Book Review: Introducing the Old Testament

Book Review: Introducing the Old Testament August 26, 2018

Robert L. Hubbard Jr. and J. Andrew Dearman
Introducing the Old Testament
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018.
Available from Amazon.com

I recently took on responsibility for our first year introductory Old Testament subjects here are Ridley College. One of the first things I did was look back over the reading lists from previous lecturers and raid the library for the textbooks. When it comes to Introductory Old Testament textbooks, turns out there is a dizzying array of great options on the market. And that’s really a good thing. Different demographics, pedagogical contexts, confessional approaches and personal style mean there is no one right textbook for every class.

By Andrew Judd

Hubbard and Dearman’s Intdroducing the Old Testament is a welcome addition to the menu. Here are some of its features — based on which, dear reader, you can work out whether it is worth exploring for yourself.

One slim(ish) volume of about 500 nicely laid out pages. The cost of textbooks is a significant, and not all of us will be able to justify setting different volumes for the Pentateuch, Histories, Prophets and Writings. This single volume is not small, but it’s not weapon sized either: here is a single volume that you can fit in your bag on the tram without feeling like you’re moving house each time.

A pleasant smattering of colour pictures and charts. For undergraduate courses, this is a win. It makes some useful information (when did Assyria attack Judah again?) very accessible and gives a taste of some of the archaeological treasures to be explored. One or two of the pictures are a stretch (really? a 19th century painting of a dude thinking to illustrate Proverbs and ‘the intense meditation required for one to gain wisdom’?) but overall they add great life to the text.

Friendly and accessible. While the authors are both well known for serious academic works, it turns out they can also tell a good story. The style is down to earth and will help undergraduate students get a grip on the basics of the Old Testament, which can be an intimidating jungle to start exploring. There is some general orientation to scholarly debates, and an adequate bibliography to each chapter, but not so much as to scare off the newcomer. It’s not going to be enough for Masters or graduate entry Bachelor students, but it is an easy way in for less advanced students.

Text based exercises. Finally, one thing I really liked about the approach is that each chapter has a section devoted to actually reading some chunks of the Bible. It also includes discussion questions which could easily form part of students’ preparation for a seminar. You can tell both authors are teachers.

Andrew Judd is Lecturer in Old Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia.

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