Although not all may agree, I nominate as the most important work in Old Testament studies to appear during 1964 the first volume of the Anchor Bible, Genesis, a translation and commentary by Ephraim A. Speiser, published by Doubleday. The series is being prepared by an international group of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish scholars.

Building upon those views of Genesis that were popularized by Hermann Gunkel in his Commentary on Genesis, Speiser treats Genesis as a collection of sagas. He is, however, considerably more moderate than Gunkel in his understanding of the factuality of the stories. In his textual discussion, Dr. Speiser uses the letter “T” to designate the oral tradition that he believes lies behind the three main literary sources of Genesis. A significant suggestion is that the idea of canonicity is older than the written Scriptures and adhered even to the oral tradition. Most surprising, to some at least, is his position that “the genesis of the biblical way is bound up with the beginnings of the monotheistic concept: both converge in the age and presumably also in the person of Abraham” (p. xlix). A generation ago critics were not willing to grant that Moses was a monotheist, let alone Abraham.

Speiser has sought to translate the text into readable but accurate modern idiom, faithful to the meaning but not always to the precise wording of the original. In general he has done fine work, although I disagree strongly with his rendering of Genesis 1:1, “When God set about to create … the world being then a formless waste.” This translation, I feel, denies the doctrine of creation as it is presented elsewhere in Scripture. Ministers can use the volume to advantage. Laymen will have more difficulty, particularly if they focus attention upon the proposed documentary segregation (though this aspect, fortunately, is not obtrusive).

It would be well to point out, incidentally, that part of the work of Gunkel mentioned above has been translated and appears with the title The Legends of Genesis in paperback from Schocken Books. William F. Albright’s introduction points out that more recent studies have forced a modification of Gunkel’s conclusions. The translation is good, and the book provides a direct source for this school of criticism which has influenced much twentieth-century scholarship.

Guides For Bible Study

Recently the pastor of an active church asked why seminaries do not teach students how to organize Bible study groups and Bible courses. One suspects that such matters should be treated somewhere in the Christian education departments of many seminaries. The question nevertheless points to the fact that church boards that provide curricula often assume that biblical education is the task of the Sunday school or youth groups only. Usually they also assume more knowledge of the Bible and theology than the average church member has in this era of biblical illiteracy.

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There is no substitute for reading the Bible itself. Yet those whose task is to teach others will enhance their knowledge of the Bible by certain supplementary readings. Every minister and informed layman should have a good introduction to the Old Testament, and an eminently satisfactory work of this kind has appeared from the hand and mind of Gleason L. Archer. It is entitled A Survey, of Old Testament Introduction and is published by Moody Press. Thoroughly conservative in its theological viewpoint, it is also of unquestionable scholarship. Its treatment of twentieth-century criticism, though brief, considering the amount and kind of this criticism, is good. Interesting evidences of the Mosaic authorship of significant sections of the Pentateuch (pp. 100–109) and argument for the early date of the Exodus (pp. 212–22) are a refreshing effort to reconsider candidly what some have thought was settled long ago in a way contradictory to biblical statements.

Another useful introduction—one which, however, accepts all the major conclusions of modern literary criticism—is Interpreting the Old Testament, by the professor of Bible at the divinity school of Vanderbilt University, Walter Harrelson (Holt, Rinehart and Winston). It is most lucidly written, has a theological approach, and includes the main topics of biblical studies, such as canon, introduction, history, and theology. The author is to be commended for providing, besides a bibliography and indices, a glossary of terms used in contemporary interpretation.

A second important tool for biblical studies is an Old Testament history. The biblical narratives themselves are highly selective and, from our perspective, need to be augmented by information about the cultural milieu and international movements in which they occurred. Two commendable books of this kind have appeared. One is Egypt and the Exodus, a monograph in an Old Testament history series by Charles F. Pfeiffer, published by Baker. The author has a solid respect for the scriptural data and relates to these in brief compass the most pertinent material from extra-biblical sources. Compared with Archer, Pfeiffer supports a somewhat later date for the Exodus. The other title in the history category is a Concise History of Israel by M. A. Beek of the University of Amsterdam (Harper and Row). That the title concise is deserved is evident from the fact that Israel’s history from Moses to Bar Cochba is covered in a little more than 200 pages. It would be a wholesome exercise to read the Bible from First Kings through Ezra and then read Beek’s History, pages 80–152.

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The third and final tool for the organizer or leader of Bible study groups is the study guide that focuses upon the contents of the biblical books. Abingdon has continued to publish its paperback series of “Bible Guides” edited by William Barclay and F. F. Bruce; the editorial leadership itself is enough to commend the series. Three volumes appeared in 1964, entitled The Law Givers (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) and Prophets of Israel (2) and (3), covering Jeremiah through Malachi. Out of my special interest in the prophecy of Ezekiel I express admiration for the way that prophecy is handled. The brevity of these books prevents their being real commentaries but makes them helpful in gaining an overall perspective of the Scripture involved.

A title similar to the above in its purpose is a short exposition of Numbers by Irving L. Jensen in the Colportage series of Moody Press. The material is neatly organized and marked by a fine devotional attitude.

A very practical help as a study guide is a Survey of the Old Testament by T. Layton Fraser, printed by R. L. Bryan Company but distributed by others. To some the presentation may seem over-simplified. Yet the facts of modern church life almost necessitate an elementary approach. This book could be used in group study or by the Christian in private study, since it has a series of simple, direct questions with spaces for answers at the end of each chapter.

In Theology: A Good Offering

For several years Old Testament theology has seemed to dominate serious biblical studies, and many books have appeared in this area. I am pleased to recommend virtually all that became available last year as “quality” material. Schocken Books has put into a paperback edition Norman Snaith’s Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament. The essential thrust of the work is found in the author’s own words:

… if Christianity does contain distinctive elements, both in common with Judaism and against the rest of religions, and of itself as against Jewry, then, in the Name of the One God, let us examine them and let us be very sure indeed of what they are” [p. 17].
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I am particularly gratified by the treatment of the covenant love (Hebrew chesed) and the electing love (Hebrew ’ahab) of God.

Our knowledge of theological concepts derives largely from the vocabulary used by the ancient writers, and word studies have always been prominent in the work of biblical theologians. Ministers and seminarians are familiar with the name, if not always the content, of Gerhard Kittel’s Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. Harper and Row is doing the American religious world a real service by producing a selective English edition of Kittel under the title Bible Key Words. The English title is perhaps more accurate than the German, for though the word studies are taken from the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, each article covers the equivalent Hebrew and Old Testament vocabulary. The fourth volume in the series, which appeared recently, deals with Law and Wrath. One can scarcely stop short of saying that these books are essential for a serious minister’s library. Eerdmans is rendering an even greater contribution by its translation and publication of the whole of Kittel’s Wörterbuch under the title Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. The first volume appeared in 1964.

At least two other volumes in biblical theology deserve careful reading. One of them, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic by D. S. Russell (Westminster), is largely beyond the Old Testament in subject matter. It does, however, fill a vacancy in relating the concepts that began in the Old Testament to those same concepts as they come to expression in the New. While neither the Jewish synagogue nor the Christian Church has accepted the apocalyptic literature of the intertestamental period as canonical, everyone recognizes that the language and literary form of the apocalyptists have influenced some New Testament passages. Russell’s sections on eschatology, Messianism, and the “Son of Man” title used by our Lord are especially illuminating.

A second worthy book reached me too late for careful examination, but a scanning of its contents induces me to put the book first on the list of those that must be read soon. Its author is that giant among Semitics scholars, William Foxwell Albright, whose History, Archeology and Humanism (McGraw-Hill) is the first volume in a projected series designed to gather all of his writings. The author examines the philosophical presuppositions of certain historians and theologians, including Breasted, Toynbee, and Bultmann. Of Bultmann he is especially critical. I predict that there will be many and varied reactions to Albright’s own credo, which he calls Christian humanism.

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Space, or rather the lack of it, forbids an appropriate discussion of some other books that deserve recognition. May I therefore commend or describe them to the reader in very brief evaluations:

Shechem, by G. Ernest Wright (McGraw-Hill). This book, fairly technical in spots, effectively indicates the light that archaeological research sheds on Israelitish and ancient Near Eastern life.

The Old Testament in Dialogue with Modern Man, by James D. Smart (Westminster). With a pastor’s heart, Professor Smart shows that the Old Testament can be made plain without demythologizing.

Gleanings in Joshua, by Arthur W. Pink (Moody). The gleaner gathered what others might miss. This is good devotional reading.

The Commission of Moses and the Christian Calling, by J. Hardee Kennedy (Eerdmans). Evangelism of the best type is discussed in this inspirational study of Moses’ calling.

Parables of the Old Testament, by Rudolph F.

Norden (Baker). A Lutheran expositor provides a different kind of study that could be used for making a series of sermons.

Personalities of the Old Testament, by Ralph G. Turnbull (Baker). One of Presbyterianism’s outstanding preachers gives some valuable homiletical studies.

Preaching Through the Bible, by Eric W. Hayden (Zondervan). From each book of the Bible Hayden provides a sermon with a key word, theme, and key text.

Old Testament Survey Guide: A Questionnaire, by Charles M. Laymon (Abingdon). This suggestive and provocative questionnaire could be eminently useful to a college Bible-course teacher as well as to a pastor.

The Bible as Literature, by Buckner B. Trawick, and An Outline of the Bible, by Benson Y. Landis (Barnes and Noble). These two handbooks are suited to college students who are taking courses in religion. Experience leads one to suspect, however, that the students might depend upon the concise summaries presented in the handbooks rather than read the biblical text!

The Old Testament, by Robert Davidson (J. B. Lippincott). This book merits longer treatment. In beautifully expressive language the main themes of the books of the Old Testament are set forth as the basis for a living faith that finds its full satisfaction in the person of Jesus Christ. I regret, however, Davidson’s approach to the Book of Daniel.

A Survey of Syntax in the Hebrew Old Testament, by J. Wash Watts (Eerdmans). This thorough study takes the place of the now out-of-print Hebrew Moods and Syntax, by S. R. Driver.

T. Leo Brannon is pastor of the First Methodist Church of Samson, Alabama. He received the B.S. degree from Troy State College and the B.D. from Emory University.

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