Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 53:2 (June 2010) p. 383
Getting the Old Testament: What It Meant to Them, What It Means for Us. By Steven L. Bridge. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. xx + 227 pp., $14.95.
Many readers misinterpret, misapply, and misjudge the OT because they lack awareness of the cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds of the biblical texts. In Getting the Old Testament, Steven L. Bridge, Professor of Theology at St. Joseph’s College, Maine, desires to show beginning audiences spanning both academic and faith communities (Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant) how a contextually informed reading of various OT texts can unlock their genuine lessons. Those familiar with Bridge’s Getting the Gospels: Understanding the New Testament Accounts of Jesus’ Life (Hendrickson, 2004) will quickly note the similarity of purpose and style in his two volumes.
The tripartite structure of Getting the Old Testament corresponds to the major divisions of the Hebrew Bible—Law (chaps. 1-5), Prophets (chaps. 6-8), and Writings (chaps. 9-11)—with each section engaging multiple selected biblical texts as case studies for interpretation and application. In Part I, Bridge interacts with both creation accounts (Genesis 1-2), the flood narrative (Genesis 6-9), the Abraham narratives (Genesis 12-21), and the Torah’s collection of laws. He interprets Genesis 1 as an artistic rendering that complements science’s perspective on creation. Read under the influence of the Enuma Elish, the Priestly writer’s systematic presentation is seen to be a narrative emphasizing monotheism, divine transcendence, the goodness of creation, and human dominion and privilege. Bridge enumerates factual contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2 but claims these differences do not preclude an affirmation of their respective theological truth claims. Similarly, he finds the significance of Genesis 6-9 not in discussions about its (dubious) historicity but in its comparison with other ancient flood narratives like the Gilgamesh Epic and the Story of Atrahasis, thus exposing the biblical author’s ability to retell the account within a monotheistic framework that maintains both God’s justice and mercy. Chapter 4 proposes insights from Genesis 12-21 as a path to resolving contemporary Jewish/Muslim tensions. Identifying divergent treatments of Ishmael and Hagar, Bridge exposes the Yahwist as condemnatory but finds that the Priestly/Elohist sources maintain a place for cherishing and blessing Ishmael in addition to Isaac. Finally, Bridge catego...
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