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The republication of Wolff's classic study of
society is most welcome. To be sure, with the use of "social scientific"
methods of scripture study in recent decades, the meaning of "anthropology" has
radically shifted away from Wolff's intention. Evidently Wolff was neither
interested in nor at home in social scientific catagories.
This recognition, however, does not detract from the significance and
value of Wolff's study. What comes through in powerful ways are Wolff's acute and
discerning attention to the detail of the text and his unerring theological sensitivity to
what is at stake for Israel in the conventional rhetorical and social interactions of the
Among the most valuable resources offered in this book are the
unparalled of the vocabulary of personhood, what Wolff terms "The Being of Man,"
and Wolff's marvelous awareness that the theological weight of God's relation to
takes concrete form and shape in routinized social interactions.
Wolff's study will continue to be an important scholarly resource.
I anticipate, moreover, that it will once again be widely
received. At the
same time, it is a powerful reminder to us that interpretive responsibility cannot forever
linger over questions of method, but must move, if it is to matter at all, to substantive
issues of socio-theological reality. Wolff's book is in some ways dated. Such
a factor notwithstanding, the book provides a satisfying freshness not given in much more
self-conscious social research. Wolff is not reluctant to let interpretation be
shaped by faith claims of the text under study, a lesson now surely to be relearned from
this magisterial teacher.
Columbia Theological Seminary
Wolff has succeeded in presenting more fully and more clearly than any
previous scholar the rich and varied testimony of the O. T. concerning the meaning of man.