the purpose of prophecy in the Bible and how it still applies now: "On the one hand, Jeremiah practices the radical criticism against the royal consciousness. He does this essentially by conjuring a funeral and bringing the grief of dying Israel to public expression. He does this to penetrate then umb denial of the royal community, which pretended that things must go on forever. On the other hand, Second Isaiah prac ...more
Cory Shumate
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insightful and timely

This has been on my list for a while. I regret I didn’t get to it sooner. WB lays out a theme of prophetic paradigm and speech that is really timely, given our current political climate. There’s so much to glean here as a pastor that I know I’ll be revisiting it again and again.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Walter Bruggemann's classic on the nature of the prophetic imagination is a must read for any preacher and really, just anyone interested in reading of the Bible.

His main insight is looking at Moses as the prototypical prophet, whose prophetic work expose structures of oppression (Egypt) but - and this is important - offered a counter-vision of community. This counters the tenancy to see the prophetic office as mere doom preachers and cynical critics. Prophesy is constructive.

Prophesy counters
Tamara Murphy
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's the sort of book I'd like to memorize. Brueggemann connects dots for me in an increasing tension I feel to communicate both lament and hope into the world -- and to my own soul. Where we have become polarized, Brueggemann offers prophetic clarity. It is possible to believe things strongly enough to counter culture's accepted wisdom, and to have imagination enough to offer an alternative, hope-filled reality.

As I read, I opened another gift in a corrected understanding of the meaning of pro
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"It is only a poem, and we might say rightly that singing a song does not change reality. However, we must not say that with too much conviction. The evocation of an alternative reality consists at least in part in the battle for language and the legitimization of a new rhetoric. The language of the empire is surely the language of managed reality, of production and schedule and market. But that language will never permit or cause freedom because there is no newness in it. Doxology is the ultima ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
I struggled with this book. A lot.

While I understand and respect Brueggeman’s position on prophecy - and agree - that a prophets call is both to criticize and encourage. I think it’s ignorant to make the judgment that it’s politically/socially motivated. It felt more like propaganda than anything. And this was infuriating because I was looking forward to this book.

What got me was his comment that God wanted to socially upheave Egypt. And Moses’ role was to basically tear down the social struct
Elizabeth Andrew
Nov 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Lately I've been wondering about the writer's role as prophet in our culture. Shouldn't part of our ministry be naming the evils of the empire, grieving the griefs of the people, and speaking to an alternative, life-giving reality? Walter Brueggemann's THE PROPHETIC IMAGINATION was a slog but was also helpful in answering my questions. Of course his understanding of prophecy is limited within the bounds of the church. But his careful reading of the work of Moses, Jeremiah, and Jesus is very inst ...more
Cara Cavicchia
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this read as I normally do with anything written by Brueggemann. Starting with Moses and ending with Jesus, Brueggemann argues that to be a prophet is not just to be a social activist but to create an alternative community altogether. It is the job of a prophet to wake people up who have been numbed by the current oppressive political paradigm. This awakening comes from cries of grief and acts of compassion. Compassion is not a passive act but signals social revolution as it ...more
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
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sooho Lee
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The frustrations of the fruits of royal consciousness--numbness, oppression, and hopelessness--infuriate the justice and freedom of God expressed through the prophetic figures of Moses, Jeremiah, Second Isaiah, and Jesus. To penetrate numbness, Jeremiah's prophetic lament embraces and enlivens those in pain. To resurrect hopelessness, Second Isaiah's prophesy of hope energizes those marginalized. Both prophetic ministries are most fully and clearly exhibited by Jesus's birth, life, death, and re ...more
Jordan Tomeš
"Prophetic ministry consists of offering an alternative perception of reality and in letting people see their own history in the light of God's freedom and his will for justice."

"[Mourning] is the only door and route to joy... Only the public embrace of deathliness permits newness to come."

A brilliant and refreshing book of accessible and relevant Old Testament theology. About forming communities of alternative consciousness, the transformative character of true grief, and finding radical energy
Patrick Walsh
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The message of this book deserves five stars, and the book deserves every reader it can attract and more. Although it was written in the 1970s the message could not be more appropriate for the United States in particular in 2017 and the English-speaking world in general. The only cavil is that the prose is dense in spots. Notwithstanding, this book should be on many Christians' short list for gaining perspective on current events.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Ben Murray
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Motivating and inspiring

Most pastors don't clearly make the connection between the prophetic task and their work. At least I didn't. This book helped me draw a direct connection from Moses to Jeremiah to Jesus. Then motivated me to identify with the marginalized as we seek to express grief as a means to embody joy.
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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

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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.” 23 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.” 16 likes
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