Understanding Old Testament Ethics: Approaches and Explorations

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Westminster John Knox Press, Jan 1, 2003 - Religion - 212 pages

How can we best understand the different ways in which ethical issues are addressed in the Hebrew Bible? And how might that understanding usefully inform ethical decision making in our own day? These are the two key questions explored by John Barton in Part One of this study, in which he looks at how the Bible's narratives, as well as its collections of laws, oracles and wisdom writings, all contribute to our understanding of the whole. In Part Two, he focuses on the moral vision of the Prophets--especially Amos, Isaiah and Daniel--providing the reader with the fruits of his research in this area over the last few decades. The result is a book that enables students of the Bible, Ethics, and other theological disciplines to firmly grasp the main issues at stake in current scholarly debate about the ethical legacy of the Old Testament.


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The first impression of the argument Barton formulate in the book cluttered with no real problem or methodology. This makes it difficult for the reader to follow the development of an ongoing argument in the book.
It is clear that these articles were written not with the intention to read them together, but more as individual texts, each solving a problem or discussing an aspect of Old Testament Ethics.
Barton delivers an important contribution to the discussion of the Old Testament by creating a sensitivity for to the different levels of ethical study and how ethics in the Old Testament is often underdeveloped. Therefore Barton offers a new dimension to the understanding of the Old Testament world and their use for ethical discussions. His reference to Nussbaun's methodology and the text's ethos was particularly engaging.
Barton doesn’t define his methodology directly as a historical-literary reading of the text, but this approach can be read additionally with Ska and Jonker for more extensive explanation of the development of his methodology in Old Testament studies.


The Moral Vision of the Old Testament
Understanding Old Testament Ethics
Natural Law and Poetic Justice in the Old Testament
The Basis of Ethics in the Hebrew Bible
The Use of the Bible in Ethics
Virtue in the Bible
Amoss Oracles against the Nations
Ethics in Isaiah of Jerusalem
Ethics in the Isaianic Tradition
Theological Ethics in Daniel
The Future of Old Testament Ethics
Index of Biblical Passages

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About the author (2003)

John Barton is Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford in England. His publications include The Oxford Bible Commentary, The Original Story, Understanding Old Testament Ethics (WJK), and How the Bible Came to Be (WJK).

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