The reader of the Old Testament must constantly turn to his Bible dictionary or encyclopedia for information concerning the people and places mentioned. And with the continuing activity in archaeological and linguistic research, there is a need for new reference books. During 1963 some new works of this kind appeared. Louis F. Hartman, aided by seventeen Roman Catholic biblical scholars, translated, and in part revised, A. van den Born’s Bijbels Woordenboek (second edition, 1954–57) as Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible (McGraw-Hill). The volume contains 2,634 columns of text. There are very few illustrations, but bibliographies are excellent, including the works of both Catholic and non-Catholic scholarship.
Frederick C. Grant and H. H. Rowley edited a revision of the one-volume Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible (Scribner’s). The new edition is based on the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, but it contains cross-references to both the older Revised Version and the King James. The new Hastings is of particular value for acquainting the reader with modern critical scholarship.
Samuel Terrien wrote a concise introduction to the Bible entitled The Bible and the Church: An Approach to Scripture (Westminster). He insists that we read our Bible as a historical document, maintaining our intellectual integrity as we do so. Conversely, he also insists that it is the Bible that judges the Church, not the Church that judges the Bible. The historical aspects of biblical backgrounds are discussed by Cyrus H. Gordon in Before the Bible (Harper & Row). Gordon surveys the cultures of ancient Egypt and the cuneiform world and maintains that Ugarit was the link between Canaan and the Aegean civilizations. He sees the Homeric epics and the sagas of patriarchal Canaan as expressions of a common east Mediterranean cultural continuum.
During 1963 the first two volumes of a work designed for Roman Catholic high school students appeared. The set, known as “The New Library of Catholic Knowledge” (Hawthorn Books, twelve volumes), begins with a volume entitled Preparing the Way, by M. E. Odell. Miss Odell has written a brief summary of the Old Testament, nicely illustrated, and preceded by a fifteen-page discussion of the origins of the universe, of the earth, and of man in the light of contemporary scientific thought. She considers the earth to be about 4,500,000,000 years old and gives theistic evolution a serious hearing.
Old Testament history is presented in F. F. Bruce’s Israel and the Nations (Eerdmans), a survey of Israelite history from the Exodus to the destruction of the Second Temple (A.D. 70). Bruce traces the rise and fall of the Israelite monarchy, the Exile, the return of a remnant, and its history during the period between the testaments, closing with a brief treatment of New Testament Palestine.
In 1957, M. A. Beek of Amsterdam wrote his Geschiedenis Van Israel, which was translated into English by Arnold J. Pomerans and published in 1963 by Harper & Row as A Short History of Israel from Abraham to Bar Cochba. Both Beek and Bruce draw heavily upon archaeology to provide a background for biblical studies. Bruce gives a fuller treatment, but Beek is more inclined to discuss critical matters. He gives a rather extensive discussion of the person and work of Moses in the light of contemporary Old Testament studies. Old Testament students will also welcome a revised and expanded fourth edition of W. F. Albright’s The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (Harper Torchbooks), which gives an excellent summary of the historical and archaeological backgrounds of the Old Testament.
George Eicholz provided 103 color photographs and wrote the accompanying text for a beautiful volume, Landscapes of the Bible (Harper & Row). The large color photographs enable the armchair traveler to visit the countries between the Nile and the Euphrates Rivers, stopping at such exotic places as Palmyra as well as at the more familiar villages of Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee. The hills and valleys of the Holy Land, the Qumran caves, and the ruins of long-abandoned cities are here to give the reader a feeling for the geography and history of the biblical world.
A series of essays by the British Old Testament scholar H. H. Rowley has appeared under the title From Moses to Qumran (Association). Rowley discusses such themes as “Moses and Monotheism,” “The Meaning of Sacrifice in the Old Testament,” and “The Qumran Sect and Christian Origins.” Denis Baly, whose earlier Geography and the Bible has become a standard work, has written a new Geographical Companion to the Bible (McGraw-Hill). Professor Baly has drawn on his experiences in the Holy Land, where he taught for fifteen years at St. George’s School in Jerusalem, to present a realistic picture of the land: its formation, climate, structure, vegetation, and trade routes, and their cumulative effect upon the events of biblical history. The book contains maps, photographs, and a gazetteer.
Preface To Biblical History
Another lavishly illustrated book, Palestine Before the Conquest, by Emmanuel Anati (Knopf), describes pre-historic and historic Canaan from the first arrival of man to the biblical conquest. This might be described as a preface to biblical history. Covering a longer period of time is the two-volume work by the soldier-archaeologist Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (McGraw-Hill). Yadin has made generous use of color photographs in presenting a history of military life and activity from the most ancient Jericho (c. 7000 B.C.) to the time of Darius I of Persia (490 B.C.). The text and photographs follow the Bible chronologically, beginning with the period before Abraham, continuing through the time of the patriarchs, the sojourn in Egypt, the period of the judges and the United Monarchy to the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Photographs of artifacts, monumental inscriptions, and city plans supplement the scholarly text in giving the reader a first-hand view of military life from Egypt to Mesopotamia in Old Testament times.
During 1963 the one-volume Harper’s Bible Commentary, by William Neil (Harper & Row), appeared. This is not a verse-by-verse treatment of the Bible, and its brevity (only 544 double-column pages) precludes the full treatment that scholarly readers desire in a commentary. Nevertheless Neil has crowded a wealth of information into his commentary, and readers will often be amazed at the way he gets to the heart of his subject. Twenty-one pages are devoted to the apocrypha.
The two-volume work by Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship (Abingdon), presents the conclusions of a well-known Scandinavian scholar who is convinced that most of the Psalms were composed to serve a liturgical or cultic function. The Finnish scholar Helmer Ringgren has attempted to go beyond cultic research in his The Faith of the Psalmists (Fortress). He sees the Psalms as profoundly human and profoundly religious documents, containing expressions of timeless, living religion closely akin to that of the New Testament.
Studies In The Prophets
Elmer A Leslie, whose earlier works on The Psalms and Jeremiah have had a wide following, has written a new work: Isaiah: Chronologically Arranged, Translated and Interpreted (Abingdon). Leslie, who holds to the view that there are three “Isaiahs,” has rearranged the canonical text on the basis of his chronological principle and has given his own translation of the Hebrew text.
After forty years of study in Israel’s prophetic literature, Johannes Lindblom of the University of Lund has written a definitive study, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Fortress). The Swedish scholar begins with a survey of prophets outside Israel, including such diverse personages as Mohammed, Cassandra of Troy, and Saint Bridget of Sweden. He then traces the phenomenon of prophetism in Israel, observing similarities and differences in the earlier non-writing prophets and the later prophets of the classical period. Lindblom indicates a distrust of modern psychological explanations of the lives and messages of the prophets. He does, however, see the work of many hands, including disciples and redactors, in the prophetic books.
The religion of the prophets was not one of mystical experience, in Lindblom’s view; it was rather a historically based faith in a God who had revealed himself in the events of history. The crux of religious life is thus faith and obedience rather than mystical experience. In Lindblom’s thought, the prophets were primarily men with a message for their own times, and he shows little sympathy with what is generally regarded as predictive prophecy.
Another important study of prophecy was made by Abraham J. Heschel of the Jewish Theological Seminary and published as The Prophets (Harper & Row). Heschel first considers the kind of men the Israelite prophets were and then discusses representative prophetic writers (Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Second Isaiah). Next he discusses a number of topics that arose from his study of contrasts between prophecy and related phenomena. He sees the prophet as a man conscious of God’s “attentiveness and concern,” a concern often unnoticed. On occasion, however, that very concern may manifest itself in wrathful anger. To Heschel the themes and claims of prophetic theology may be summarized in terms of God’s concern for man and man’s relevance to God.
A shorter work, Prophets in Perspective, by B. D. Napier (Abingdon), presents an analysis of the prophetic movement from its inception in the days of Moses to the period of the classical prophets (800–600 B.C.). Napier’s study is an expansion of his article in The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary. It does not discuss the individual prophets but rather takes the prophetic movement as a whole, seeking to determine its faith, characteristics, and relevance to contemporary life. Napier sees the prophets as heralds both of God’s judgments and of his redemption.
Amos and His Message, by Roy Lee Honeycutt (Broadman), likewise strives to make the words of an ancient prophet relevant to contemporary life. Honeycutt, however, has written a verse-by-verse commentary in which linguistic detail, historical background, and doctrinal and practical matters are given due attention. Although conservative in outlook, Honeycutt draws upon all schools of thought in making Amos speak to our generation. Merrill F. Unger has written a verse-by-verse commentary entitled Commentary on Zechariah (Zondervan). He writes as a representative of the pre-millennial, dispensational school of interpretation. Although he draws on the Hebrew text, the Septuagint and other versions, Unger’s commentary is particularly designed for readers of the King James Version or the American Standard Version.
Jack Finegan’s Let My People Go (Harper & Row) bears the subtitle, “A Journey Through Exodus.” The author of the widely used Light From the Ancient Past brings his knowledge of archaeology to bear on his study of the Book of Exodus and also makes Exodus speak to our needs. Every struggle for freedom is seen in the light of ancient Israel’s experience of an exodus from the house of bondage. Meredith Kline in Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Eerdmans) examines the pattern of suzerainty treaties in the ancient Near East and views Deuteronomy as a covenant-renewal document based on that pattern. Kline writes as a scholar convinced that Deuteronomy truly records the farewell address of Moses to Israel on the plains of Moab. The second part of Kline’s book is a commentary on Deuteronomy.
A series of studies in the inner experience of Job is given in Job: Defense of Honor, by Roger N. Carstensen (Abingdon). Carstensen sees in Job the picture of a man of integrity, and in Jesus an answer to the outcry of Job.
The New Translations
Old Testament translations, although not so numerous as New Testament translations, continue to appear, and 1963 saw the beginnings of a J. B. Phillips Old Testament. Popular in both style and format is Phillips’s volume Four Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah), published by Macmillan. Phillips is more concerned with relating the message of the prophets to contemporary life than with literally translating their words. He has divided the biblical text into paragraphs with titles to help the reader follow the thought. Entirely different in style and purpose is the work by J. Wash Watts, A Distinctive Translation of Genesis (Eerdmans). Watts has the Hebrew student in mind in his translation and notes. Appendices discuss the principles of translation and problem passages.
As the subtitle of his book Interpreting the Bible (Eerdmans), A. Berkeley Mickelsen has given, “A Book of Basic Principles for Understanding the Scriptures.” He stresses the fact that he is presenting principles rather than fixed formulas or mechanical rules for interpreting the Bible. He gives due attention to figurative elements and shows the place occupied by descriptive language in the biblical accounts of Creation and Climax. The author also notes that the biblical interpreter must first be concerned with the discovery of the original meaning of a statement, and then take account of changes in meaning which contemporary readers may attach to the same words. Ideally, the interpreter will find the meaning of a statement for the author and for the first hearers or readers, and transmit that meaning to modern readers.
A revised edition of A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, by Robert M. Grant (Macmillan), has been issued. Grant traces the history of schools of interpretation from New Testament times to the present. He gives us not only a history of past systems but also a timely warning that if we insist on rewriting the Bible in our own categories we ultimately create God in our own image.
The discipline of Old Testament hermeneutics is treated in a composite work edited by Claus Westermann, Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics (John Knox). The fifteen papers deal with such themes as “Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament” (Von Rad), “Prophecy and Fulfillment” (Bultmann), and “Jesus Christ and the Old Testament” (Johann Jakob Stamm).
Another “panel discussion” is presented in The Old Testament and Christian Faith, edited by Bernhard W. Anderson (Harper & Row). It presents an introductory discussion by Rudolf Bultmann on “The Significance of the Old Testament for the Christian Faith,” followed by contributions from an international panel of scholars including Alan Richardson, Wilhelm Vischer, Oscar Cullmann, E. Ernest Wright, and Claus Westermann. The contributors represent a variety of viewpoints, and the volume as a whole will give the serious student a grasp of contemporary thought on the Old Testament and Christianity.
Twenty-three articles that have appeared in Bibliotheca Sacra since 1934 have been republished as Truth for Today, edited by John F. Walvoord (Moody). Articles include “A Scientific Approach to the Old Testament—A Study of Amos 9 in relation to Acts 15,” by Allan A. MacRae, and “The Poetic Structure of the Book of Job and Ugaritic Literature,” by Charles L. Feinberg.
Several articles of interest to Old Testament students appear in the festschrift, In the Time of Harvest: Essays in Honor of Abba Hillel Silver on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, edited by Daniel Jeremy Silver (Macmillan). Notable among these are Benjamin Mazar’s “David’s Reign in Hebron and the Conquest of Jerusalem,” Solomon Zeitlin’s “The Origin of the Idea of Messiah,” and Tur Sinai’s “On Some Obscure Passages in the Book of Psalms 1–35.”
G. S. Wegener’s 6,000 Years of the Bible (Harper & Row) recounts the story of the Bible, its earliest history as known through archaeology and its subsequent preservation and dissemination. The book is illustrated with more than two hundred photographs of archaeological and historical interest. The book could be classified as belonging to the category “General Biblical Introduction.” Non-technical, it answers in popular language the recurring question, “How did we get our Bible?” Scribes, translators, printers, even forgers of ancient documents, are encountered on its pages.
J. B. Segal’s The Hebrew Passover from the Earliest Times to A.D. 70 (Oxford) is a careful analysis of biblical and extra-biblical documents pertaining to the Passover, and an evaluation of modern theories concerning its origin. Segal analyzes the discussions of the Passover in the Book of Jubilees, the New Testament, and the Qumran literature. The book concludes with a description of the Passover observance during the decades immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).
Old Testament students have long appreciated the two studies of Babylonian texts made by the late Alexander Heidel and published by the University of Chicago Press, and these studies have now been reissued. An analysis of the cuneiform creation accounts is given in The Babylonian Genesis, and the Babylonian flood stories are translated and analyzed in The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (both Phoenix Paperbacks).
The reviewer’s Tell el-Amarna and the Bible (Baker) gives a summary of the excavations at Amarna in Egypt, a survey of the reforms of Pharaoh Akhenaton, and a summary of the contents and significance of the Amarna Tablets.
The Oxford University Press has reprinted, without alteration, the 1913 edition of the definitive work edited by R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. These volumes represent the finest scholarly thought of an earlier generation. A thorough revision is needed, but in the absence of this the original work remains indispensable to students of apocryphal literature.
Charles F. Pfeiffer is professor of Old Testament literature at Gordon Divinity School, Wenham, Massachusetts. He holds the B.A. degree from Temple University, the B.D. degree from Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary, and the Ph.D. degree from Dropsie College. His most recent book is “Tell el-Amarna and the Bible.”
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