B. Davie Napier, at the time of this writing was Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Intepretation at Yale Divinity School. He later became President of Pacific School of Religion. He is a minister of the United Church of Christ and an author of several books on the Old Testament.
Published by Harper & Brothers, New York, 1955. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.
(ENTIRE BOOK) This book discusses outstanding examples of Old Testament myth, legend, history, prophecy and law in an effort to show that common theological presuppositions underlie all of these varying literary types, and that they must be read and understood as speaking from faith to faith.
The rediscovery, or perhaps, the discovery of the Bible apart from the apparent “tearing apart” by the scholars of the past century, involves no annulment, no abrogation of the principles and insights of this previous era. It does, however, imply a radical change in interpretation.
The author has indicated that it is hardly necessary to add that what is written here is not intended as a substitute for an introduction to, a history of, a commentary upon, or a theology of the Old Testament.
- Chapter One: Myth. <I> In the Beginning (Genesis 1-11)</I>
All nature testifies to the glory of God; but Israel tends always to see God’s primary and decisive self-revelation in the arena of history, not nature. Israel conceives of no reality that is not historical reality. It is inevitable, therefore, that she clothe her primeval history in historical dress. What so convincingly to her is must have its expression in a setting of time and place and persons.
- Chapter 2: Legend. <I>Covenant with the Fathers (Genesis 12-50) </I>
What is recalled in Genesis about Abraham is hardly the distillation of hero tales. They are not the exploits of Abraham but the initiative, the actions and the purpose of Yahweh in his relationship with Abraham.
- Chapter 3: History. <I>The King Walks before You ( I Sam. 12 — I Kings 11)</I>
We do not think there is anywhere in the Bible a purely objective, detached account of sequential events. The essence of history, which must of course be extracted from. the actual event, is the revelation, the self-disclosure, of God.
- Chapter 4: Prophecy. <I>In the Days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1-11, 17-22, 28-33)</I>
A study of Isaiah of Jerusalem. He, no more than any other prophet, is typical. But one suspects that the phrase “typical prophet” is a contradiction in terms. In the very nature of his being a prophet, a spokesman for Yahweh, a prophet does not and cannot conform to a type. But Isaiah is central to Old Testament prophecy, perhaps as no other.
- Chapter 5: Law. <I> Hear, 0 Israel (The Legal Codes)</I>
A survey, necessarily brief, of the major codes of law in the Old Testament, their superficial characteristics, the general qualities which they hold in common particularly as against other extrabiblical codes, points of difference among the three major earlier codes, the ethical qualities and content of these three, and finally the central theological motivation of all Old Testament law. We may then attempt, from this assessment of the law, to distinguish its primary theological presuppositions.