>Book Reviews – Old Testament

>Review of Biblical Literature has published its latest edition of review of books in the area of biblical studies. Review of Biblical Literature is a publication of the Society of Biblical Literature.

The following reviews are of interest to students of the Old Testament:

A. Berlejung and P. van Hecke, eds.
The Language of Qohelet in Its Context: Essays in Honour of Prof. A. Schoors on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday

Description: This volume contains thirteen articles on the book of Qohelet, which were read on an international symposium on the occasion of the seventieth birthday of Professor Antoon Schoors, one of the leading scholars of this intriguing book. The studies, written by international experts in the field, cover both grammatical and semantic aspects of the language of Qohelet, but also deal with exegetical problems in the book and with the position of the book and its language in its wider context. In this respect, the volume forms a fitting tribute to this Qohelet-scholar to whom the scholarly world owes much. It will be a welcome source to all those interested in the fascinating book of Qohelet and in Israel’s wisdom literature in general.

Joshua A. Berman
Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought

Description: Joshua Berman engages the text of the Hebrew Bible from a novel perspective — as a document of social and political thought. He proposes that the Pentateuch can be read as the earliest prescription on record for the establishment of an egalitarian polity. The blueprint that emerges is that of a society that would stand in stark contrast to the social orders found in the surrounding cultures of the ancient Near East — Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and the Hittite Empire — where the hierarchical structure of the polity was centered on the figure of the king and his retinue. Berman shows that the Pentateuch’s egalitarian ideal is articulated in comprehensive fashion and is expressed in its theology, politics, economics, use of technologies of communication, and in its narrative literature. Throughout, he invokes parallels from the modern period as heuristic devices to illuminate the ancient developments under study. Thus, for example, the constitutional principles in the Book of Deuteronomy are examined in the light of principles espoused by Montesquieu, and the rise of the novel in 18th-century England serves to illuminate the advent of new modes of storytelling in biblical narrative.

Sang Youl Cho
Lesser Deities in the Ugaritic Texts and the Hebrew Bible: A Comparative Study of Their Nature and Roles

Description: This book presents a comparative work on the nature and various roles of the lesser deities, the so-called angels, in the Ugaritic Texts and the Hebrew Bible. The author agrees with and follows the traditional idea which insists on the necessity for a comparative study between the two religious literatures from Ugarit and ancient Israel. The study in this volume is interested in their membership in the heavenly council, their kinship among the deities, and their roles such as messengers, warriors, mediators, guardians, chanters, or servants, which have numerous similarities, in the Ugaritic texts and the Old Testament.

Lowell K. Handy
Jonah’s World: Social Science and the Reading of Prophetic Story

Description: This work sets out the background world for the story of Jonah. Accepting the biblical book as a fictitious short story based on “real world” locations, the volume uses social science approaches to describe the imaginative world in which the action takes place. Since the story uses real places and recognizable persons to weave the narrative, at least three levels of perception are considered: 1) the “real” world behind the book’s references, 2) the social and ideological constructs of the world, and 3) the imaginative world of the story itself. All of these are connected by and through the scribal author of the story. Geography, theology, human characters and natural flora and fauna are investigated. The models creatively used by humans to order their vision of the world can be shown to have been used as literary devices in constructing a story with totally fictitious historical citations as well as fabulous creatures and events that nonetheless conveys a message considered an insight into reality by the author. The story of Jonah, often read as a simple children’s story, comes across as a more complicated and adult oriented narrative with a serious intent.

Chaim Navon
Genesis and Jewish Thought

Description: This book explores fundamental philosophical and theological issues arising in the Book of Genesis. It presents the richness of Jewish thought and notes its uniqueness in comparison with other approaches. Some of the topics addressed include religion and science, commandment and morality, individual and society, faith, guilt, evil and equality.

Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright III, eds.
A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under That Title

Description: NETS is a new translation of the Greek Jewish Scriptures, entitled A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under that Title (and abbreviated as NETS). This project is being carried out under the ægis of The International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS). The translators are specialists in Septuagint studies. Their translations follow rigorous procedures established by the editors. Oxford University Press publishes the translation. An accompanying commentary series is also planned.

Katherine M. Stott
Why Did They Write This Way? Reflections on References to Written Documents in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Literature

Description: This book examines the character and function of the documents mentioned in the biblical texts in relation to comparable references in literature from wider antiquity. Citing various references to written documents in the Hebrew Bible, Stott takes into consideration both those references that may point to external sources, for example, the many literary citations in the books of Kings and Chronicles, as well as certain other documents that play a role in the narrative, such as “the book of the law” in 2 Kings, the scrolls of Jeremiah, and the tablets of the law. The aim of this study is not to determine to which texts external to the world of the narrative, if any, these documents refer, or to identify the content of these documents, or to reconstruct their origins and historical development. Instead, the primary focus is to understand these references within their literary context, asking why indeed they are mentioned at all and what purpose they serve in the narrative, regardless of whether they existed or not in the “external world”, or whether the stories about them have basis in historical reality “as it happened.”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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