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The Old Testament as Literature

Foundations for Christian Interpretation

series: Approaching the Old Testament

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Tremper Longman has studied and taught the Old Testament and its interpretation for four decades. Now, in a planned three-book project, he presents his mature thoughts on three ways of approaching the Old Testament text: as literature, as history, and as a source of theology.

This first volume explores the importance of reading the Old Testament as literature. Each culture tells its stories and writes its poems in different ways. To read and understand the Old Testament texts the way the ancient authors intended, we need to be aware of the conventions of Hebrew storytelling and poetry that they used. In part 1, dealing with literary theory, Longman investigates how texts create meaning, the history of the study of the Old Testament as literature, and how genre dictates reading strategy. He explores the Hebrew conventions for both narrative and poetry in conversation with contemporary literary approaches. Parts 2 and 3 delve into practice, using the tools gained in part 1 to analyze and interpret a variety of Old Testament narratives and poetry.

Longman's accessible writing and balanced judgments make this book suitable for the classroom and the church.

Introduction: Scope and Procedure
Part 1: Literary Theory and the Conventions of Biblical Narrative and Poetry
1. The Location of Meaning
2. History of the Study of the Old Testament as Literature
3. Genre Triggers Reading Strategy
4. Narrative Prose as Genre
5. Poetry as Genre
6. Intertextuality
Part 2: The Analysis of Illustrative Prose-Narrative Texts
7. Literary Readings of Prose Narratives from the Torah
8. Literary Readings of Prose Narratives from the Historical Books
Part 3: The Analysis of Illustrative Poetic Texts
9. Literary Readings of Poetic Texts from the Psalms
10. Literary Readings of Poetic Texts from Wisdom Literature
11. Literary Readings of Poetic Texts from the Prophets and Epic Poetry
Postlude: The Old Testament as Literature


"For decades Tremper Longman has been teaching the Old Testament and writing about it in a thoughtful and lively way. This volume illustrates how he has immersed himself in scholarly study with an open mind but has never forgotten his commitment to the fact that it is the Holy Scriptures he is studying. His wide-ranging survey of scholarly approaches to the Old Testament as literature is strengthened by a number of illuminating studies of particular texts."

John Goldingay, senior professor emeritus of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"In this volume, Longman has returned to his first love, with his Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation (1987) standing at the beginning of a long shelf of his books and The Old Testament as Literature as its complementary bookend. This work offers insight from decades of biblical reflection and foresight from the contemporary field of literary studies."

Brittany N. Melton, associate professor of Old Testament, Regent College

"The Old Testament is a diverse body of literature, but Longman has turned this fact into an invitation to explore the Bible's rich tapestry of meaning. Up-to-date on recent developments in literary theory, the author takes his readers on an adventure in genre analysis and shows how it is critical for understanding texts. While recognizing that the authors of Scripture did not have twenty-first-century readers as their audience, Longman demonstrates how the literary study of texts can help bridge the chasm."

William P. Brown, professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

"I unhesitatingly recommend Longman's masterful new exploration of the literary dimensions of the Old Testament, the fruit of over four decades of scholarly reflection. With his wide learning and profound expertise, Longman offers readers an engaging journey through the narrative and poetic landscapes of the biblical texts. He shows how literary art is not merely ornamental but foundational to how biblical texts convey their meanings. His analysis is both scholarly and accessible, making this an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and church members alike. This book is not only a powerful testament to Longman's deep understanding of the subject but also a vital guide for anyone seeking to deepen their appreciation and comprehension of the Old Testament as a rich literary treasure. It is highly recommended for its appreciative, insightful, and transformative approach to biblical literature."

Stephen L. Cook, The Catherine N. McBurney Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature, Virginia Theological Seminary

"Longman expertly guides readers through the literary dimensions of Old Testament interpretation. Richly informed by the key theoretical discussions, Longman grounds this work in carefully worked and well-chosen examples from the Old Testament. Readers thus see that attention to the issues discussed deepens our understanding of the text. This is an essential volume for Old Testament hermeneutics."

David G. Firth, Trinity College, Bristol

"The present book is devoted to literary matters, providing rich overview and detailed background alongside finely crafted close readings. Drawing from the cistern of a long career, Longman engages a range of biblical texts across the spectrum of narrative, poetry, and wisdom with rigor and insights from start to finish."

Keith Bodner, Stuart E. Murray Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall University

The Author

  1. Tremper Longman III

    Tremper Longman III

    Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. Before coming to Westmont, he taught at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for eighteen years. He has served in...

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