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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2006

14 - The prophetic books

from Part 2 - Biblical books in modern interpretation


Throughout the history of biblical interpretation, readers have understood the prophetic books in a variety of different ways and have employed a variety of different tools to interpret them. This plurality of understandings and interpretations has been due largely to the fact that the books themselves are highly diverse and complex. Although all of them except Jonah are primarily collections of prophetic oracles interspersed with a few narratives about their prophetic authors, each book has a distinctive literary style and history and reflects its own particular set of concerns. This diversity has historically provided readers with support for a wide range of interpretative options and has caused many contemporary biblical scholars to exhibit extreme reluctance to generalize about how the prophetic books are to be understood. Even when such generalizations are made, there is little scholarly agreement about the nature and interests of the prophetic books or about the proper way to interpret them. Contemporary scholarship on this literature provides examples of most of the approaches traditionally taken by general readers and then augments these approaches with a number of others that have not yet reached the non-specialist.