Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BBR 20:2 (2010) p. 257
Steven L. Bridge. Getting the Old Testament: What It Meant to Them, What It Means for Us. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. Pp. xx + 227. ISBN 978-1-59856- 045-9. $14.95 paper.
Steven L. Bridge, Professor of Theology at St. Joseph’s College, has produced a very readable book that draws its audience into each chapter with relevant, contemporary anecdotes. The volume consists of 11 chapters divided according to the tripartite division of the Hebrew Bible. In addition, there are 10 appendixes and four pages of suggested reading.
In Getting the Old Testament, the author likens his approach to archaeology, stating that “although our survey has barely scratched the surface, our findings offer an encouraging hint of what else might lie beneath” (p. 181). Bridge has consciously overlooked vast segments of the OT in order to demonstrate a contextual hermeneutical approach that can then be applied to other texts. With respect to the latter, the author seeks “to produce a work that might satisfy both institutions of learning and communities of faith; one simultaneously sensitive to Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim perspectives” (p. xiii). This is an ambitious goal, indeed, but in reality could not be achieved satisfactorily.
There are many points for which Bridge should be commended. First, he demonstrates pedagogy of the highest order. He does not overburden the student with excessive details but relegates narrative chronology, dating of the prophetic books, and ancient Near Eastern law selections—among other helpful details—to the appendix. Furthermore, the volume is replete with charts and tables that simplify the data. Second, the book’s subtitle is a significant feature of the book, exemplified by this comment on Job: “By imposing our own theologies upon their situations or rushing to the Almighty’s defense, we run the very real risk of alienating the sufferers and misconstruing reality” (p. 179). Each chapter begins with a pertinent story and concludes with a summary and conclusion, demonstrating its relevance to modern readers.
Despite the book’s many strengths, it does have its fair share of shortcomings. First, Bridge often makes sweeping statements about what “scholars” say, as though there were a unified voice on things such as source criticism (p. 41) or the meaning of Daniel’s prophecies (p. 128). Second, there are points in which his attempt at ecumenism may not be welcome in some, particularly Evangelical, settings. For example, Bridge states, “As for the promised messiah, his appearance continues to be a matter of debate” (p. 98). Third, there are examples of inaccurate statements (for example, Lamentations is one of the Minor Prophets, p. 86), simplistic interpretations (for exampl...
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