The Prophetic Literature: An Introduction

Article excerpt

The Prophetic Literature: An Introduction. By David L. Petersen. Louisville, Ky.; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. xii + 248 pp. $29.95 (paper).

David Petersen, professor of Old Testament at Iliff School of Theology and longtime student of ancient Israel's prophets, is eminently qualified to write this introduction. Beginning with a chapter that concisely but carefully defines the character of biblical prophetic literature, Petersen sets forth the issues central to its interpretation, including a helpful presentation of ancient Near Eastern prophecy. The primary audience for this volume, though not explicitly named, is clearly students who are reading or have read the Old Testament prophets and who wish to have a brief but solid overview of the nature of this literature.

Petersen systematically goes through the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, devoting over forty pages to each of these three major prophets. In these three chapters the historical context, literary structure and features, oracles concerning the nations, and theological issues found in each book are identified and selectively elaborated upon in commentary and illustration. Petersen makes judicious use of the history of scholarship when pertinent. He wants to give a balanced and comprehensive overview, but he is also ready to provide his own perspectives and point of view when he believes it best describes the character of the literature assessed. The book of the Twelve (or minor prophets) is treated in one chapter. After describing ways in which this collection may be seen as a unity, Petersen provides short descriptions of each book. An interesting and valuable chapter discusses prophetic literature as found in the rest of the Hebrew Bible (for example, the Elijah and Elisha materials, the seventy prophesying elders in Numbers 11, and so on). …