Christopher R. Seitz, Prophecy and Hermeneutics: Toward a New Introduction to the Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 253pp. + Indeces.

Since I won this book at the last NW ETS meeting I had been looking forward to reading it. As the descendant of Brevard Childs (academically speaking) Christopher Seitz has done amazing work in the area of canonical biblical interpretation. In this work especially, he takes Childs concept of canon and applies in a pan-biblical manner. So that it is not only important to look at the final form of each individual text, but it also important to look at the final form of the biblical canon as a whole.

Seitz divides his study into two parts. The first part, titled: The Overreach of History — Figuring the Prophets Out, is really an interaction with the concept/genre of an introduction to prophetic literature. What Seitz is arguing here is that the high view of the biblical prophetic works, as a genre has contributed to them being given “a kind of distinctiveness or sharp profile for themselves in respect of biblical theology, biblical history, and literary and canonical integration, which makes it difficult to relate them to one another or to understand them as an associated movement” (56). Thus, they have seemingly been figured out of the biblical picture and become a witness in and of themselves. He reviews the history of such books as ‘introductions to biblical prophecy’ and finds that there is a tendency to reconstruct the prophets historically, and treat them in attempted chronological order instead of trying to understand them as they are within the biblical witness.

Seitz’s major argument, in light of this history of treatment of the prophets is that the “presentation of the Major and Minor Prophets is its own kind of theological and historical statement” (90). Further more it is a statement “In its own form” (ibid.). In other words, biblical prophecy does not need to be historically reconstructed, or re-ordered based on chronology in order to be meaningfully interpreted.

The second section of Seitz work is titled: Time in Association–Reading the Twelve. Having made the case in an earlier part of the book that the Minor Prophets should be understood as the Book of the Twelve, i.e., twelve chapters of one book (see esp., 118-51), Seitz now extends his case with further study. He begins by a review of Von Rads work, of which he is both highly critical and highly appreciative. He appreciates both the importance of Von Rad and the importance of taking his view further into a canonical approach.

A major section of importance is his section on the shape of the twelve (204-19). He argues that Hosea is a logical introduction to the twelve and Malachi is a logical conclusion. This type of study begins to shed light on the major themes that develop from the Book of the Twelve which he identifies as: 1) God’s history as a providentially ordered whole; 2) Israel and the nations; 3) Models of obedience: Jonah, Habakkuk, and Joel. 4) Tradition-history; and 5) The character of God: just but patient, and patient but not without limit (214-16).

I think Seitz presentation of the prophets as whole is the way that the discipline will move. His view takes seriously the evident redaction within the promise (so in that sense he is still critical), but he takes very seriously the final redaction, i.e., the final form and ordering of the books (so he is still concerned with the final biblical witness). I highly recommend Seitz’ view of biblical prophecy and this book.

Advertisements