James D. Nogalski – Interpreting Prophetic Literature: Historical and Exegetical Tools for Reading the Prophets

9780664261207_e144eThe prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, First or Old Testament) are difficult to read and interpret to many theology and Bible school students. Whether or not you end up as a paid professional serving local Christian congregations or have the chance to lead a small group or preach every now and then, you need tools for reading the prophets.

In the primer Interpreting Prophetic Literature: Historical and Exegetical Tools for Reading the Prophets, James Nogalski, offers an impressive kit to help you out. Rather than being an introduction to each and every prophetic book or containing verse-by-verse commentaries, it shows structures, parallels and linguistic concepts which are hidden when you only superficially read these books. As a tool for exegesis (what’s written here), and only introduce possible approaches to hermeneutics (how to apply the message), the book shows genres, protagonists, historical context and likely genesis of the scrolls.

Much attention is given to the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve minor prophets), composite collections containing speeches, commentary, narratives, and various poetic forms. The transmission, shaping, and updating of these materials into their final forms. A deep understanding of Hebrew is not required for this book. Nogaliski challenges his audience to read the prophets for themselves, watch for patterns, and decide what could be a good or better translation for a specific piece of text. It may surprise you how effective certain linguistic structures are, how little of the prophetic literature actually points (in)directly to Jesus Christ, and actually how relevant these ancient books are for contemporary congregations of believers.

About the author

James D. Nogalski is Professor and Chair of Graduate Studies in the Department of Religion at Baylor University. He has published numerous articles and books on the Old Testament prophets.

I received a free review copy from Westminster John Knox Press through Edelweiss in exchange for my personal, unbiased review.