Baker Academic has a brand new website! Click Here To Visit:

The Virtuous Reader

Old Testament Narrative and Interpretive Virtue

series: Studies in Theological Interpretation

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase


"With sensitivity, the author invites us to consider those happy and healthy dispositions that Scripture itself elicits from those who would understand it. By his gentle incisiveness Briggs models the virtues of which he writes. A higher compliment than that I cannot render."--C. Clifton Black, Princeton Theological Seminary

This volume offers a rich and thought-provoking portrait, or series of portraits, of the virtues required to read the Old Testament well. Biblical scholar Richard Briggs provides an exegetical exploration of "interpretive virtue" by carefully reading five Old Testament passages that reflect core virtues: humility, wisdom, trust, charity, and receptivity. The result is an example of theological interpretation that demonstrates the interplay between text and reader. Briggs approaches the biblical text with academic rigor and precision while maintaining an openness to the formative intentions of the biblical writers.

About the series: The Studies in Theological Interpretation series is dedicated to the pursuit of constructive theological interpretation of the church's inheritance of prophets and apostles in a manner that is open to reconnection with the long history of theological reading in the church. These brief, focused, and closely argued studies evaluate the hermeneutical, historical, and theological dimensions of scriptural reading and interpretation for our times.

Editorial Advisory Board

Gary Anderson (University of Notre Dame), Markus Bockmuehl (University of Oxford), Richard Hays (Duke University Divinity School), Christine Pohl (Asbury Theological Seminary), Eleonore Stump (Saint Louis University), Anthony Thiselton (University of Nottingham, University of Chester), Marianne Meye Thompson (Fuller Theological Seminary), Kevin Vanhoozer (Wheaton College and Graduate School), John Webster (University of Aberdeen)


"Extending the trajectory of his earlier work, here Richard Briggs inaugurates an important new quest: thick descriptions of interpretive virtues derived from concrete engagement with biblical texts. Disputes are likely to break out along his readers' way, but Briggs is a careful, well-informed, and thought-provoking guide for the journey. May this intriguing start lead others to explore exciting new territory even further!"--Daniel J. Treier, associate professor of theology, Wheaton College

"This is a thorough-going, compendious critique of recent scholarship on readerly virtues as a condition of exegetical probity. Richard Briggs has given us ways to think coherently about achieving that trust in Scripture as Word of God that the text itself enjoins, yet without descending into a naiveté that would undermine the 'tough-minded' critical virtues. A 'state of the question' study--and a contribution of great value."--David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and the humanities, Baylor University

"A terrific book! Briggs significantly advances the conversations about biblical interpretation and Christian character through his rich exegetical studies and his philosophical and theological insights. This book should be read by biblical scholars, theologians, ethicists, and pastors alike."--L. Gregory Jones, dean of the divinity school and professor of theology, Duke University

"Richard Briggs combines sophisticated theological hermeneutics with close attention to the biblical text and a probing interaction with the literature of biblical commentary, both ancient and modern. The result is immensely readable--fresh discussions leading to readings of the Old Testament that are both memorable and persuasive."--Walter Moberly, professor of theology and biblical interpretation, Durham University

"Richard Briggs addresses the important question of what it takes to be a virtuous reader of Scripture. Demonstrating himself the virtue of 'receptivity,' Briggs develops his answer through close attention to biblical texts and commends as well the virtues of humility, trust, and love. Here is a timely alternative to the dubious virtue of detached objectivity that undermines a true reading of Scripture."--Murray Rae, associate professor of theology and religious studies, University of Otago, New Zealand

"Situated in the Old Testament, though embracing the entire Christian canon, The Virtuous Reader breathes life into essential questions older than the rabbis and the church's mothers and fathers. With sensitivity, the author invites us to consider those happy and healthy dispositions that Scripture itself elicits from those who would understand it. His learning is comprehensive, engaging not only 'the usual suspects' but also interpreters as varied as Wittgenstein and Mark Twain. Most important, by his gentle incisiveness Richard Briggs models the virtues of which he writes. A higher compliment than that I cannot render."--C. Clifton Black, Otto A. Piper of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"This fascinating contribution focuses on the question, what kind of reader should we be in order to read the Bible well? Extremely well informed both about hermeneutics and philosophical conceptions of virtue, Briggs aims to show connections between the act of reading and the character of the reader. The Old Testament itself, he argues, not only implicitly projects an ideal virtuous character within its texts but also gives clues to the kinds of virtues expected of the reader. It is a most welcome addition to any scholarly and pastoral library on the Old Testament."--Gordon McConville, professor of Old Testament theology, University of Gloucestershire

The Author

  1. Richard S. Briggs

    Richard S. Briggs

    Richard S. Briggs (PhD, University of Nottingham) is lecturer in Old Testament and director of biblical studies at Cranmer Hall, St. John's College, Durham University. He is an ordained minister in the Church of England, where he serves as prior of...

    Continue reading about Richard S. Briggs


"This is a thought provoking book. Briggs uses his expertise in hermeneutics and in depth study of Scripture to illuminate a key area of Christian discipleship: our use of Scripture. In doing that, he combines, as few scholars do, an ability to think theologically and skill in exegesis."--Greg Goswell, New Life

"The Virtuous Reader demonstrates how bringing theological and philosophical interests to Old Testament texts, like an interest in virtue ethics, can be done in a way that benefits understanding in all of the fields of scholarship involved. Briggs shows how virtue ethics can impact the way Christians read the Old Testament, and he shows this in a way that is equally attentive to the needs of the classroom and the local church. Briggs demonstrates a real concern for Christians who are struggling with the questions that his book raises. Although the book is written for those who have at least some background in theology or biblical studies, Briggs's analyses of the five Old Testament texts could be useful sermon or Bible study material. Briggs's work could be easily adapted to an introductory Old Testament course, or to a church Bible study series on 'how to read the Bible.' The most valuable contribution of the book, however, is the way that Briggs brings biblical studies and theology together in a way that does justice to both."--Matt Archer, Nova et Vetera

"A rewarding book that combines philosophical insight with hermeneutical skill and fine close readings of Old Testament narratives. It is deftly written with an appreciation of literary intertexts. . . . This book is rooted in a careful employment of the 'literary-critical category' of the implied reader, and Briggs is perfectly well at home in the critical theory of Iser, Booth, Ricoeur, Eco, and others. . . . This is a book which deserves wide attention, a genuinely interdisciplinary work in the very best sense of the word which successfully keeps a number of balls in the air at once and makes a real contribution to the art of biblical reading."--David Jasper, Journal of Theological Studies

"[Briggs] deftly engages readers in probing the question: 'what kind of person do you have to be to read the Bible?'. . . Instead of imposing an external set of values or virtues, to be brought by readers to the Bible, Briggs explores the virtues implied in certain Old Testament narratives. . . . In each case Briggs carefully deploys historical-critical tools to ascertain the nature of the text under review before drawing out a central virtue that surfaces. . . . This is a masterful piece of work, carried out with exemplary scholarship, written with great clarity and elegance. . . . A wealth of scholarship is referred to, but never in a way that overwhelms readers who are less familiar with the relevant literature. . . . Briggs brings together felicitously academic rigour and religious fidelity, showing that trust need not lead to credulity and that appropriate suspicion need not lead to cynicism."--John Sullivan, Theological Book Review

"[Briggs's] emphasis on engaging with Scripture is a serious and important one. . . . This book is certainly an engaging read."--Katharine J. Dell, Theology

"A stimulating and valuable book that cuts across the disciplines of philosophy, biblical studies, theology, and literary studies to challenge its readers to be 'ideal readers' themselves--both of the Old Testament and the book in hand. The inductive approach, using particular texts, provides helpful grounding in the specifics of interpretive virtues while at the same time framing the discussion and setting its limits. Recommended."--Michael Travers, Southeastern Theological Review

"Briggs's well-informed study is great food for thought to any serious reader of the Bible."--R. Merecz, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament