Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 10:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

William P. Brown. A Handbook to Old Testament Exegesis. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017. xv + 363 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978–0664259938. $35.00.

“From start to finish, exegesis is a communal enterprise” (p. 5). These words from chapter 1 of A Handbook to Old Testament Exegesis capture William P. Brown’s claim that exegesis is dialogical. Brown is a well-respected exegete, publishing widely on Psalms, Wisdom Literature, and creation. He writes this volume as a classroom text in order to offer a “tell-and-show” introduction to the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible that attempts to draw together various exegetical approaches “in a way that cultivates the reader’s curiosity, critical engagement, and emphatic imagination” (p. ix).

Part I (chapters 1–3) theoretically and hermeneutically orients the reader to the task of exegesis explored in Parts II and III. Brown frames exegesis as a hermeneutical adventure of variously situated readers engaged in the relational and hence communal enterprise of reading, which necessarily involves not only an exegesis of the text but an exegesis of the self as well. As situated, all readers come to the text, he contends, with influences, convictions, and interests that shape how one reads a text. As a result, “any full exegesis of the text requires, in some form or manner, an exegesis of the self” (p. 4). And an exegesis of the self, according to Brown, is the necessary first step in a dialogical encounter with the text, which seeks not only what the text could have meant in its ancient context but also what the text may now mean in particular contexts and communities.

This familiar conception––what the text meant and what it means––summarizes well the content of Parts II and III. In Part II (chapters 4–13), Brown surveys a broad range of “analytical” approaches to interpretation that engage the world within the text before enquiring of the world behind the text. Chapters 4–8 cover approaches that deal with the present form of the Old Testament text, moving from translation and text criticism to stylistic and structural analysis. In chapters 9–12, he presents several approaches that investigate the text’s compositional prehistory, its place in the context of the ancient Near East, its literary development, and the historical machinations that produced and shaped such development.

He closes Part II with a presentation of “canonical analysis” (chapter 13), which he contends is primarily concerned with placing texts in dialogue with other texts that form the canon of a particular community (e.g., the canonical texts of the Jewish Bible, the Roman Catholic Bible, ...

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