Item description for The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions (Second Edition) by Walter Brueggemann & Hans Walter Wolff...
Overview This book offers the best current handling of Pentateuchal traditions as they operated in the past and as they help the church now. Hans Walter Wolff sees Israel's faith tradition as a continuous kerygmatic response to a variety of cultural challenges. Walter Brueggemann introduces this dynamic view of tradition. Both authors approach the Pentateuch as a treasury of new expressions of faith resulting from conflicts between traditional formulas and changing social conditions. Today's church can remain spiritually alive only if its traditions continue to be as resilient as they were in the Old Testament community. Wolff and Brueggemann affirm that modern crises of faith should be met with fresh articulations in the manner of ancient Israel-- innovative and pertinent if they are strengthened by the relevance of the past.
This book offers the best current handling of Pentateuchal traditions as they operated in the past and as they help the church now. Hans Walter Wolff sees Israel's faith tradition as a continuous kerygmatic response to a variety of cultural challenges. Walter Brueggemann introduces this dynamic view of tradition. Both authors approach the Pentateuch as a treasury of new expressions of faith resulting from conflicts between traditional formulas and changing social conditions. Today's church can remain spiritually alive only if its traditions continue to be as resilient as they were in the Old Testament community. Wolff and Brueggemann affirm that modern crises of faith should be met with fresh articulations in the manner of ancient Israel-- innovative and pertinent if they are strengthened by the relevance of the past.
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.72" Width: 5.48" Height: 0.49" Weight: 0.56 lbs.
Release Date Dec 19, 1996
Publisher Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN 0804201129 ISBN13 9780804201124
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More About Walter Brueggemann & Hans Walter Wolff
Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary.
Walter Brueggemann has published or released items in the following series...
Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries
Augsburg Old Testament Studies
Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies
Interpretation: A Bible Commentary
Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching
Reviews - What do customers think about The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions (Second Edition)?
tradition criticism with panache Jan 2, 2006
Some books introduce the topic more clearly by analyzing its various components parts than by taking a standard survey approach. This is the case with Brueggemann and Wolff's excellent analysis of the Pentateuchal sources. Readers will discover in this slim volume a clear introduction to the standard `sources' of Pentateuchal criticism, but also a compelling presentation of form/tradition criticism in the tradition of G. von Rad.
The volume is an unconventional shared labor by the senior Wolff and Brueggemann, his appreciative interpreter. In his preface (pp. 1-9), the latter announces the authors' intention to write for the church and synagogue under the conviction that `every stratum of the Pentateuch represents a fresh sensing of vitality (hence the book's title) in the ancient traditions-revising faith for a new context when faith was sorely being tested and tried.' Over against the kind of objectivizing criticism that Brueggemann decries, we are promised the kind of exegesis that requires `a responding faith and a perceptive mind.'
This book is an artifact, but only if the description is taken with the appreciative warmth with which one regards a family treasure from a previous generation. That is, the form criticism that Wolff in particular practices is breathtaking in its self-confidence. Few would disentangle sources with the same assuredness today. As an exemplar of its type, however, each chapter displays admirable erudition and the occasionally devastating turn of phrase.
Brueggemann introduces the work by sketching the importance of tradition and the historical contingencies that press out of it fresh vitality for a subsequent generation (`Introduction: the word in particularity and power', pp. 11-12), then launches a neat survey of the trends that lead up to and nurture the kind of tradition history practiced in this volume (`Questions Addressed in Study of the Pentateuch", pp. 13-28). Wellhausen, Gunkel, and Albright come in for special mention as the respective fountainheads of the schools that so often bear their names. Von Rad is then honored for his attention to the kerygma that brings traditions into scriptural form, a matter of prevailing interest in the exegesis that Wolff and Brueggemann practice.
The following chapter (`Wolff's Kerygmatic Methodology', pp. 28-39) also does introductory duty, specifically by focusing upon Wolff's debt to von Rad. They ask the same question about the kerymatic concerns that `refashioned' texts and made them say something they did not originally mean to say. The concerns of both German scholars are rooted in the Confessing Church movement of the 1930s-deeply influenced by Barth-where a pressing need was felt to hear the text in the fresh and deeply discouraging moment in which National Socialism was consolidating its chill grip. Wolff seeks the text's latent meeting in the Pentateuch's narrative `strands' (Wellhausen's documents or sources), the reconstructed social contexts of which are briefly sketched. Brueggemann also prepares the reader for his own essay on P, the meaning of which he seeks out by giving pride of place to the narrative over the legal portions. Brueggemann's concluding words in this essay are fruitful for the preacher, teacher, or Bible reader who wants to find in the text something more than quaint old stories and who want to link that concern coherently with the intentionality of the ancient authors and/or editors.
Readers of von Rad will appreciate the shared concerns expressed in Wolff's `The Kerygma of the Yahwist' ( pp. 41-66). At least in translation, Wolff does not achieve the rhetorical power of von Rad or Brueggemann. Yet his delineation of the Yahwist's purpose and technique is enlightening, perhaps even endearing, at least insofar as the reader's interest include the massive contribution of German form criticism to biblical studies. Wolff outlines in some detail the ninth-century Sitz im Leben in he locates this epic historian. True to his tradition, Wolff finds the Yahwist's kerygma particularly in the `decisive transitions' that link the elements of his tradition. Focusing on Gen 12.1-3, Wolff exegetes the `bold transformation' that the Yahwist has made of the patriarchal studies in order to proclaim the Israel-as-blessing motif, a challenge to the self-confidence of the Solomonic era. For its part, the Sinai tradition(s) is (are) marginal in the Yahwist's narrative, precisely because they add so little to the blessing theme that Wolff regards almost as the hermeneutical key into the Yahwist's purpose.
Wolff has limited patience for those who minimize the Elohist's contribution to the Pentateuchal corpus, a point he makes in the opening sentence of his essay on the second strand: `There are still among us those who sit at their desks and murder the Elohist with their pens.' (`The Elohistic Fragments in the Pentateuch', pp. 67-82). Over against such assassination, Wolff argues for an independent narrative E strand that centers on the fear of God.
In `The Kerygma of the Deuteronomic Historical Work' (pp. 83-100), Wolff approves Noth's general approach to this `gigantic historical work' with its `astonishingly unified design'. Indeed, it is easy to overlook how little precedent this epic history of Israel enjoyed in its time. However, Wolff intends to reflect more deeply than Noth on DtrH's kerygmatic intentionality. He discards Noth's negative perception of DtrH's purpose as well as von Rod's inclination to see Davidic signification in the famous closing paragraph of 2 Samuel.
I find this the most satisfying of Wolff's essays in this book, perhaps because he allows for a complex intentionality on the part of the DtrH, an openness that seems lacking in, for example, his treatment of the Elohist. He paints a picture of an epic history that is meant to call Israel to repentance and turning (shuv), an option that is extended even to Israel in exile. This is a non-cultic return to covenantal agreement with Yahweh, a view that in its exclusion of cult perhaps makes too much of the text's relative silence on that score.
It is interesting to read Brueggemann as he wrote thirty years ago (`The Kerygma of the Priestly Writers', pp. 101-113. Several themes that he treated later in depth (e.g. landlessness) are there, as his fine way with a pen, though this is a much more restrained writer than the one who has since become perhaps the most prolific biblical theologian in history. Newcomers to critical methodology-as many veterans of the craft-will find the author's parsing of the pertinence of P's creation account to the circumstances of exile fascinating. Chaos as landlessness-an historical reading that does not deny the mythic provenance of Genesis 1.1-2.4 is seldom sketched in more illuminating fashion than in this brief chapter.
Brueggemann's concluding essay (`The Continuing Task of Tradition Criticism', pp. 115-126) shows how strongly this author believes that the issue of canon is more than just a clinical delineation of what's in and what's out. Rather, Brueggemann appears to see the dynamic vitality of canonical traditions as a paradigm for ongoing negotiation with culture from the point of view of incisive faith. That is, even though we stand outside the horizons of canon-closing, we stand very much with those on the inside in that we fall heir to vital faith traditions that must be possessed and rearticulated against the hot breath of fresh challenge.
Thirty years ago the Third Walter of 20-th century tradition criticism (after Walther Zimmerli and Hans Walter Wolff) could conclude this work with words that forecast a writing career of extraordinary breadth and vitality itself: `The vitality of the text is that it is indeed a live, dynamic partner in the dialogue with its believing, interpreting, transmitting partner, the Israel of God. The text as partner speaks not like a fortune cookie, fixed and predictable, but like a person, with an answer not expected, one which from time to time fills us with amazement. Remarkably, the vitality of the new disclosure in the old tradition is best discerned when his people find themselves in a strange land.'
sustaining the original vitality Apr 28, 2001
The Vitality of Old Testament Traditions is a collection of essays written by Walter Brueggemann and Walter Wolff. The subject of these essays is concerned with interpreting the text of the Pentateuch. These essays expand on the Documentary Hypothesis approach established by Julius Wellhausen, the theory that the text is a composite of documents from various time periods. The authors feel that Wellhausen and others were too concerned with scientific methodology and historical facts while dissecting the Pentateuch (or Hexataeuth, on up to the Enneateuch). The mood of the scholarship used by many in analyzing the hypothesis left the text with little authority and vitality, transforming the Bible into a lifeless specimen. Brueggemann hopes to avoid that tendency with his approach by sustaining the original vitality of the text. The essays by Wolff explore the kerygmatic focus of the J, D, and E sources, while Brueggemann makes use of Wolff's methods in his essay on the P source. Brueggemann's analysis of the central kerygma comes out of the narrative texts, while Wolff stresses law and genealogy portions of the text. Brueggemann writes with poetic style and his writing is rhetorically powerful. His, and Wolff's, Christian perspective is clear.