Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GTJ 6:1 (Spr 85) p. 113
Harper’s Introduction to the Bible, by Gerald Hughes and Stephen Travis. New York: Harper and Row, 1981. Pp. 128. $10.95. Paper.
In noting the scant growth of a long-established church, a noted Christian leader was heard to remark that it had been “poorly born.” That observation could be made with equal propriety to the book under consideration.
The comments on the back cover announce that the book is (1) an introduction to all the biblical books, (2) a culturally integrated account of the biblical writers’ beliefs about God and (3) a running commentary accompanied by discussions of “key ideas, personalities and historical considerations.”
Viewed in the light of such claims, the book falls far short of the reader’s expectations. As to the first assertion, it scarcely qualifies at all. It certainly is not an introduction in the proper sense of the term, for it presents little that could pass for technical discussions on such matters as canonicity, text or special critical problems relative to the individual biblical books.
Nor are all the books really covered. Apparently those books that are basic to the internal formation of Israel (Genesis 1-Exodus 20) and its return from exile (Ezra, Nehemiah), and integral to an understanding of Jewish ethical aims and social standards (among the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Haggai, and Malachi; among the writings: Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes) are particularly singled out for notice. Daniel and Ezekiel also receive special attention, but, unfortunately, are wedded to a discussion of intertestamental apocalyptic literature. Perhaps the goal of providing an introduction was intended to be somewhat realized for the OT by the inclusion of an overall chronological and topical chart. Unfortunately, the chronological scheme for the pre-kingdom era is largely hopeless—it is unreliable for the minor prophets, vacillates on Daniel and provides no dates at all for Joel and the poetic books. As for the NT, only distinctive details within the Gospels, Acts and Revelation receive notice—and these within the confines of thirty pages.
The main thrust of the book revolves around the latter two of the three claims found on the back cover. In so doing, the book aims to proceed in an “appealing, readable style,”—and it does, though in such a simplistic manner as to be often almost condescending in tone. The result is that the book becomes a story, telling of Israel’s fate among the nations of the ancient Near East (p. 1) especially as reflected in the lives of such early personages as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Samuel and Job; such kings as Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah; such prophets as Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; such l...
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