Interpreting the Prophets

By James Luther Mays; Paul J. Achtemeier | Go to book overview

Foreword

“Indeed, the Lord GOD does not do anything without revealing his
decision to his servants, the prophets.”

This claim, found in Amos 3:7, is astonishing. It draws a direct connection between the purpose and plans of the Lord and the mission and message of prophets. It characterizes that connection with the term “reveal.” Amos's statement does not refer to prophecy as a religious institution or to prophets in general. Instead, it distinguishes a particular group of prophets from the rest: the ones who are God's “servants” receive the revelation.

The claim expresses an understanding of prophecy which led to the preservation and transmission of the words of certain prophets, to the formation of books bearing their name, and to the status of those books as Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. The books of the prophets are given different locations in the arrangements of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament, but in both they have a structural and indispensable place. Biblical religion would be inconceivable without its prophetic dimension. It becomes less than itself when the influence of its prophetic component is weakened.

The diligent study and interpretation of the prophetic books is the only way the prophets can have their proper and authentic effect. This volume of essays is designed as a contribution to that end.

The contents of this volume appeared originally as five issues of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology(1978-85) which were planned as a coherent series. The purpose of this volume is to offer students and interpreters a resource and companion to the study of the prophets that is somewhat different from the usual historical-critical introduction. Here the concerns of critical research and religious use of the prophets are brought together. Instead of developing one approach to the study of these prophetic books, these studies represent the dynamic variety of approaches pursued in the current study of the prophets. The authors make up a panel of scholars whose contributions to the study of prophecy mark them as the best available.

Knowing some of the other considerations that went into the plan for the series will be a help in assessing and using this volume. The general design will be clear to the reader. There is an introductory set of four studies (chaps. 1-4). The first two cover the historical development of Israelite prophecy in

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