Introduction to the Prophets (Review)

Published: RTR 74, no. 2, 2015

Introduction to the Prophets

Paul L. Redditt, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.  xv+404

This can be termed an advanced primer on the major and minor prophets. Redditt mixes complexity with concision, and guides initiates with chapter summaries, review questions, and brief resource lists.

An opening explanation of the prophets sets them forth as the exponents of monotheism and morality, individually adapted to each one’s audience, who spoke in the name of Yhwh and whose messages had to come true, and who were more likely than false prophets to contradict audience expectation. An overview of critical reading methods is given (diachronic and synchronic), helpfully illustrated by reference to particular prophetic texts.

Individual books are unpacked under such headings as ‘Main genres in the Book’, ‘Special Features Connected with the Study of the Book’, ‘Basic Emphases’, and particularly engaging, ‘Problems Raised by a Study of…’ Isaiah receives most focus. Along with Lamentations, ‘other Deutero-Jeremianic’ literature is considered, the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah.

Redditt consistently debunks Christian, Messianic readings. Academics live in a world of probabilities, so it is always interesting to see the things that definitely cannot be true. Still, he seeks to bridge the gap between Isaiah 7, 9, 11, for instance, and the NT. On those texts, their relationship to the Servant Songs is not explored, since Isaiah is barely considered holistically. The Songs are about an unidentified exilic prophet favoured by Second Isaiah.

Several books have appeared since this one, taking various approaches to introducing the prophets, including by McEntire (WJK, 2015), Chalmers (IVP, 2015), Zucker (2013), Hays (Zondervan, 2010), Stulman (Abingdon, 2010) and Lundbom (Fortress, 2010). Redditt’s book plays a role amongst these.