Twenty-five years ago, when I returned home from four years of graduate study in Europe, the area within the field of Old Testament which held the least attraction for me was Introduction. I supposed that most of the major problems had already been resolved by the giants of the past. Even allowing for the inevitable process of refinement and modification, could one really expect anything new in this area? I was content to leave the drudgery of writing an Introduction to someone else with more Sitzfleisch.
Two decades of teaching have brought many changes in my perspective. Having experienced the demise of the Biblical Theology movement in America, the dissolution of the broad European consensus in which I was trained, and a widespread confusion regarding theological reflection in general, I began to realize that there was something fundamentally wrong with the foundations of the biblical discipline. It was not a question of improving on a source analysis, of discovering some unrecognized new genre, or of bringing a redactional layer into sharper focus. Rather, the crucial issue turned on one's whole concept of the study of the Bible itself. I am now convinced that the relation between the historical critical study of the Bible and its theological use as religious literature within a community of faith and practice needs to be completely rethought. Minor adjustments are not only inadequate, but also conceal the extent of the dry rot.
It is also clear to me that the issues at stake cannot be accurately described with the traditional categories of 'liberal' and 'conservative'. My dissatisfaction has been just as strong with the approach on the 'left' of Wellhausen, Gunkel, and Eissfeldt, as it has been with that on the 'right' of Hengstenberg, Vigouroux, and Cassuto. Nor have the countless mediating positions of Delitzsch, Lagrange, Kaufmann, Engnell, and Albright reached to the heart of the prob-