Bible Review 11:6, December 1995

Bible Books

The World of the Text and the World of the Interpreter

A Social Reading of the Old Testament: Prophetic Approaches to Israel’s Communal Life

Walter Brueggemann (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994) 328 pp., $18

The primary thrust of this anthology is that every aspect of the biblical text has a social dimension: in its composition, transmission and interpretation down to the present moment. Walter Brueggemann relentlessly plays upon the interaction between the social world of the text and the social world of the interpreter. He wants us to understand that there is no “naked” or “innocent” text, since all writing—especially Scripture—is freighted with presuppositions both in the texts themselves and in their subsequent interpretation by diverse communities.

Brueggemann does not think there is any way to escape this multivalence of biblical texts and biblical interpreters. He embraces it and, in doing so, tries to understand how a variety of vested social interests were at work in composing and preserving biblical texts in the first place and how vested interests continue to operate in the way these texts are interpreted today. He strives to take seriously the social implications and consequences of particular readings of the Bible.

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