The Preacher’s remark that “of the making of many books there is no end” comes readily to mind when anyone attempts a survey of this sort. The current revival of religious interest in the United States has been accompanied by a renewed interest in the production of religious books on the part of many publishers. Some who had discontinued religious titles have resumed their publication. Others whose interest had been confined to liberal points of view have discovered that conservative and evangelical Christians provide a good potential market. It is to be hoped that the support of these publishers may give further impetus to the progress of biblical Christianity.

In order to be more than an extended book notice, a survey must be also an evaluation. As such, it will represent in some measure the theological viewpoint of the writer. In this case, the viewpoint is that of one who is Reformed in doctrine, holding to a type of inspiration of the Scriptures which is not accepted by many of those whose works have been examined. It is hoped that this acknowledgment will help the reader to understand better any criticisms which are offered; at the same time, should the authors peruse these pages, they may be assured that even where there has been disagreement there has been enjoyment and profit.

The publication this year of the Revised Standard Version of the Apocrypha (Nelson) has not created anything like the furor which greeted the same version of the Old Testament. This is no doubt due to the fact that those who objected to the Old Testament version will likely ignore the apocryphal books. The appearance of the Apocrypha is, however, symptomatic of a renewed interest in the matter of the canon. It is surely significant, too, that a very cogent argument for not receiving the Apocrypha as canonical is offered by one who was himself a member of the translation committees. In Which Books Belong in The Bible (Westminster), Floyd V. Filson states that canonicity means primarily that certain books are basic and authoritative and that the idea of the canon includes the continuing spiritual authority of the books. Of the Apocrypha he states, “They are not Scripture, and they have no right to a compromise position which practically treats them as Scripture while maintaining the fiction that they are without influence on doctrinal thinking” (p. 150).

Over against the view of Filson, who holds that we do not accept the Old Testament canon by slavish necessity because Jesus and the apostles did, is the position of Laird Harris expressed in Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Zondervan). There it is said that the Lord Jesus Christ’s seal of approval … is guarantee enough of the canonicity of the Old Testament for those who find in him the Way, the Truth and the Life (p. 179). Much valuable material is found here, including a chapter which deals with some objections to verbal inspiration, an objectionable doctrine to many of the other writers be mentioned.

Literary Introductions

One of the most interesting books in this field that came to your reviewer’s attention is already three years old, but it is valuable at once for its description and its analyses of modern Old Testament scholarship. This is the work by Herbert F. Hahn, Old Testament in Modern Research (Muhlenberg), in which he criticizes incisively the various approaches to the Old Testament such as the critical, sociological, archaeological, etc. The effort at synthesis of these will not satisfy the orthodox student, however.

Problems of introduction, such as the date, authorship and purpose of the Old Testament writings, have not had much by way of new consideration in the past year. The Books of the Old Testament, by Robert H. Pfeiffer (Harper) is an abridgement of his earlier Introduction. In the author’s own words, it “adds nothing, changes no conclusions, and omits much …” (p. x). It is a popular presentation of Dr. Pfeiffer’s position and will bring the developmental view of Israel’s history and religion down to a more popular level. Those who have known the author will readily grant his sincerity in saying that there is no conflict between deep religious faith and historical investigation about the Bible. They may, however, have great difficulty in accepting his idea that both Haggai and Malachi are of slight religious and literary importance (p. 323), or that objective study shows that none of the Pentateuchal codes (except a nomadic decalogue) could have been promulgated by Moses (p. 70).

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It is a good exercise to compare with Pfeiffer’s position an excellent study by G. T. Manley, The Book of the Law (Eerdmans). In an objective manner, showing a large acquaintance with the literature of all points of view on the topic, he seeks to show a real, historical connection of Deuteronomy with Moses. Since the date of the origin of Deuteronomy has been said to be the Achilles’ heel of the developmental view, the question is still vital.

Biblical Backgrounds

A very delightful assignment was the reading of Denis Baly’s The Geography of the Bible (Harper). The author’s attitude toward his topic is at once clear when he says that God in Christ “came into the land which he had prepared for himself and which he had previously used for the revelation of himself during the space of well over a thousand years.” As a geographer, Baly relates the features of climate, soil, topography, etc., to the biblical text in a way not surpassed and perhaps not equalled in any other recent work. On a different subject, but equally readable, is the book by Ludwig Kohler, Hebrew Man (Abingdon). Through a kind of detective work, the author tries to depict the physical appearance, life and thought of the average Hebrew. Unfortunately he does not hesitate to contradict the biblical account on what appears to be flimsy evidence, e.g., on the original use of circumcision by the Israelites. Rather too easily the conclusion is reached that the Hebrews were more than ordinarily subject to psychoses and depressions. Nevertheless, a better feeling for the Old Testament may be gained from this book.

Also useable as background study is Abraham, by Dorothy B. Hill (Beacon). Regrettably, however, the Genesis story, rabbinical legend, and a vivid imagination are given almost equal validity. The able use of archaeological material in weaving the tale gives a good picture of patriarchal times.

Old Testament History

The year has seen a larger than usual number of histories or surveys of the Old Testament period, due partly, it seems, to a desire to relate archaeological findings directly to the contemporary situation, and partly also to elicit that which is of permanent, religious validity in Israel’s experience. The two most extensive titles are Bernhard W. Anderson’s Understanding the Old Testament (Prentice-Hall) and Emiel G. Kraeling’s Bible Atlas (Rand McNally). The former of these has a greater theological emphasis and is written in a very attractive way. The latter is an atlas and therefore stresses matters of geography and archaeology. Both of them discount to a large extent the miraculous elements in the Old Testament, either by defining away the supernatural or in several instances as, for example, the cycle of Elijah and Elisha miracles, relegating them to the realm of pure legend. An excellent devotional study of these same stories is found in Ronald S. Wallace’s Elijah and Elisha (Eerdmans), from which any young Christian may profit.

A newcomer to the historical field is R. K. Harrison, a Canadian Anglican, whose History of Old Testament Times (Zondervan) is up-to-date and adheres to a high view of the integrity of the Scripture narratives while attempting to find a solution to their problems.

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Significant of one trend of thought in Old Testament studies today is the title of a college textbook by Colin Alves, The Covenant (Cambridge). Although Alves accepts most of the older documentary views, he finds in the Old Testament concept of the covenant relation a unifying principle not only within the Old Testament but between the Old and the New Testaments. This is true of Anderson, mentioned above, as it is of a number of recent writers, and is the result of the more truly biblical approach to the Bible.

The turning of scholarly attention to archaeology and theology may be the reason for a dearth of commentaries. At any rate, just one commentary has come to our attention. It is the fine work by Theodore Laetsch on The Minor Prophets (Concordia). This is the second in an Old Testament series, the first being Jeremiah by the same writer. Laetsch is aware of most of the historical as well as the exegetical problems. Though he is not always kind to those with whom he disagrees, the author’s discernment in theology and his positive conviction are stimulating. It is to be hoped that further volumes may appear soon.

Biblical Theology

The revival of biblical theology is the most prominent feature of Old Testament studies and it is not surprising to see a number of titles devoted to this topic. A leader in the reaction to the theological sterility of older liberalism is H. H. Rowley, whose Faith of Israel (Westminster) in some respects carries us back to the beliefs of older Reformed theology. Moses gave the people the Decalogue of Exodus 20 (p. 126). There is reason to believe that though the so-called Messianic psalms were used in royal rites of the temple, they were also “Messianic.” They held before the king the ideal king (p. 192). The Old Testament covenant was not a legal contract but rather Israel’s pledge of loyalty to him who had first chosen and saved her (p. 69). Many will not like the author’s views of the origin of Scripture but they will be pleased to hear his conclusions.

A book that is likely to popularize both biblical introduction and theology is The Book of the Acts of God, by G. Ernest Wright and Reginald H. Fuller (Doubleday). Wright, whose Biblical Archaeology (Westminster) was also published last year, is the author of the Old Testament section. His view of the Old Testament sources is that of most developmental critics. His ideas of the flexibility of the canon are open to criticism. Yet there is much that is helpful to an understanding of the history of God’s people, and a serious dealing with the narrative. There is a fine devotional feeling and also a repeated acknowledgment that the Old Testament finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.

The problems of interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis are mentioned in virtually every work on introduction, history or theology. Two small books are devoted to the topic more particularly. The problem is solved by William M. Logan, In The Beginning God (John Knox), by saying that Genesis 1–11 is a series of theological essays dealing with the universal human predicament. Genesis is not concerned with science, and therefore there can be no conflict (p. 14). It is interesting to see that N. H. Ridderbos, of the Calvinistic Free University of Amsterdam, states that since God is the author both of science and of the Bible there can be no conflict between them. He then explains Genesis I as purely literary form in which historical time plays no necessary role.

Messianic prophecy is coming into its own again in some quarters, without some of the eschatological trappings that have created such disturbance among conservatives in the past. Aaron J. Kligerman, a Hebrew Christian, has given a kind of outline manual on the subject, Messianic Prophecy in the Old Testament (Zondervan). Ministers and students who are eager to do some serious study have now been provided with a reprint of what is a monumental work and the only one, to your reviewer’s knowledge, that attempts to exegete carefully all the Old Testament messianic prophecies, the famous century-old Christology of the Old Testament, by E. W. Hengstenberg (Kregel). Here is good reading from one who, ever more clearly than some modern biblical theologians, saw in the Old Testament the Word who would be made flesh.

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Text And Criticism

Most graduates of seminaries, it is well known, have little time and no patience for textual criticism. For those who know Hebrew and are still students, whether in seminary or parsonage, a valuable help has appeared in The Text of the Old Testament, by Ernest Wurthwein (Macmillan). Using the Kittel Biblia Hebraica, third edition, with its critical apparatus, the author has provided an excellent introduction to the Hebrew text, the versions and the methods of Old Testament textual criticism. A series of 41 plates is of great help.

This survey has already become more extensive than was planned, but it is too brief to cover all the titles the publishers have kindly sent to your reviewer. Perhaps the following brief notice will serve to introduce the reader to other available literature:

Broomall, Wick: Biblical Criticism (Zondervan). An analysis of destructive higher criticism, with positive approach. Recommended in its field.

Ellis, E. Earle: Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (Eerdmans). Scholarly investigation of Paul’s quotations from the Old Testament.

Field, Laurence N.: Family Bible Story Book (Augsburg). Suitable to Junior and Senior High group.

Hanke, Howard: Christ and the Church in the Old Testament (Zondervan). A nondispensational approach to the plan of redemption.

Knapp, Christopher: The Kings of Judah and Israel (Loizeaux). A devotional, biographical study.

Metzger, Bruce M.: An Introduction to the Apocrypha (Oxford). An excellent introduction by a member of the translation committee. Recommended for intertestamental studies.

Owen, G. Frederick: Abraham to the Middle-East Crisis (Eerdmans). A quick survey of Israelitish history. Very enlightening in modern period. Apparently premillennial.

Pfeiffer. Charles: The Book of Leviticus (Baker). A manual for Bible study, excellent for church use. The Dead Sea Scrolls (Baker). A sane, Christian treatment of a pertinent topic, recommended.

Pfeiffer, Robert H., and Pollard, Wil.: The Hebrew Iliad (Harper). Popularizes the two-document theory of the Books of Samuel, but makes the story read like an ancient novel. Pleasant.

Robin, Chaim: Qumran Studies (Oxford). Rather technical. Helps to understand the Qumran sect from a Jewish viewpoint.

Sloan, W. W.: A Survey of the Old Testament (Abingdon). A college textbook. Accepts documentary hypothesis. Some good theological insights in well-phrased language.

Strachan, James: Early Bible Illustrations (Cambridge). Especially interesting to a historian, deals with medieval and early Reformation periods.

Thompson, J. A.: Archaeology and the Old Testament (Eerdmans). Will be reviewed later.

Unger, Merrill F.: Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Moody). A revision of Barnes’ Bible Encyclopedia. Most articles brief but up-to-date, evangelical. The Dead Sea Scrolls (Zondervan). Discusses the scrolls in relation to the New Testament. Review of older archaeological finds.

David W. Kerr has been Professor of Old Testament at Gordon Divinity School since 1953. He holds the B.A. degree from University of Western Ontario (where he was awarded the Governor-General’s medal for highest standing in arts), and the B.D. and Th.M. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has served on the General Assembly Committee on Articles of Faith, Presbyterian Church in Canada.

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