I have been a fan of Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of biblical studies from Columbia Theological Seminary, since I encountered him through his text 'Theology of the Old Testament', which formed the basis of a course I took my first year in seminary. Brueggemann has a clear and strong writing style, coupled with definite and innovative ideas about the development of the Hebrew Scriptures as they have come to us.
Brueggemann looks at things from a canonical perspective, ordering the books differently from what most Christians would be used to in their Bibles. Starting with the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, he then proceeds through the prophets and then to the writings. following the canon of the Hebrew bible, and a more likely ordering of original authorship. While all texts have gone through a processes of being handed down, often edited/redacted in the process, their original ideas or events occurred in a particular order.
Brueggemann gives due respect to Brevard Childs and his ideas of canonical criticism while recognising that this can become a limiting tool, and so Brueggemann introduces the idea of imagination as a counter. True to form from his early text 'Theology of the Old Testament' and other texts, Brueggeman looks for the truth that resides in the tension between, in this case, in the tension between the normative and the imaginative becoming of the community.
Brueggemann brings in the wide range of biblical scholars in the course of his study, ignoring very few noted names along the way. This makes his text an ideal book for introductory courses in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament for undergraduates and seminarians. Brueggemann also puts forward his own interesting arguments and interpretations for consideration. The study of the text requires considerations that are historical, theological, literary, social/cultural, and more. These are all dealt with, but in a manner different from most texts.
The three broad sections of the text follow the Tanakh --Torah, Prophets, and Writings. This presents yet another tension for Brueggemann -- the tension between the historical claims and the canonical claims, which also become different from Jewish and Christian perspectives, and even within different Christian traditions. The development of scripture over time, Brueggemann states, is not a neutral academic process, but one in which formative processes and intentions have played a key role, but in which many of these underlying pieces have disappeared from historical view, and are generally absent from the direct text. Brueggemann sets up yet another tension between the ideas of imagination, ideology and inspiration, showing how ideas of these change over time, forming our interpretative paradigms along the way.
Brueggemann calls upon the church to take up a traditioning process, one that is disciplined and faithful, one that avoids both 'confessional closure' on the one hand and 'rationalistic impatience' on the other. In his conclusion, Brueggemann's faith in the scriptures comes through as one that continues the idea of re-imagining and traditioning in a decidedly Reformed framework; nevertheless, he finds fellow travelers in the likes of Roman Catholic Fr. Raymond Brown, who is quoted near the end as saying 'in the scriptures we are in our Father's house where the children are permitted to play.'