Which brings me to a brilliant critique of Brueggemann's Old Testament Theology, written by Ellen Davis, published in 1999 and kindly posted by Stephen Cook on his blog Biblische Ausbildung. I agree with every word and hope, given Brueggemann's wide popularity, that this review gets the reading it deserves. Here's a taster paragraph:
Yet it is in the interest of promoting openness in the interpretive conversation that the most troublesome aspect of Brueggemann’s argument arises. He radicalizes the notion of the Old Testament as witness to the extent of asserting that speech, Israel’s religious rhetoric, is the only determinate reality in the Old Testament. “Speech constitutes reality, and who God turns out to be in Israel depends on the utterance of the Israelites or, derivatively, the utterance of the text” (65). In giving rhetoric primacy, Brueggemann repudiates the “essentialist tradition” of Christian theology. Among contemporary scholars, he identifies Brevard Childs as the major proponent of this position, which takes as its basis the church’s doctrinal inheritance and therefore “imports” theological claims not present in the Old Testament. In response to Childs’ reference to “the reality of God” behind the biblical text, Brueggemann responds, “In terms of Old Testament theology, however, one must ask, What reality? Where behind?” Thus Brueggemann states his own emphatically non-essentialist argument: “I shall insist . . . that the God of Old Testament theology as such lives in, with, and under the rhetorical enterprise of this text, and nowhere else and in no other way” (66). In what follows, I hope to show that the non-essentialist argument as Brueggemann presents it here is deeply flawed in both its genesis and its consequence, and that in both respects it runs counter to the fundamental aims that are evident in the larger body of Brueggemann’s work.“I shall insist . . . that the God of Old Testament theology as such lives in, with, and under the rhetorical enterprise of this text, and nowhere else and in no other way” (66). I shudder when I read that.
Another great critique is Jon Levenson's "Is Brueggemann Really a Pluralist?", Harvard Theological Review 93/3 (2000), pp. 265-294, especially concerning Brueggemann and Childs' claims to respect Jewish exegesis.
I should add that Childs also reviewed Brueggemann's book, to which Brueggemann responded, in the Scottish Theological Review. I have elucidated Childs' critique and Brueggemann's misunderstanding of it my post Ecclesial Context: Brueggemann vs Childs.
[HT: John Hobbins]