Studying scripture demands dialogue.
The many voices in scripture form a dialogue with readers, which produce theological truths that are larger than the individual parts. This introduction is informed by both literary theory and theology. It groups sections of the whole Bible together by genre. Each section identifies and describes the genre (such as historiography, poetry, prophecy, gospel, letter, apocalypse), and then moves into a discussion about the literary characteristics and theological insights.
The words of scripture not only come a long way to find us but like a poem must be read with attention. Poetry doesn’t yield meaning easily, and it doesn’t promise to make sense. We know to look past the words on the page and find the images, tropes, sounds, and metaphors that are meaning-full. This type of writing invites, rather demands, the imagination. We must accept that we will only get so close, but that this is close enough. Our imagination spans the gaps left by sparse language and incomplete narratives. We return again and again, with more information and perhaps more experiences. The words are the same, but we are not; and for that reason there are always new discoveries.
“At last, an introduction that students will enjoy reading, because it is at once engaging, informative, and eye-opening, as well as completely lucid. Fentress Williams shows how many books of the Bible reflect the experience of marginalized persons and communities in precarious situations, and therefore how they speak in ways both realistic and encouraging to contemporary readers. Do your students and yourself a favor: adopt this text and get ready for serious conversation about ancient texts that never go out of date.”
– Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School
Author Judy Fentress-Williams (AB Princeton; MDiv and PhD Yale) is Professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary since 2002 and taught previously at Hartford Seminary. She is the author of several publications, including the Abingdon Old Testament Commentary: Ruth.