The Lost World of the Prophets: Old Testament Prophecy and Apocalyptic Literature in Ancient Context, By John H. Walton
The Lost World of the Prophets
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: February 27, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0489
  • ISBN: 9781514004890

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Being responsive to God is at the heart of prophecy. But readers of ancient prophecies and apocalyptic literature—including those in the Old Testament—can come away thoroughly perplexed. Are the prophets speaking about their own times, about our present, or about some still-unrealized future?

It's common to study prophecy with a focus on the sole question of prediction and fulfillment, either for the sake of apologetics or for understanding the end times, but such an approach can fail to track with the original intent of the authors. We need to shake loose both from a paradigm of reading prophecy as an offer of mysterious divination as well as from the habit of constructing eschatological timelines of any sort. How do these books work as meaningful Scripture for Christians today?

John Walton applies his signature method to help us recover the lost world of the prophets. To read these biblical books well, we must understand:

  • the role of the prophet
  • the nature of prophetic literature
  • the theological significance of prophecy
  • how apocalyptic differs from prophecy

A fresh reading of the Old Testament text in light of the ancient Near Eastern context can open new avenues of awareness. Walton provides a clear, helpful guide to the nature of biblical prophecy and apocalyptic literature that will help readers avoid potential misuse and reclaim the message of the prophets for their lives.

The books in the Lost World Series follow the pattern set by Bible scholar John H. Walton, bringing a fresh, close reading of the Hebrew text and knowledge of ancient Near Eastern literature to an accessible discussion of the biblical topic at hand using a series of logic-based propositions.

"In this volume, John H. Walton turns his 'Lost World' lenses on the prophets to good effect. While the previous volumes in his Lost World series are helpful, this one is needed today more than the others, because the prophets are so misunderstood in the church today. His sequential propositional approach is perfect for showing why we so often shortchange the prophets by reading them only for eschatology or apologetics. This book offers the church a much-needed corrective in guiding us back to the message of the prophets—a message that still has power to form and transform our lives as readers."

Bill T. Arnold, Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary

"In this latest addition to the Lost World Series, John H. Walton shares many important and helpful propositions. As followers of this series would expect, he opens up the ancient world of the Bible in ways that challenge popular assumptions about how to read the Prophets, and he also channels many currents of contemporary scholarship in a confessional framework. In the end he redirects the reader's imagination to more carefully considered applications of the prophetic message for our lives today."

John W. Hilber, professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College

"The Lost World series has done much to help the church recover confidence in biblical interpretation, and reasonableness in articulating belief in the marketplace of ideas. This latest volume is no exception as it takes us back in time to hear afresh the prophets' messages for us that go far beyond messianic fulfillment. Walton's wealth of knowledge of the ancient Near Eastern world brings clarity to these sometimes confusing and cryptic books, enabling faithfulness to the prophetic word in today's world."

Brittany N. Melton, associate professor of Old Testament at Regent College

"John Walton has distinguished himself as one of the foremost interpreters of the Old Testament for the church today. The Lost World of the Prophets makes accessible serious biblical scholarship on the cultural context of the Old Testament prophets. This book is a superb guide to reading the message of the prophetic literature with integrity and faithfulness to the God of Israel and Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful for this outstanding work."

J. Richard Middleton, professor of biblical worldview and exegesis, Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan University

Read an Excerpt




Part 1: Ancient Near East
Proposition 1: Prophecy Is a Subset of Divination
Proposition 2: Prophets and Prophecy in the ANE Manifest Similarities and Differences When Compared to Israel

Part 2: Institution
Proposition 3: A Prophet Is a Spokesperson for God, Not a Predictor of the Future
Proposition 4: Prophecy in the OT Is Not Monolithic but Developing
Proposition 5: The Classical Prophets Are Champions of the Covenant in Times of Crisis
Proposition 6: Prophecy Takes a Variety of Different Shapes After the Old Testament

Part 3: Literature
Proposition 7: Recognition of the Categories of Prophetic Message Help Us Be More Informed Readers
proposition 8: Prophets Were Typically Not Authors
Proposition 9: The Implied Audience of the Prophetic Books Is Not Necessarily the Audience of the Prophet

Part 4: Methodological and Interpretive Issues
Proposition 10: Distinction Between Message and Fulfillment Provides Clear Understanding of Prophetic Literature
Proposition 11: Fulfillment Follows Oblique Trajectories
Proposition 12: The NT Use of OT Prophecy Focuses on Fulfillment, Not Message
Proposition 13: Prophecy Carries Important Implications for Understanding God and the Future, but Our Ability to Forge a Detailed Eschatology with Confidence Is Limited

Part 5: Apocalyptic
Proposition 13: Apocalyptic Prophecy Should Be Differentiated from Classical Prophecy
Proposition 15: In Apocalyptic Literature, Visions Are Not the Message but the Occasion for the Message
Proposition 16: New Testament Apocalyptic Operates by the Same Principles as Old Testament Apocalyptic

Concluding Thoughts
For Further Reading
General Index
Scripture Index


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John H. Walton

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament, emeritus, at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His many books include The Lost World of Genesis One and Wisdom for Faithful Reading.