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The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Overtures to Biblical Theology) [Paperback]

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Item description for The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Overtures to Biblical Theology) by Terence E. Fretheim, Terence E. Frethheim & Walter Brueggemann...

In this comprehensive and thought-provoking study, Terence Fretheim focuses on the theme of divine suffering, an aspect of our understanding of God which both the church and scholarship have neglected. Maintaining that "metaphors matter," Fretheim carefully examines the ruling and anthropomorphic metaphors of the Old Testament and discusses them in the context of current biblical-theological scholarship. His aim is to broaden our understanding of the God of the Old Testament by showing that "suffering belongs to the person and purpose of God."

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Fortress Press
Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.51" Width: 5.53" Height: 0.56"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 1984
Publisher   Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Series  Overtures To Biblical Theology  
ISBN  0800615387  
ISBN13  9780800615383  

Availability  143 units.
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More About Terence E. Fretheim, Terence E. Frethheim & Walter Brueggemann

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Terence E. Fretheim (ThD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Elva B. Lovell Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught for over fifty years. He is the author of more than twenty books, including commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, First and Second Kings, and Jeremiah and "God and World in the Old Testament," "The Suffering of God," and "The Pentateuch."

Terence E. Fretheim currently resides in the state of Minnesota.

Terence E. Fretheim has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Exploring Christian Faith
  2. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary
  3. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching & Preaching
  4. Interpreting Biblical Texts
  5. Overtures to Biblical Theology
  6. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary
  7. Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic
  8. Westminster Bible Companion

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Faith
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Overtures to Biblical Theology)?

Best Book I've Read!!  Feb 14, 2008
Others have aptly reviewed this book. Personally, this book has helped me view God as a loving Father in the OT and NT, and it has enhanced my prayer life!!! Must read for any undergraduate, seminary, or Ph.D. student!!!

If you are an Old Testament professor, this book would challenge and transform your students subconscious, faulty assumptions about God in the OT and I would venture to say it would transform their personal relationship with God--it did mine!!!
Rediscovering Jesus' "Papa God" in the Old Testament  Oct 5, 2007
This is the most important book I read in seminary because it has fundamentally changed my idea of God. Like most Christians, I was raised to picture the God of the Old Testament as a holy, transcendent God, perennially angry and punitive, distant and strict. I was a closet Marcionite in the respect that my image of the God of the Old Testament was discontinuous with the God Jesus calls Father. As Fretheim says
. . . the picture of Jesus presented often stands at odds with the commonly accepted picture of God. Attributes such as love, compassion, and mercy, accompanied by acts of healing, forgiving, and redeeming, tend to become narrowly associated with Jesus, while the less palatable attributes and actions of holiness, wrath, power and justice are ascribed only to God. . . . Jesus is friend and God is enemy . . . the atonement gets twisted so that Jesus is seen as the one who came to save us from God. [Fretheim, 2]
In The Suffering of God Fretheim wants to lift up Old Testament metaphors for God, particularly those that have been neglected, like nonmonarchical images that show a God more in line with the New Testament, a God so involved with humanity that God suffers with and for humanity. In order to do this, Fretheim rehabilitates anthropomorphic metaphors for God that have been discredited by Old Testament scholarship since Philo, in particular by scholarship that wants to focus on God as transcendent, immutable, free, sovereign monarch and therefore essentially "other" than human. In the continuity of anthropomorphic metaphors throughout the Old Testament, Fretheim sees an indirect but continuous portrayal of a God who gets ever closer to humanity until finally this God becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ. "In the incarnation, God has acted anthropomorphically in the most supreme way." [Fretheim, 6] By focusing in The Suffering of God on these neglected anthropomorphic metaphors, Fretheim wants to expand the number and kind of metaphors we use "so that our operative fund of them will be more congruent with the biblical witness and our experience of God in the world." [Fretheim, 9] In addition, Fretheim believes that these neglected metaphors are really canon within the canon and that they can help us interpret the whole of the Bible and bring together our thinking about seemingly polar opposites, like God's sovereignty and God's grace [Fretheim, 11]. Fretheim essentially redefines God's freedom, God's ability to change, how much God knows, and how God exercises power in the world by showing a God in continuous relationship with humanity from the very beginning.
. . . the Old Testament reveals a fundamental continuity between God and world. God is graciously present, in, with, and under all the particulars of the creation, with which God is in a relationship of reciprocity. The immanent and transcendent God of Israel is immersed in the space and time of this world. Such a perspective reveals a divine vulnerability, as God takes on all the risks that authentic relatedness entails. Because of what happens to that relationship with those whom God loves, God suffers. [Fretheim, 78]
Across the chapters of The Suffering of God Fretheim has delineated throughout the Old Testament a gradual intensification of the way God is present in and for the world. God is getting closer and closer, desirous of ever increased intimacy, until finally in Jesus Christ, God becomes one with humanity. As the last sentence in the book states, "God's act in Jesus Christ is the culmination of a longstanding relationship of God with the world that is much more widespread in the Old Testament than is commonly recognized" [Fretheim, 166]. Recognition of this image of a suffering, relational God in the Old Testament is Fretheim's purpose in writing this book. Fretheim characterizes God's choice to be in relationship to the created order as a "relationship of reciprocity" [Fretheim, 35]. What is more, Fretheim sees this God-World reciprocity as the predominant Old Testament perspective!
That is an exciting concept to someone who [in spite of familiarity with good Reformed thinking about a God involved in history] was more accustomed to thinking of the God of the Bette Midler song "From a Distance." The Old Testament God Fretheim documents is a God who has chosen to be involved in human history, in time and space, and is affected and can change because of this involvement. This is a God who listens to humans, who holds back judgment, who makes room for an unknown future based on the response of humans. This is not some great puppet master in the sky sadistically toying with us. This is definitely Jesus' Abba who treats us with integrity and profound love, and therefore a God I can respond to in the same way.
Fretheim has essentially given me back a whole God, a God for everybody no matter what gender or race or status in life. Fretheim's ideas of continuity and "canon within the canon" I find to be a more positive way of approaching the Old Testament than the feminist hermeneutic of suspicion. This approach allows me to accept more of the questionable passages of the Old Testament. Even in the wrathful warrior God, the God of the flood, the destroyer of Sodom and Gomorrah, I can now see the kind of God Jesus could call father and whom I, by adoption, can call father too.
Anticipates Open Theism  Jun 9, 2006
Many of the other reviews have already covered the strengths of this book, and I would join them in highly recommending it. I was first introduced to Fretheim's work some years ago in a class on Luther's theology of the cross, a theological tradition I think triumphal evangelicalism could benefit from reading. But having recently re-read the book, I was taken aback at how Freitheim's view of God anticipates the Open Theist arguments of Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, and John Sanders by almost a decade. In many ways, Freitheim's book is better suited to presenting an Open Theistic view of things because he does so without the baggage that Open Theism now seems to carry in the evangelical community.

In any case, if your vision of God is one of a detached and cold First Mover, or of an angry Lawgiver and Judge, then I suggest you read this book as well as Kazoh Kitamori's Theology of the Pain of God. It may do you a world of good.
Expands your Perspective on God  Jan 25, 2005
This is a wonderful book that explores how God relates to the world. It focuses on issues and passages that are almost always skipped over by preachers and scholars. So prepare to be shocked. I've the entire OT several times, but I guess I didn't realize what I was reading or read over it too quickly. For examples, he lists several passages where it talks about God crying. Amazing!
How does God feel?  Oct 22, 2004
As other reviewers have noted, the idea of God's vulnerability is often overlooked in church and theological conversations - the immutability of God and omnipotence of God would seem to contradict the idea of a God who feels, much less suffers, in the way the human beings can understand. Fretheim's wonderful text, part of the Fortress Press series of Overtures to Biblical Theology, explores images and situations found in the Hebrew scriptures that would indicate and illustrate this aspect of the divine.

Fretheim writes about God's relationship with the world - this includes aspects such as human understanding of God (anthropomorphic metaphors), the reality of God's relationship, God's internal relationship with the world, foreknowledge, and God's suffering. Fretheim expands upon this idea significantly - God is a God who suffers because, with, and for creation.

God's suffering because of creation has to do with the idea of covenant and relationship - much of the narrative of the Hebrew scripture is built upon the covenants God makes with humanity (the implicit covenant from the Garden of Eden, the explicit covenants with Noah and Abraham, etc.). The call of the prophets and the lamentations and sorrowful psalms all speak to the breach of these covenants, particularly the covenant of Abraham, and how this causes God to suffer. Fretheim uses passages such as the text of the prophet Hosea to show that God is not like a military leader or political leader dealing with insubordination or rebellion, but more like a loving parent dealing with a troublesome child. Fretheim states that this takes more of the image of mother than father.

God's suffering with the people has roots in the Exodus story, but carries forward in many situations through the narrative strand. 'God sees the suffering from the inside,' Fretheim states. God is not powerless in this situation, but God is intimately aware of the suffering of the people, and this has great implications for later understanding of God. Fretheim shows that this suffering-with is not reserved just for the Israelites - in Isaiah and Jeremiah, God's weeping and mourning for Moab is significant.

God also suffers for the people - while this takes on dramatic form in Christian contexts, where Jesus takes on the suffering for all people, the idea of God taking on the weight of sin and suffering for the wrong-doing of the people is also present in the Hebrew scriptures, particularly in the suffering servant imagery, but also elsewhere.

The comparison with Rabbi Abraham Heschel's monumental work, 'The Prophets', is very apt; companionship with authors such as Reinhold Niebuhr and William Placher ('Narratives of a Vulnerable God') are also worthwhile explorations. This book will expand the way God is understood in dramatic, and dramatically human, ways.


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