A fresh wave of studies on the prophets has appeared in recent years. Old Testament scholar Christopher R. Seitz has written Prophecy and Hermeneutics as a way of revisiting, from the ground floor up, what gave rise to studies of the prophets in our modern period. In addition, Seitz clearly shows that a new conceptuality of prophecy, hermeneutics, history, and time is needed--one that is appropriate to current views on Isaiah and the Twelve. Scholars, students, professors, and theological libraries will find this an essential foundational resource.
|Customerreview||Not an Introduction to the Prophets
This is NOT an "Introduction to the Prophets," as the title and the blurbs imply. It is rather a book about what an introduction to the prophets should be. It is decidedly not for the general reader, even for the general reader with some knowledge of the OT. The author assumes that readers already have in-depth knowledge of the 12 minor prophets.
Understanding prophetic literature through canonical links
Seitz has written a provocative volume on how the prophets have been understood in the modern past and how more recent scholarly challenges should change that. His basic point is that past analysis has emphasized a hypothetically accepted arrangement of the prophets based on history above the accepted canonical order. He believes that the canonical order should be given equal weight, actually greater priority, over such historical/chronological reconstructions. A telling illustration for Seitz is the location of introductions to the prophets in libraries, some among the histories of Israel and some in the canonical (books of the Bible) sections. For Seitz this illustrates the quandary.
The author sets the stage by viewing hermeneutical approaches through the eyes of several past scholars who wrote on the prophets. Greatest emphasis is give to Von Rad because Seitz, in part agrees with Von Rad's insights but also because he sees limitations in Von Rad's hermeneutic. His assessment of Von Rad's contributions and limitations is concise and well worth reading; it is certainly one of the better.
For Seitz, historical reconstructions of the prophets are speculative and fail to pay attention to canonical links created by later writers. Working with the received canonical order offers a significant starting place for assessing interpretive clues to each book. In short, one should pay more attention to the links between books in the canon that assumed chronological reconstructions. Or as Seitz says, "historical approaches have not sufficiently comprehended the impact of the canon and the final shaping of the prophetic materials as itself historically crucial," 99. Seitz does not reject historical background but wants to emphasize canonical connection over historical arrangement.
The author then illustrates his thesis with reference to the Minor Prophets or the book of the Twelve. While the author makes some good points he seems to assume that such canonical links will be readily identified and accepted. Little discussion is given to the subjectivity of accepting such links or the weight one should place on them. While some seem to be obvious (he frequently refers to his own work on the sections of the book of Isaiah as an example) they, too may be driven by the interpreter's presuppositions. Given authors that often shared similar cultural and religions norms, a similar language base, and similar structures such links should be expected.
If you are looking for a book on the hermeneutics of the prophets this is not the book. If you a seeking an illustration of how literary and canonical studies have influenced the interpretation of the prophetic literature in relationship to tradition history then read Seitz's work.
Excellent Theology: In Need of an Editor
Christopher Seitz offers an exciting contribution to biblical studies. It affects not merely the prophetic corpus, but both canons of Christian Scripture. Seitz uses the Minor Prophets ("The Twelve") to pioneer a new way of approaching and appreciating the prophets (and ultimately the biblical canon). The first half of his book surveys the history of such a task with special attention paid to Gerhard von Rad. He identifies a common approach on the part of both conservative and higher critical scholars--that of reconstructing the order of the prophets by historical context or provenance--and points out the weaknesses of this approach when used exclusively. The second half of the book builds off of the research begun by scholars in the last ten years and demonstrates how the canonical shape of the Book of The Twelve is theologically and hermeneutically significant.
This book has a great deal to offer theologically, and on that basis it deserves a five star rating. However, the book lacks a much needed bibliography, one that would help direct us to these scholars of the past ten years who have been active in arguing along the lines Seitz does in his book. The footnotes are appreciated, but they simply aren't enough. The book also needed to undergo another stage of editing before it went off to print. It reads as though the editing phase was rushed through. This is unfortunate from an aesthetic perspective, but in the end it doesn't seem to hurt the argument. Even though I removed a star for format and editing, the book deserves and demands to be read in the present climate of biblical interpretation and hermeneutics! This will not only influence the way you read the Minor Prophets, but also Isaiah, the Gospels, and the entire biblical canon.
It is unfortunate that the first reviewer gave three stars and then admitted he needed to reread the book. He should have done so before he reviewed the work publicly.
Plowing New Ground
I have great respect for Christopher R. Seitz and I am a big fan of his. I have read two of his other books and I have read several contributions by him contained in other books. He is simply brilliant, a scrupulous scholar, and his point of view is based primarily on the Canonized Holy Scriptures although he is not afraid to gain insights from other sources of information. This particular book plows new ground and therefore is not as easy to read as some of his earlier work. I need to re-read it. I think its worth the time and effort. In this effort, he is working with other pioneers to enlarge both our knowledge and perspective. Perhaps, when I re-read "Prophecy and Hermeneutics," I can add another star or two to my rating, but I am a tough grader, so do not think I am implying this is just a mediocre effort.
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