Fortress Press

Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination: A Theological Biography

Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination

A Theological Biography

Conrad L. Kanagy (Author)


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In this theological biography of the most prolific Old Testament student of the twenty-first century, Conrad Kanagy portrays Walter Brueggemann within the historical and cultural landscape of his formation.

Kanagy follows Walter from his childhood home in Blackburn, Missouri, to Elmhurst College, Eden Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary. Kanagy introduces us to the teachers who most influenced Brueggemann's personal and theological development. We observe Walter Brueggemann's unflappable energy as he moves toward the publication of The Prophetic Imagination, which will land him on the theological map of biblical studies and the American church. This breakthrough will define the rest of Brueggemann's life as he pivots among the biblical text, classroom, church, and world.

The book addresses the riddle of The Prophetic Imagination's surprising emergence and enduring resilience, peering deeply into the theologian's interior life, about which little has been understood by even those closest to him. If all "theology is biography," we have missed much about Brueggemann's understanding of God by knowing so little of his person. The book's integration of his work and life within his community across nine decades reveals the most complete portrait to date of this remarkable prophet, pastor, preacher, teacher, and friend.

Still, after all the careful research, much of who Walter Brueggemann is remains a mystery. He rejects reductionist portraits of himself, the biblical text, and God. He recognizes that the worlds we construct theologically are messy, perhaps because he sees the "wild and woolly" God of the world as more than a bit messy: a God who cannot be fully measured, a God who pivots just when we imagined we knew the way, and a God whose mystery and preference for openness and unpredictability are enough to keep any one of us on our toes. 

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506493787
  • eBook ISBN 9781506493794
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 215
  • Publication Date October 24, 2023


Here we see biblical scholarship embedded in a contemporary life of struggle, conviction, commitment, and prayer. For preachers, teachers, scholars, readers who cannot leave the Bible alone because God won't leave them alone, this book helps us make sense of our experience and our sense of what is still possible with God.

Ellen F. Davis, Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School

Walter Brueggemann is the clearest biblical prophet of our time. He is not just a magnificent scholar of the prophets or their best theological interpreter, but Brueggemann himself is a prophet to and for our troublesome days. Walter would be the first to deny such accolades. And this is why Conrad Kanagy's theological biography is so needed. Kanagy, in rich and critical detail, documents what Brueggemann has seen and heard, studied and learned, reflected upon and then preached and written. This book reveals what it looks like to speak the Word of God's truth to power in the face of all our ideological manifestations of falsehood. As with the prophets, justice is his measure and the marginalized are his focus. Yet, as Kanagy shows, Walter is a kind man who walks humbly with his God.

Jim Wallis, inaugural chair and founding director of the Center on Faith and Justice at Georgetown University

I can think of no biblical scholar more worthy of a biography than Walter Brueggemann, the most gifted, insightful, and prolific scholar the field of Old Testament studies has ever seen. Conrad Kanagy has provided us with just that in a volume that is equal parts biography of Brueggemann, an account of his career, and reflection on his breakthrough book, The Prophetic Imagination--all written in an engaging, lively style. Kanagy's treatment consistently delivers profound insights into all three of these things (and their remarkable interrelations) and is especially noteworthy in its attention to Brueggemann's early years: how formative his family of origin, his upbringing, and his pre-professorial days were to all that followed. Even if you know Walter and his work well--or just think you do--be prepared to learn an immense amount in this book, which left me yet again awed and inspired by one whom I deem no less than a modern-day prophet.

Brent A. Strawn, D. Moody Smith Distinguished Professor of Old Testament; professor of law, Duke University