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A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism: From Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs

, 2012
ISBN: 9780310517467



Modern Old Testament interpretation arose in an intellectual environment marked by interest in specific historical contexts of the Bible, attention to its literary matters, and, most significantly, the suspension of belief. A vast array of scholars contributed to the large, developing complex of ideas and trends that now serves as the foundation of contemporary discussions on interpretation. In A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism, Mark Gignilliat brings together the theories of Baruch Spinoza, W. M. L. de Wette, Julius Wellhausen, Hermann Gunkel, and others to serve as windows into the critical trends of Old Testament interpretation in the modern period. This concise overview is ideal for classroom use. It lays the foundation of Old Testament criticism and provides a working knowledge of the major critical interpreters of the Old Testament, their approaches to the Bible, and the philosophical background of their positions. Each chapter concludes with a section for further reading, directing students to additional resources on specific theologians and theories.

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“In essence, Spinoza’s approach to biblical interpretation brought together the following assumptions: (1) The Bible is a product of human history and evolution and is to be read in the light of its natural history, and (2) philosophy and theology must be understood as two distinct disciplines. The former discipline has to do with truth, and the latter with morality. For Spinoza, ‘the natural light of reason’ became the primary lens for reading the Bible and negotiating its claims.” (Page 15)

“The Old Testament becomes a source for the reconstruction of the ancient world of the Hebrews and, more importantly, a source for understanding ancient Israel’s religion as found in their own religious expression.” (Page 88)

“The Pentateuch, along with the Torah and its cultic instructions, is, according to de Wette, actually the product of the monarchical period of Israel’s history.” (Page 54)

“The study of the Old Testament after de Wette would never be the same. The historical critical study of the Old Testament is henceforth identified primarily as an engagement with Israel’s history of religion. A major division between the canonical history of Israel and the empirical history of Israel is established. The text of the Old Testament is no longer a continuing witness of divine revelation but is now a source for the critical retrieval of Israel’s religious history. Or in other terms, the study of the Bible became the historically conditioned study of ancient Israel’s religion.” (Pages 55–56)

“It is important to come to terms with Spinoza because his work sets a trajectory for the modern-critical approach to Old Testament exegesis.” (Page 16)

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Mark Gignilliat (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews) is Professor of Divinity Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Alabama and teaches Hebrew, Old Testament exegesis and Old Testament theology. His most recently published Reading Scripture Canonically: Theological Instincts for Old Testament Interpretation and Micah in the International Theological Commentary. His other books include A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism and Karl Barth and the Fifth Gospel. Additionally, he has articles published in Scottish Journal of Theology, Horizons in Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Journal, Biblica, and The Journal for Theological Interpretation. He also serves as the canon theologian at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama.


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