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"The Prophetic Imagination" by Walter Brueggemann

In the magnificent book, The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, the reader is impacted by the author’s unique paradigm concerning the interpretation of the biblical text. Brueggemann deftly sets new parameters for biblical scholars to interpret scripture, specifically the prophetic texts. In this revised second edition, the author illustrates the restraints of the utilization of historical criticism by biblical scholars. For instance, the author speaks of the environment of biblical study during the first edition of his book in 1978. Brueggemann states that “at that time, however scripture study generally awaited the articulation of methods that moved beyond or underneath historical criticism of a conventional kind. Specifically, social-scientific criticism, stunningly introduced into Old Testament studies by Norman Gottwald in 1979-the year after my book - opened the way to see texts as ideological statements evoked by and evoking specific forms of social action and policy, social authorization, and social criticism.” [I] In addition, he states that “in like manner, critical study of the Old Testament in 1978 still awaited the emergence of rhetorical criticism and its appreciation of the generative, constitutive power of imagination.”[II] It is my opinion, that Brueggemann reveals his hermeneutical position with these words “one consequence of this new awareness is that biblical texts, in particular prophetic texts, could be seen as poetic scenarios of alternative social reality that might lead to direct confrontation with “presumed, taken-for-granted worlds” (the old liberal assumption).”[III] In my opinion,the “prophetic imagination” is a liberation hermeneutic.
Bruggemanns liberating concept is grounded by his notion of “imagination”. He states that his “accent on imagination has turned out to be exactly correct, for what is now required is that a relatively powerless prophetic voice must find imaginative ways that are rooted in the text but that freely and daringly move from the text toward concrete circumstance.”[IV] This moves Brueegemann’s concept from behind the ivory towers of academia to practical usage by prophetic voices, so as to impact “social practice”. Therefore, the prophetic voice becomes an influence on the social constructs that hinder the liberation of all people


[I] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination(Minneapolis: Fortress Press),x
[II] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination(Minneapolis: Fortress Press),x
[III] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination(Minneapolis: Fortress Press),x

[IV] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination(Minneapolis: Fortress Press),xii

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