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Reading the Old Testament: Method in…

Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study

by John Barton

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If cognitive dissonance didn't formerly describe your state of mind, anyone who is at all interested in struggling through the perspectives and epistemological bases of literary methods of biblical study will find their mind not only being stretched, but given a thorough shakeup by Barton. The book is incredibly enlightening by showing the circularity of various arguments, the assumptions and contexts around which they are based, and their relation to one another, but also incredibly stupefying in that it gives multiple answers to the basic questions that a biblical scholar and student is trying to ask. Each answer and method discussed are seen to have positive and negative aspects. And yet not every answer and method can be retained coherently. It is almost a book on philosophy. Despite being primarily concerned with the description, function, and goals of various literary methodologies (Source Criticism, Form Crit., Redaction Crit., Canon Crit., Structuralism, and New Crit.), it constantly brings to the foreground fundamental questions that inform our conclusions (like “how does one read a text?”, “what kind of literature, exactly, are biblical texts?”, “how do we know?”, “where does meaning come from?”, “can modern definitions adequately explain ancient texts?”, “does it even matter?”, and so forth). If on the one hand, a person is lead to uncertainty about how best to make sense of basic questions about texts and meaning, on the other hand, this makes biblical study all the more exciting because it throws wide the gates of past and present understanding to progressive, refreshing horizons and unknown possibilities. Through the search for a better methodology (not necessarily “the correct one”), the reader will find themselves not only viewing biblical texts in ways they never would have imagined, but rekindling the fire of their love for the literature. Two things I found immensely helpful were Barton's continual explication of how and why biblical study does not stand apart and alone from the rest of secular literary study and his basic proposal, which the entire book served to validate, that biblical study methods are not really part of the Sciences per say (although being modern, they make use of the scientific method), but are better described as part of the Humanities. The pitfall of this first edition is that it is not conversant with all the methods which have more recently come on scene such as Social-Scientific Criticism, Anthropological Crit., Post-Colonial Crit., Feminism, Reader-Response Crit., and so forth. Had the book been more up-to-date, it would have unquestionably earned the full five star rating (which I am not quick to render). If the second, updated edition displays the same constancy of erudition, Reading The Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study by John Barton would surely make the list of the most important or must-read introductory books on biblical study now available. ( )
  slaveofOne | Nov 21, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0664257240, Paperback)

One of the most reliable and helpful books on interpretive method is now available in a new and up-to-date edition. Firmly founded in the best scholarship, John Barton's Reading the Old Testament helps students to understand both the established methods of biblical study and the newer emerging trends.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:48 -0400)

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