Although on the whole 1967 produced fewer Old Testament books than 1966 did, readers who like geography, history, and archaeology enjoyed a great year. Picture-lovers in particular brought home treasures. The greatest let-down was in thorough commentaries, especially in view of 1966’s nine “heavy” English volumes. Form criticism flowered, for what this is worth; and hopes are bright for exegetical releases early in ’68. Here then are twenty top books for the year. Not all are conservative (those that are bear an asterisk *), but all merit mention, as do some also-rans listed with each.


1. The Land of the Bible (Westminster) by Y. Aharoni, discusses the sources presently available for a historical geography—sections on the annals of Thothmes III and the Samaritan ostraca are especially fine—and then traces the data from Canaanite to Persian times. Aharoni takes biblical evidence seriously; e.g., his single Sennacherib campaign, with Hezekiah’s accession dated 726. For particular areas, Heinz Skrobucha offers a beautifully illustrated folio on Sinai (Oxford), and Charles F. Pfeiffer presents a handy paperback, *Jerusalem through the Ages (Baker, “Studies in Biblical Archaeology,” 6). Pfeiffer has also surveyed *The Divided Kingdom (fifth in his Baker “Old Testament History” series), though Jonah and Daniel are strangely missing from his discussions of Northern Israelite and exilic prophets.

2. Pfeiffer’s cooperative work with Howard F. Vos, *The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Moody), surveys Palestine and its surrounding areas from Persia to Italy, with 459 excellent illustrations (almost one per page). Each chapter has a sketch of geography and history, followed by archaeological notes on specific places. Also on Old Testament lands and life are a revised edition of Nelson Glueck’s classic The River Jordan (McGraw-Hill) and W. S. LaSor’s paperback study course on *Daily Life in Bible Times (Standard).

3. The Society for Old Testament Study (British) celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a splendid volume, Archaeology and Old Testament Study (Oxford), edited by D. Winton Thomas. Monographs on twenty-five Near Eastern sites plus three Palestinian areas were written by European, American, and Israeli experts, often the directors of the very excavations described. Short histories are followed by summaries of significance for Scripture; e.g., the chapter on Egyptian Thebes concentrates on the Middle Kingdom execration texts, so important for Canaanite history. Among the more technical studies, W. F. Albright’s The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and their Decipherment (Harvard Theological Studies, 22) appeared late in 1966; and among the more popular, Allan MacRae’s *Biblical Archaeology (National Foundation for Christian Education) is an advance publication from the second volume of the Encyclopedia of Christianity.

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4. Most breath-taking among the pictorials—well worth its $10 tag—is Everyday Life in Bible Times (National Geographic) edited by J. B. Pritchard. Six top scholars (e.g., Kramer, on Ur) dramatize ancient cultures through the eyes of major biblical characters, such as Abraham, Moses (in Egypt), and Paul. Interspersed are travelogues by National Geographic staff writers. William S. Deal upholds scriptural inerrancy and gives concise book surveys in *Baker’s Pictorial Introduction to the Bible. Cecil Northcott’s People of the Bible (Westminster) provides young people with fine colored sketches, along with paraphrases of biblical passages to whose truth the writer seems only partly committed.

5. Among historical studies, D. S. Russell’s The Jews from Alexander to Herod (Oxford) not only is a useful survey by an expert on Old Testament apocalyptic writings and the Qumranic literature but also marks the reappearance of a famous series, the New Clarendon Bible. Appearing too late for 1966 reviews was Giorgio Buccellati’s technical The Amorites of the Ur III Period (Instituto Orientale di Napoli); and in 1967 came Ignatius Hunt’s The World of the Patriarchs (Prentice-Hall’s “Backgrounds to the Bible” series), which is long on archaeology, culture, and Roman Catholic form criticism, but short on biblical historicity.


6. The Old Testament in Syriac According to the Peshitta Version; Sample Ed., Song of Solomon, Tobit, and IV Ezra (Brill, late 1966) may not end up in very many pastors’ libraries, but it is a fine start on this necessary six-year scholarly project. Also on the ancient biblical text are The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Cornell University) by J. A. Sanders, a students’ edition of his 1965 Oxford volume, plus a new Psalm fragment; and Ronald J. Williams’s photo-offset Hebrew Syntax, An Outline (University of Toronto), which makes use of Ugaritic and Old Testament syntactical examples but is hampered by terminological innovations, such as “bound-form” (construct) or “fientive” (non-stative).

7. Already on many, many pastoral bookshelves, however, is Kenneth Taylor’s latest biblical rendering, his stimulating *Living Psalms and Proverbs, with the Major Prophets Paraphrased (Tyndale House). Lamentations is included. Psalm 2:12, “Kiss His [note the capital] feet,” may superficially resemble the RSV’s emendation but is really only legitimate interpretation; compare Psalm 110:1, “Jehovah said to my Lord the Messiah.…” Contrast the skepticism in J. H. Scammon’s handling of Psalm 110:5–7 in his Living with the Psalms (Judson)—devotional helps, à la Gunkel, for reading ten selections from the Psalter. Prophets of Salvation (Herder and Herder), by Eugene H. Maly, popularizes certain prophets, e.g., deutero-Isaiah, as related to their historical environments.

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8. Also slated for wide use is *The New Scofield Refence Bible (Oxford), edited by E. Schuyler English. The KJV text is modernized; certain introductions have been much improved (e.g., those on Job and Joel), and the Ussher chronology has been up-dated. The format, even to page numbering, stays as close as possible to the old Scofield; and the dispensationalism may be tighter than ever; note, for example: “Peter did not state that Joel’s prophecy [2:28] was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.” Other biblical handbooks for 1967 include Rolf E. Aaseng’s brief book summaries, *The Sacred Sixty-Six (Augsburg); Lloyd Perry and Robert D. Culver’s enlarged hermeneutical manual, *How to Search the Scriptures (Baker); L. A. T. Van Dooren’s enthusiastic book-by-book sketches for neophytes, Introducing the Old Testament (Zondervan); and John H. Otwell’s I Will Be Your God (Abingdon), which proceeds by literary types, as “Deuteronomic history,” but with unreconstructed liberalism that should horrify even its intended lay readers—for example, “God and the people drew up an agreement called a covenant.” C. Westermann’s Handbook to the Old Testament (Augsburg), despite its handy charts of J and P in Genesis, presents clearer Christian values.

9. Top rating, popular class, goes again to the *Beacon Hill Bible Commentary (Nazarene) for Volume III, Job to Song of Solomon. The discussion of Proverbs, however, seems more ambiguous on biblical authorship than Beacon’s previous volumes; and that on Job is far better in its notes than in its questionable approaches to dates and authenticity. Of similar Wesleyan-Armenian persuasion is *Adam Clark’s Commentary (Baker), the original six volumes of 1832 now effectively abridged into one, over three inches thick, by Ralph Earle. This volume is a far better buy at $ 11.95 than the translation of E. Dhorme’s 1926 Book of Job (Nelson of London) at almost three times this price. At the other extreme, but noteworthy for their helpful analytical charts, are Irving L. Jensen’s modest *Studies in Exodus, *Studies in Leviticus, and *Studies in Numbers and Deuteronomy (Moody).

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10 and 11. The following two, both paperbacks, deal with the prophecies that form the two shortest books in the Old Testament. John D. Watts’s *Obadiah: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Eerdmans) includes a history of Edom and an analysis of Obadiah’s form and theology. Richard Wolff’s *The Book of Haggai (Baker, “Shield Bible Study Outlines”) is no mere outline, as its sixty pages of commentary on thirty-eight verses may suggest; his treatment of the “desire of nations” and of “Zerubbabel” in 2:23 is especially commendable. Other volumes on the prophets during 1967 were Don W. Hillis’s helpful topical studies on *The Book of Jonah (Baker, “Shield Bible Study Outlines”); David A. Hubbard’s paperback on Hosea, *With Bands of Love (Eerdmans; and Geoffrey R. King’s conversational lectures on *Daniel (Eerdmans) and its true historicity.


12 and 13. The best analyses of the full Old Testament were R. K. Harrison’s *The Old Testament and Apocrypha: An Introduction (Eerdmans) and Walther Zimmerli’s The Law and the Prophets: a Study of the Meaning of the Old Testament (Harper & Row, Torch-books); the former is a generally conservative and well-documented survey. The latter, an American reproduction, first published in England in 1965, of what is primarily German criticism, surrenders the Old Testament’s literary and historical authenticity, yet seeks to maintain a theological relevance that points toward Christ. Similar to Zimmerli are Daniel Lys, The Meaning of the OldTestament (Abingdon) which asks how a non-propositional Old Testament revelation can show “progress,” and John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament (Abingdon), which seeks “structure of belief” in the ruins left by skepticism.

14 and 15. Among more specialized studies there are two excellent works. K. A. Kitchen’s *Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Inter-Varsity, late 1966) is a must for every serious Old Testament student, as Part I zeros in on the fallacies of negative criticism, especially over the Pentateuch, and Part II furnishes telling illustrations. Closely related in source and spirit is England’s evangelical annual, the Tyndale Bulletin (Volume 18). Four of this year’s six essays are on the Old Testament, and another is on the New Testament’s use of it. Longest is J. W. Wenham’s defense of “Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” though his appeal to ’eleph for clan rather than thousand in the wilderness census is unconvincing; note also J. P. U. Lilley’s apologetic for the literary unity of Judges. Another collection, less appealing, was Martin Noth’s eleven essays ranging from 1938 to 1958, The Laws of the Pentateuch and Other Studies (Fortress); the first, on Pentateuchal form criticism, takes up nearly half the space. Candidly admitting his dependence upon Noth was the Catholic writer James Plasteras, The God of Exodus (Bruce), who then analyzed the exodus narratives as a recital of faith: creed rather than history.

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16. Among other form-critical studies, however, The Ten Commandments in Recent Research (Allenson, “Studies in Biblical Theology,” Series II, 2), by J. J. Stamm and M. E. Andrews, rates selection among the top twenty books of 1967, not so much for its first half, on introduction, with its speculations over the Decalogue’s “pre-Deuteronomic nucleus,” but for its second half, on exegesis—e.g., its favoring, “No other gods in defiance of Me.” More exclusively devoted to those elusive source elements said to underly Israel’s evolving literary traditions were Brevard S. Child’s Isaiah and the Assyrian Crisis (number 3 in the Allenson series mentioned above), ultimately uncertain about Sennacherib’s doings; J. Kenneth Kuntz’s The Self-Revelation of God (Westminster), which expresses the opinion that temple smoke and rams’ horns may have been taken by cultic prophets to indicate the presence and voice of God; and C. Westermann’s Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech (Westminster), in which he postulates an original “messenger’s speech” form, before it was subjected to the baleful effects of transmission.


17. Th. C. Vriezen has come up with a fine companion volume to his Old Testament theology (1960) in The Religion of Ancient Israel (Westminster). Structured chronologically (rather than topically as before), it places Israel in its ancient pagan environment, concentrates on its religious life in about 1000 B.C. under David, and then traces subsequent developments. Less objective are Bernhard W. Anderson’s Creation Versus Chaos (Association), which attempts to move from Babylonian myths about the sea, via nineteenth-century Wellhausenism, to a meaning for history; and B. D. Napier’s unusual Come Sweet Death (United Church), which develops certain quoted myths of Genesis by means of poems in the modern mood, including profanity and such crudities as, “Who Wants to Waltz with Yahweh?”

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18. Of great significance is the completion in English after thirty-four years, of W. Eichrodt’s Theology of the Old Testament II (Westminster). Here Eichrodt’s covenant-based theology moves on into God’s relationships to the world and to man. Although neo-orthodox in persuasion (e.g., the fall is an “event” but not history) and permeated by Religionsgeschichte (e.g., demons are either an inheritance from the heathen past or late speculation), his detailed analyses remain indispensable to research. Other theological treatments in 1967 are T. B. Maston’s Biblical Ethics (World), a book-by-book survey; and Kornelius Heiko Miskotte’s, When the Gods Are Silent (Harper & Row), on the significance of the Old Testament for today’s secular man.

19. Specifically on the doctrine of God is C. J. Labuschagne’s The Incomparability of Yahweh in the Old Testament (Brill, late 1966; “Pretoria Oriental Series,” V), comparing the Old Testament on God’s infinitude with similar expressions from Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and Egypt. He concludes that the Old Testament is unique and that monotheism is Mosaic in origin. Nelson Glueck’s 1927 dissertation, Hesed in the Bible (Hebrew Union College), is now reissued, with thirty-two pages on recent trends by G. A. Larue—and hesed still means loyalty to the covenant.

20. Finally, Dom Wulston Mork exhibits a fresh style in analyzing flesh, soul, and spirit for his The Biblical Meaning of Man (Bruce). He begins by quoting G. Vos and Berkouwer and ends with applications against secularism and self-denial of the body (this from a Roman Catholic). In between, however, he hesitates to affirm the personality of man’s spirit, though two pages earlier he recognized its coextensiveness with man’s soul. With similarly practical orientation is George A. Riggan, Messianic Theology and Christian Faith (Westminster); but when a systematic theologian derives his exegetical cues from Von Rad (e.g., that Yahwism was a war cult and that Hebrew divine kingship was borrowed from the Canaanites), it’s little wonder that he concludes, “We are Christ to one another.”

Several significant exegetical studies that were promised for 1967 had not yet appeared when this review was written: E. J. Young’s *Isaiah, Volume II (“New International Commentary on the Old Testament”), D. Kidner’s *Genesis (“Tyndale Commentary”), and the *Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Volumes I–III (the Old Testament portion), edited by C. Carter. By now they may be available. So may new Old Testament volumes in the Anchor Bible and the revised New Century Bible, not “*” but still promising.

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The Serendipities Of J. B. Phillips

Just over two hundred years ago, in 1754 to be precise, Horace Walpole coined the word “serendipity,” which has now come to be accepted into our language. The word, which is derived from the ancient name for Ceylon, is defined as “the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident”.… I must mention some of the “happy and unexpected discoveries” which I made in the translation of the Epistles.

Serendipity: Ephesians 2:4

The first one I will mention, which of course may all the time have been no secret to anybody else, was the expression “rich in mercy.” This struck me as a positive jewel. Just as we might say that a Texas tycoon is “rich in oil,” so Paul writes it as a matter of fact that God is “rich in mercy.” The pagan world was full of fear, and the Christian Gospel set out to replace that fear of the gods or the fates, or even life itself, with love for and trust in God. “Rich in mercy” was good news to the ancient world and it is good news today.

Serendipity: I Peter 5:7

I think the idea of God’s personal care for the individual came upon me with a similar unexpected strength when I came to translate I Peter 5:7, which reads in the Authorized Version, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” In one sense it is quite plain that God wants us to bear responsibility; it is a false religion which teaches that God wants us to be permanently immature. But there is a sense in which the conscientious and the imaginative can be overburdened. This familiar text reminded me that such overanxiety can be “off-loaded” onto God, for each one of us is his personal concern.… The word used for “casting” is an almost violent word, conveying the way in which a man at the end of his tether might throw aside an intolerable burden. And the Christian is recommended to throw this humanly insupportable weight upon the only One who can bear it and at the same time to realize that God cares for him intimately as a person. “He careth for you” is hardly strong enough, and I don’t know that I did much better in rendering the words, “You are his personal concern”.… It may seem strange to us, and it may seem an idea quite beyond our little minds to comprehend, but each one of us matters to God.

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Serendipity: 1 John 3:2

“Beloved,” wrote John, “now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”.… What would normally be sheer effrontery, or even blasphemy, is here written with cool confidence and authority. No one to my knowledge has ever written like these New Testament writers. Yet I was constantly aware that I was dealing not with exhortations or homilies but with letters written to people living in the midst of this world’s business, people who were tempted and tried as we are, blinkered and frustrated and limited just as we are, yet with the same unquenchable flame of hope in their hearts as Christians have today.… It is the authority which stabs the spirit broad awake. Paul and John wrote because they knew. The Christian revelation was not to them a tentative hypothesis, but the truth about God and men, experienced, demonstrated, always alive and powerful in the lives of men. The whole Christian pattern had to be lived against pagan darkness and frequently overt hostility. It required super-human qualities to survive. Of course there were casualties—Demas was not the first nor the last deserter—but the amazing thing to me is that the Christian Gospel took root and flourished in many different, and indeed unlikely, places.

Serendipity: 1 John 3:20

I have kept the best until last. Like many others, I find myself something of a perfectionist, and if we don’t watch ourselves this obsession for the perfect can make us arrogantly critical of other people and, in certain moods, desperately critical of ourselves.… Now John, in his wisdom, points out in inspired words, “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things,” This is a gentle but salutary rebuke to our assumption that we know better than God! God, on any showing, is infinitely greater in wisdom and love than we are and, unlike us, knows all the factors involved in human behavior. We are guilty of certain things, and these we must confess with all honesty, and make reparation where possible. But there may be many factors in our lives for which we are not really to blame at all. We did not choose our heredity; we did not choose the bad, indifferent, or excellent way in which we were brought up. This is naturally not to say that every wrong thing we do, or every fear or rage to which we are subject today, is due entirely to heredity, environment, and upbringing. But it certainly does mean that we are in no position to judge ourselves; we simply must leave that to God, who is our Father and “is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”

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Reproduced with permission of the Macmillan Company from Ring of Truth by J. B. Phillips. Copyright © 1967 by J. B. Phillips.

Milton D. Hunnex is professor and head of the department of philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Redlands and the Ph.D. in the Inter-collegiate Program in Graduate Studies, Claremont, California. He is author of “Philosophies and Philosophers.”

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