Nahum: Poet Laureate Of The Minor Prophets -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:4 (Dec 1990)
Article: Nahum: Poet Laureate Of The Minor Prophets
Author: Richard D. Patterson

Poet Laureate Of The Minor Prophets

Richard D. Patterson

Michael E. Travers*

“It has been said that the best reason for the serious study of the Bible—for learning how to read it well—is written across the history of Western culture: see what happens when people misread it, read it badly, or read it on false assumptions.”1 You may think that these words are taken from a systematic theology textbook or even from a sectarian tract. But they are not. They are written by Robert Alter (a Biblical scholar) and Frank Kermode (a literary critic) in the introduction to a book that considers the literary features of the books of the Bible. Their volume is only one of many recent publications by both Biblical and literary scholars that approach the Biblical writings in the light of their literary features. Never has Biblical criticism been more interested in and influenced by literary criticism than today.2

There is good reason for the recent resurgence of interest in literary criticism among Biblical scholars: The Bible is patently literary in its styles and forms, genres and rhetorical devices. To ignore the literary features of the Scriptures is to misread them. Alter comments further:

For a reader to attend to these elements of literary art is not merely an exercise in “appreciation” but a discipline of understanding: the literary vehicle is so much the necessary medium through which the Hebrew writers realized their meanings that we will grasp the meanings at best imperfectly if we ignore their articulations as literature.3

Christian literary critics are in an enviable position today. They have, as it were, “Praxed’s ear to pray,” their contributions to Biblical criticism never more welcome. As J. Maier notes: “The present moment in literary studies is valuable because it is intensely self-reflective.”4 Maier’s observation is more true today than it was ten years ago. English departments in such prestigious universities as Yale, Carnegie Mellon and Duke have entirely restructured their English majors along deconstructive or reader-response

* Richard Patterson is professor of Old Testament at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Michael Travers is professor of English at Grand Rapids Baptist College in Michigan.

lines.5 Both English and Biblical studies are undergoing significant self-scrutiny and redefinition at this time. ...

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