Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TRINJ 26:1 (Spring 2005) p. 131
John J. Collins. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: With CD-ROM. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004. 613 pp. $49.00.
John J. Collins is the Holmes Professor of OT Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University. A prolific writer and esteemed professor and lecturer, Collins sets out to engage the reader both historically and ethically, while steering clear of explaining scholarly controversies.
The book is divided into four parts: The Torah/Pentateuch, the Deuteronomistic History, the Prophets, and the Writings. After introductory remarks regarding canon, text, chronology, and method, the first chapter gives a brief, clear, and readable early history of the Ancient Near East. The chronological charts and references to extra-biblical literature help the reader understand the context in which the OT was written. The first part covering the Torah deals with the primeval history, the patriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, the revelation at Sinai, priestly theology (Leviticus and Numbers), and Deuteronomy. Chapter 2 gives internal, external, and extra-biblical evidence for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and then goes on to state that the Documentary Hypothesis “enjoyed the status of orthodoxy for about a century” (p. 49). The main indication of multiple authorship is seen in the variation of divine names that “cannot be explained as stylistic variation” (p. 50). Collins sees two creation stories in Genesis and the biblical account of the flood as being indebted to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The treatment of the Exodus situation is puzzling. Collins suggests that “the final edition of the book of Exodus is no earlier than the Babylonian exile, some seven hundred years after the events it describes” (p. 109). It seems that the Exodus event is under fire because no ancient non-biblical source records it, and thus Collins concludes that “very little can be said about the exodus as history” (p. 119). The explanation of Hittite treaties and their parallels to biblical covenants is a definite strength (ch. 6). However, Collins’s assertion that “the immediate prologue to the giving of the law is not a recitation of history but a description of a theophany (or manifestation of God) on Mount Sinai,” is dubious (p. 124). Collins also sees Jerusalem scribes in Josiah’s service as the primary authors of Deuteronomy. Thus, Collins concludes that “there is good reason to regard the finding of the book as a fiction, designed to ensure its ready acceptance by the people” (p. 169).
The second part of the book dealing with Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings is labeled as “Deuteronomistic History.” Collins summarizes well the different views about the historicity of the conquest in Joshua and concludes that the biblical evidence is problematic. However...
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