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Thoughts on how Amos may be read as a book

Reading Amos as a Book
Karl Möller, Reading Amos as a Book (Grove Biblical Series, 74; Cambridge: Grove Books, 2014)

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All too often the message of Amos is broken up and read in pieces – either devotionally, so that we know only the ‘purple passages,’ or academically, separating Amos’s original message from its later editing.

But reading it as a whole opens up powerful new understandings. We see Amos’s passion as he tries to persuade a complacent people to wake up to God’s judgment and grace – a message we desperately need to hear in our own day.


1. Getting Started

2. An Opening Trap (Amos 1-2)

3. Passionate Dialogue with a Late Audience (Amos 3.1-5.17)

4. Woes and Throes (Amos 5.18-6.14)

5. Visions of the End (Amos 7-9)

6. Reading Amos: Some Conclusions

7. Suggestions for Further Reading

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Articles on reading Old Testament law

Reading the Law
J. G. McConville and Karl Möller (eds), Reading the Law: Studies in Honour of Gordon J. Wenham (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 461; New York: T & T Clark International, 2007)

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This book is a Festschrift for Prof. Gordon Wenham. Its chosen theme is intended to reflect his central interests in his long career of writing on the Old Testament, in which he has exemplified the highest standards of scholarship, but also written for practitioners of biblical interpretation. The topic of ‘reading the law’ has three aspects which will be treated by the various contributions, namely: 1. Reading the Pentateuch: Pentateuchal criticism, narrative readings, rhetorical-critical readings; 2. Reading the Law: the law codes in historical and/or literary context, anthropological readings, the law in relation to prophets, wisdom, worship; 3. Reading the Bible ethically: e.g. ethics of marriage, war.

… a worthy set of essays collected in honor of a very worthy scholar.

Joe M. Sprinkle, Stone-Campbell Journal


Part I: Reading Pentateuchal Law

  • Being a Man in the Book of the Covenant
    David J. A. Clines
  • ‘Fellow Citizens’: Israel and Humanity in Leviticus
    J. G. McConville
  • Commanding an Impossibility? Reflections on the Golden Rule in Leviticus 19:18b
    Nobuyoshi Kiuchi
  • The Case for the Pre-Exilic and Exilic Provenance of the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers
    Jacob Milgrom

Part II: Reading the Law in the Prophets

  • The Meaning of תורה in Isaiah 1–39
    Ronald E. Clements
  • Torah in the Minor Prophets
    Thomas Renz
  • The Trial of Jeremiah
    Raymond Westbrook

Part III: Reading the Law in the Writings

  • Reading, Singing and Praying the Law: An Exploration of the Performative, Self-Involving, Commissive Language of Psalm 101
    Karl Möller
  • The Ethics of Lament: Lamentations 1 as a Case Study
    Robin Parry
  • The Torah and History in Presentations of Restoration in Ezra–Nehemiah
    H. G. M. Williamson

Part IV: Reading the Law for Theology

  • The Theology of Place in Genesis 1–3
    Craig G. Bartholomew
  • The Regal Dimension of the תולדות־יעקב: Recovering the Literary Context of Genesis 37–50
    T. Desmond Alexander
  • On Learning Spiritual Discipline: A Reading of Exodus 16
    R. W. L. Moberly
  • The Week That Made the World: Reflections on the First Pages of the Bible
    Robert P. Gordon

Part V: Reading the Law and History

  • Going Down to Sheol: A Place Name and Its West Semitic Background
    Richard S. Hess
  • The Tablets in the Ark
    Alan Millard
  • Memory, Witness and Genocide in the Book of Joshua
    Pekka Pitkänen
  • Towards a Communicative Theology of the Old Testament
    J. W. Rogerson

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A collection of articles on biblical theology

Out of EgyptOut of Egypt

Craig Bartholomew, Mary Healy, Karl Möller and Robin Parry (eds), Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Scripture & Hermeneutics Series, 5; Carlisle: Paternoster Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004)

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The Christian church confesses Scripture to be the authoritative Word of God, and thereby commits itself to seeking the inner unity of the Bible as it is focussed in the one gospel of Jesus Christ, which the church declares to the world. Biblical theology is the name for the articulation of that inner unity of the Bible, and this volume rows vigorously against the currents in mainline biblical studies as it seeks to set the table for a renewed feast of biblical theology in biblical interpretation.

Craig Bartholomew

Out of Egypt is the fifth volume from the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar. This annual gathering of Christian scholars from various disciplines was established in 1998 and aims to reassess the discipline of biblical studies from the foundations up and forge creative new ways for reopening the Bible in our cultures.

In modernity biblical studies has stressed the diversity of Scripture to such an extent that any expression of its overarching unity is regarded with scepticism. The demise of the Biblical Theology Movement in 1961 played into this tendency, and since then biblical theology has not recovered its place as a major element in biblical interpretation. However, any approach to the Bible as Christian Scripture must recognise the need to articulate the inner unity of the Bible and hence of biblical theology. Furthermore, situated as we are in ‘post-modernity’ we are better able to see how untimely the demise of biblical theology is. This volume assesses the current state of biblical theology and sets forth in a smorgasbord of creative ways fresh directions for doing biblical interpretation.

This volume on biblical theology jumps into the fray and poses the right kind of questions. It does not offer a single way forward. Several of the essays are quite fresh and provocative, breaking new ground (Bray, Reno); others set out the issues with clarity and grace (Bartholomew); others offer programmatic analysis (Webster, Bauckham); others offer a fresh angle of view (Chapman, Martin). The success of this series is in facing the challenge of disarray in biblical studies head-on and then modelling a variety of approaches to stimulate our reflection.

Christopher Seitz, Professor of Old Testament and Theological Studies, St Andrews University, UK

Ranging widely across the latest theory and up-to-date praxis of biblical theology, this volume makes a significant contribution to the gathering renewal of that discipline on both sides of the Atlantic. With an ecumenical, star-studded team of experts in the Old and New Testaments as well as in Patristics and Christian doctrine, Out of Egypt is more than a sum of its parts: from various theoretical and practical perspectives, it demonstrates both the pedigree and the intellectual vitality of biblical theology. In so doing, this book gives continued hope for an exodus of Christian biblical interpretation from its long slavery to diverse late-modern taskmasters of historicist and ideologically revisionist deconstruction.

Markus Bockmuehl, Reader in New Testament Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

Biblical theology attempts to explore the theological coherence of the canonical witnesses; no serious Christian theology can overlook this issue. The essays in the present volume illustrate the complexity and richness of the conversation that results from attentive consideration of the question. In a time when some voices are calling for a moratorium on biblical theology, or pronouncing its concerns obsolete, this collection of meaty essays demonstrates the continuing vitality and necessity of the enterprise.

Richard B. Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, The Divinity School, Duke University, USA


Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation: Introduction
Craig G. Bartholomew

  1. The Church Fathers and Biblical Theology
    Gerald Bray
  2. The Nature and Genre of Biblical Theology: Some Reflections in the Light of Charles H. H. Scobie’s ‘Prolegomena to a Biblical Theology’
    Karl Möller
  3. Some Directions in Catholic Biblical Theology
    Francis Martin
  4. The Theology of the Old Testament by Marco Nobile: A Contribution to Jewish–Christian Relations
    Nuria Calduch-Benages
  5. Mission as a Matrix for Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology
    Christopher J. H. Wright
  6. Story and Biblical Theology
    Craig G. Bartholomew and Mike W. Goheen
  7. The Problem of ‘Biblical Theology’
    James D. G. Dunn
  8. Biblical Theology and the Problem of Monotheism
    Richard Bauckham
  9. The Unity of Humankind as a Theme in Biblical Theology
    Stephen C. Barton
  10. Zechariah 14 and Biblical Theology: Patristic and Contemporary Case Studies
    Al Wolters
  11. Paul and Salvation History in Romans 9:30–10:4
    William J. Dumbrell
  12. Hebrews and Biblical Theology
    Andrew T. Lincoln
  13. Systematic – In What Sense?
    Trevor Hart
  14. Biblical Theology and the Clarity of Scripture
    John Webster
  15. Biblical Theology and Theological Exegesis
    R. R. Reno
  16. Imaginative Reading of Scripture and Theological Interpretation
    Stephen B. Chapman
  17. Biblical Theology and Preaching
    Charles H. H. Scobie

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An investigation of the rhetoric of the book of Amos

A Prophet in DebateA Prophet in Debate
Karl Möller, A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 372; London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003) [366 pages]

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This is an investigation of the literary structure and rhetorical challenge that prompted the book’s production. It argues that the book of Amos captures and presents the debate between Amos and his eighth-century audience. When read in the light of Israel’s fall, the presentation of Amos struggling (and failing) to convince his contemporaries of the imminent divine punishment functions as a powerful warning to subsequent Judaean readers.

This is an important book on a stunning prophet (and his galvanizing Hebrew) on several counts. … the footnotes and bibliography display a massive acquaintance with the study of the book of Amos over the past century. … our author is a skilled Hebraist with penetrating insights into the organizing structure of the entire book … Möller makes a very persuasive (he’s a good rhetorician!) case for retaining chapter 9 as coming from the prophet Amos. … While biblical-theological implications are left to the biblical-theological student, Möller lays the foundation with his superb work on the text.

James T. Dennison, Jr, Kerux

Möller’s work on Amos is careful, thorough, integrative, and thoughtful. He has read widely, both in traditional scholarship and in literary theory. … Sensible and pragmatic, the work resists being drawn into ingenious discoveries of textual markers or the esoteric jargon of literary theory and continues throughout to inquire into the persuasive function and effect of the text. … the work … provides a solid platform for further study of the fascinating book of Amos.

Patricia K. Tull, Review of Biblical Literature

In this monograph Karl Möller offers a thorough demonstration of the nature and use of rhetorical criticism as applied to the prophetic literature. … The introduction offers astute hermeneutical reflections on the nature of rhetorical criticism in general. … Möller’s work represents a key study in the rhetorical criticism of prophetic material. It offers a thoughtful perspective on the task and methods of rhetorical criticism, presenting each step the rhetorical critic must take in evaluating the argumentation, purpose, and potential effectiveness of a biblical book. Moreover, because of its compilation of other rhetorical approaches to the book of Amos and detailed analysis of Amos 1–4, it would serve as a fine reference on recent approaches to this prophetic book.

David G. Garber, Review of Biblical Literature

… interesting and appealing.

Reviews in Religion and Theology


Part I: Reading Amos – A Communication-Theoretical Approach

Introduction: Amos and the Rhetoric of Persuasion

Chapter 1: Rhetorical Structure

Chapter 2: Rhetorical Situation and Strategy

Part II: The Rhetoric of Amos 1–4

Chapter 3: Amos 1–2

Chapter 4: Amos 3

Chapter 5: Amos 4


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Articles on language and biblical interpretation

After Pentecost
Craig Bartholomew, Colin Greene and Karl Möller (eds), After Pentecost: Language and Biblical Interpretation (Scripture & Hermeneutics Series, 2; Carlisle: Paternoster Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001)

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There is always some view of language built into biblical interpretation. If we are to read Scripture to hear God’s address it is vital that we attend to current debates about language and become critically conscious in this respect.

Craig Bartholomew

After Pentecost is the second volume from the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar. This annual gathering of Christian scholars from various disciplines was established in 1998 and aims to reassess the discipline of biblical studies from the foundations up and forge creative new ways for reopening the Bible in our cultures.

The Seminar was aware from the outset that any renewal of biblical interpretation would have to attend to the issue of language. In this rich and creative volume the importance of linguistic issues for biblical interpretation is analysed, the challenge of postmodernism is explored, and some of the most creative recent developments in philosophy and theology of language are assessed and updated for biblical interpretation.

The scholars who together have produced this remarkable volume – and the projected series of which this volume is a part – are prepared to deal patiently and honestly with the most elemental theological issues. The title, After Pentecost, alludes to the problem and prospect of language as the condition of theological truth, and the authors are fully conversant with the most important theoretical issues concerning language. They mobilize that vast learning for the tasks of exegesis and theological adjudication. This is a serious book, a genre in which there are few current representatives. The book will bear careful, patient study. It cannot be ‘read,’ but must be studied. The treatment of theological language as a theological issue offered here matches the gravity of the topic itself. Immense learning is mobilized in the service of serious critical reflection on behalf of the church as the church faces an entirely new situation with the demise of modernist rationality and its accompanying positivism.

Walter Brueggemann, Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

This is an excellent collection on a topic for which interdisciplinary conversation between biblical scholars, theologians and philosophers is vital. These essays deserve to be widely read and to draw many more of us into that conversation.

Richard Bauckham, Professor of New Testament Studies, St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews

Central to the theological task is the question as to how human language functions and refers within the context of Christian revelation. This volume contains an impressive series of essays and responses by leading contemporary philosophers, theologians and biblical scholars brought together to consider the relationship between biblical, exegetical and theological discourse. Their work is characterised by a shared concern to articulate the manner in which God may and does speak in and through human speech. This significant contribution to the debate will prove invaluable to anyone committed to intellectual engagement with these key issues.

Alan Torrance, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of St Andrews


  1. From Speech Acts to Scripture Acts: The Covenant of Discourse and the Discourse of Covenant
    Kevin J. Vanhoozer
  2. Ricoeur, Speech-Act Theory, and the Gospels as History
    Dan R. Stiver
  3. The Promise of Speech-Act Theory for Biblical Interpretation
    Nicholas Wolterstorff
  4. How to Be a Postmodernist and Remain a Christian: A Response to Nicholas Wolterstorff
    Mary Hesse
  5. ‘Behind’ and ‘In Front of’ the Text: Language, Reference and Indeterminacy
    Anthony C. Thiselton
  6. A ‘Polite’ Response to Anthony Thiselton
    William Olhausen
  7. Before Babel and After Pentecost: Language, Literature and Biblical Interpretation
    Craig G. Bartholomew
  8. Language at the Frontiers of Language
    Gregory J. Laughery
  9. ‘Starting a Rockslide’ – Deconstructing History and Language via Christological Detonators
    Colin J. D. Greene
  10. Words of Power: Biblical Language and Literary Criticism with Reference to Stephen Prickett’s Words and the Word and Mark 1:21-28
    Stephen I. Wright
  11. Reviving the Power of Biblical Language: The Bible, Literature and Literary Language
    Brian D. Ingraffia and Todd E. Pickett
  12. Naming the Father: The Teaching Authority of Jesus and Contemporary Debate
    David L. Jeffrey
  13. Back to Babel – That Confounded Language Again: A Response to David L. Jeffrey
    Kathryn Greene-McCreight
  14. On Bible Translation and Hermeneutics
    Raymond C. Van Leeuwen
  15. Illocutionary Stance in Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: An Exercise in Conceptual Redescription and Normative Analysis
    Neil B. MacDonald
  16. Metaphor, Symbol and the Interpretation of Deuteronomy
    J. Gordon McConville
  17. Words of (In-)evitable Certitude? Reflections on the Interpretation of Prophetic Oracles of Judgement
    Karl Möller
  18. Metaphor and Exegesis
    Ian Paul

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Suggestions for the renewal of biblical interpretation

Renewing Biblical Interpretation
Craig Bartholomew, Colin Greene and Karl Möller (eds), Renewing Biblical Interpretation (Scripture & Hermeneutics Series, 1; Carlisle: Paternoster Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000)

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Without the voice of the Living God addressing us through Scripture, Christianity collapses into so much empty rhetoric and the world is left without the redemptive, recreative Word of God.

Craig Bartholomew

Renewing Biblical Interpretation is the first of eight volumes from the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar. This annual gathering of Christian scholars from various disciplines was established in 1998 and aims to re-assess the discipline of biblical studies from the foundation up and forge creative new ways for re-opening the Bible in our cultures.

Including a retrospective on the consultation by Walter Brueggemann, the contributors to Renewing Biblical Interpretation consider three elements in approaching the Bible – the historical, the literary and the theological – and the underlying philosophical issues that shape the way we think about literature and history.

Church History is in large measure the history of biblical interpretation. And almost all contemporary cultural and intellectual movements eventually show up in biblical interpretation as well. Both modernity and modern biblical studies are showing signs of ageing, and it is agreed that the critical approach that has dominated the discussion for the last two hundred or so years has obscured the Bible’s role as the Church’s authoritative Scripture. All the more reason to be grateful, then, that there is now an academic seminar devoted to the project of recovering a theological dimension to the interpretation of Scripture. This first volume holds out the hope that certain hermeneutical developments will lead not only to the renewal of biblical interpretation, but to the renewal of the Church itself.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

There are few things more urgent for Christian thought in the churches and in universities and seminaries than to produce lively, intelligent and imaginative biblical interpretation. The Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar is facing the deepest issues involved in doing this. It does not run away from complexity or controversy. But above all it is concerned to do justice to the extraordinary, generative richness of the Bible and to let it be genuinely ‘habitable’ today. This book will illuminate, inspire and provoke anyone who wants to learn from some of the best in the field how to respond to the Bible in the aftermath of modern critiques and crises.

David F. Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

This book brings together some of the key players in the present discussions of how to use the Bible, not simply to talk about how difficult it all is but to point new and creative ways forward. A refreshing and wide-ranging discussion that will help us all both to think clearly and to read – and teach! – more responsibly.

Tom Wright, Canon Theologian, Westminster Abbey


  1. Uncharted Waters: Philosophy, Theology and the Crisis in Biblical Interpretation
    Craig G. Bartholomew
  2. Scripture Becomes Religion(s): The Theological Crisis of Serious Biblical Interpretation in the Twentieth Century
    Christopher R. Seitz
  3. The Social Effect of Biblical Criticism
    Walter Sundberg
  4. A Response to Walter Sundberg
    John Riches
  5. Confessional Criticism and the Night Visions of Zechariah
    Al Wolters
  6. A Response to Al Wolters
    Rex Mason
  7. The Philosophy of Language and the Renewal of Biblical Hermeneutics
    Neil B. MacDonald
  8. A Response to Neil B. MacDonald
    Mary Hesse
  9. Renewing Historical Criticism
    Karl Möller
  10. Critical but Real: Reflecting on N. T. Wright’s Tools for the Task
    Thorsten Moritz
  11. ‘In the Arms of the Angels’: Biblical Interpretation, Christology and the Philosophy of History
    Colin J. D. Greene
  12. An Experiment in Biblical Criticism: Aesthetic Encounter in Reading and Preaching Scripture
    Stephen I. Wright
  13. A Missional Approach to Renewed Interpretation
    Harry Daniel Beeby
  14. Deconstructing the Tower of Babel: Ontotheology and the Postmodern Bible
    Brian D. Ingraffia
  15. Imagination and Responsible Reading
    Trevor Hart
  16. A Response to Trevor Hart
    Nicholas Wolterstorff
  17. A First Retrospect on the Consultation
    Walter Brueggemann

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