Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 45:3 (Sept 2002) p. 513
Encountering the Old Testament. A Christian Survey. By Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999, 512 pp. + Interactive CD-ROM, $49.99.
Finding a suitable textbook for undergraduate college surveys is an arduous task, but this has become somewhat easier with Arnold and Beyer’s Encountering the Old Testament. This is the second in Baker’s ongoing Encountering Biblical Studies series of texts, surveys, and collections of primary-source documents directed specifically at undergraduate college freshmen, and it should serve its intended audience well. (See the review of the NT Encountering volume in JETS 43/3 [Sept. 2000] 540-43.)
The book’s 34 chapters of about 14 pages each (with the exception of chap. 2, which is 28 pages) would fit well into a standard semester and still leave room for test days, review sessions, and the occasional canceled class.
The first chapter deals with questions of canon, how the Bible was written, transmission of the text, and basic issues of hermeneutics. Chapter 2 focuses on the geographic and historical context of Israel and the ancient Near East and includes a half-dozen maps, a summary chart of relevant archaeological periods, and a 12-page summary of the OT under the heading “What Events does the Old Testament Describe?” Four chapters are devoted to introductions to the Pentateuch (“The Birth of God’s People,” chap. 3), the Historical Books (“The History of Israel’s Nationhood,” chap. 10), the Poetic Books (“The Literature of God’s People,” chap. 19) and the Prophets (“Voices of God’s Servants,” chap. 24). These chapters contain brief summaries of the individual books and basic treatments of such items as critical questions of authorship and date, theological themes or issues, the nature of Hebrew poetry and prophecy, and the literary and historical contexts in which the biblical material emerged. Each of these chapters has numerous charts, illustrations, and excerpts from the relevant biblical and extrabiblical literature.
The remaining 28 chapters cover specific textual units of the OT, either individual books (e.g. chap. 14, “2 Samuel: David’s Reign”), parts of books (e.g. chap. 25, “Isaiah 40–66: Great Days Are Coming!”), or combinations of books (e.g. chap. 23, “Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs: Israelite Faith in Everyday Life”). Each has a section on the outline of the biblical content, specific issues the text raises (e.g. “The Servant Passages in Isaiah 40–66”; “Problems of Interpretation in Daniel: Bilingualism, The Four Kingdoms, The Vision of the Seventy Weeks, and Historical Questions”; “Classif...
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