Differences Between College and Seminary Textbooks – Part 2

This is the second part of an academic paper, “Differences Between College and Seminary Textbooks,” presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion/The Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL), Central States Region, which met in St. Louis Missouri on April 8, 1991.

Read Part 1 here to understand the reason the books cited below are used as models for textbooks used in the classroom.

II. FOUR CATEGORIES OF TEXTBOOKS

There are hundreds of books available today for use in the classroom, either at the college or the seminary level. I have classified several of these books into four categories of textbooks. For each category I have selected three books and described how they organize, classify, and present the content and the message of the Old Testament.

The first category is the classical Introduction to the Old Testament, which introduces the results of literary and historical criticism and familiarizes students with each book of the Old Testament. Three classical books represent the type of textbooks that have been widely used in the classroom.

a . The first book of this type is Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction.[1] Eissfeldt deals with the different literary stages of the Old Testament and provides an analysis of the books of the Old Testament according to the division of the Hebrew Bible.

b. A second book of this type is Artur Weiser, The Old Testament: Its Formation and Development.[2] Weiser deals with the writings that form the Old Testament canon, tracing the oral tradition and classifying them into their proper literary categories. Weiser follows Eissfeldt’s format and provides an introduction to each book of the Old Testament, including the apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and Qumran.

b. The third book, a more recent one, is J. Alberto Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament.[3] Soggin’s book has been widely used in seminaries today because of his attention to details. He gives a detailed introduction to the Old Testament in general and then provides an introduction to each book of the Old Testament and an introduction to each deutero-canonical book.

The second category of textbook is the type that deals with the history of Israel from a theological perspective. This type of textbook uses the diachronic approach to the Old Testament, incorporating the literary, historical, and theological study of the Old Testament in order to introduce students to the content and theology of the Old Testament. Three books represent this category of textbook.

a . The first is Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament.[4] Anderson introduces the content of the Old Testament as the story of the people of God. He begins this story with the Exodus and traces it until the rise of Judaism in the days after the Maccabean revolt.

b. A second type of textbook in this category is that of Flanders, Crapps, and Smith, The People of the Covenant.[5] The authors of this book incorporate the history of Israel and literary criticism to introduce students to the content of the Old Testament within a theological framework .

c. A third book that combines the classical approach of Eissfeldt and the theological approach of Anderson is James King West, Introduction to the Old Testament.[6] West begins his work by introducing the formation of the Old Testament canon, the text of the Old Testament, biblical criticism, and Israelite history and geography. He then proceeds by introducing each book of the Old Testament and the apocrypha. He seeks to place each book, including Second Isaiah, Deutero Zechariah, and Trito Isaiah in a historical sequence.

3. A third category of textbook used in college and seminary classrooms is the type of book that deals primarily with the history of Israel. In many schools, primarily Christian colleges, the introduction to the Old Testament is done by means of a study of the history of Israel from a strict historical perspective. The reason this is done is because Christian schools hope that the Old Testament History class will transfer to state universities as an ancient history class.

Three books have been widely used in both college and seminaries to introduce students to the history of Israel.

a. The classical book still used in many colleges and seminaries is John Bright, A History of Israel.[7] Bright deals with the history of Israel from the perspective of the Albright school, although in his 3rd edition, he modifies the discussion of the settlement period in order to incorporate some of Alt’s and Mendenhall’s ideas. Bright begins his study of Israel with an introduction of the ancient Near East, going back to the early communities at Mt. Carmel and Neolithic Jericho, ending with a discussion of early Judaism.

b. Martin Noth, The History of Israel[8] must be cited here because of its influence in the classroom. Noth followed the archaeological principles of Alt and wrote a history in which he developed his views on the origin of the twelve tribes confederation into the amphictyonic model. His history begins with an introduction to the land and the formation of the sacral confederation of twelve tribes and ends with the Roman period and the Bar Kochba revolt.

c. The third book in this category is Miller and Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah.[9] Miller and Hayes have written a good history of Israel in which they take seriously the political division of the two nations. They also deal with some of the difficult historical problems of the Old Testament. They solve some of these problems by means of a historical reconstruction of the events in order to conform to the archaeological and historical data available to scholars. After providing an introduction to the chronological and geographical context, and after a study on the quest for origins, they begin their history with the period of the Judges and end with the Persian period.

4. The fourth category of textbook is the type of book that seeks to provide a variation on the other three types.

a. One example of this type of book is Peter C. Craigie, The Old Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content.[10] Craigie’s book provides an introduction to the Old Testament in general, of the history of the Ancient Near East, and of the results of biblical archaeology. Then he offers an introduction of each book of the Old Testament, as well as a section on Old Testament History, and a section on the religion and faith of Israel.

b. A different type of text is Michael Brennan Dick, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: An Inductive Reading of the Old Testament.[11] Dick’s book provides a overview of the Hebrew Bible with exercises in literary, historical, and form criticism. This textbook is also a workbook which encourages students to answer questions dealing with issues raised in the book.

c . Another introduction from a different perspective is Alice L. Laffey, An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective.[12] Laffey divides the Old Testament according to the division of the Hebrew Bible and then deals with women’s issues in each book of the Old Testament.

d. And then, there is, of course, Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.[13] Childs’s book deals with the canonical approach to the Old Testament . He deals with the critical problems of each book of the Old Testament and how critical scholarship has dealt with these problems . He also deals with the canonical shape of each book and the theological and hermeneutical implications of canonical criticism.

In addition to the books mentioned above , there are hundreds more, each with a different approach to the Old Testament, each seeking to develop a better way to introduce the Old Testament to beginner students . Many of them have been used as textbooks and they could have been included in this list . Some of them are still being used in the classroom, probably by some of you here today.

To be continued.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (New York: Harper and Row, 1965).

2. Arthur Weiser, The Old Testament: Its Formation and Development (New York: Association Press, 1961).

3. J. Alberto Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament (3rd ed.; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989).

4. Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament (4th ed.; Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986).

5 . Henry J. Flanders, Robert W. Crapps, and David A. Smith, The People of the Covenant (3rd. ed.; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

6. James King West, Introduction to the Old Testament (2nd ed.; New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

7. John Bright, A History of Israel (3rd. ed.; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1981).

8. Martin Noth, The History of Israel (2nd ed.; New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1960).

9. J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1986) .

10. Peter C. Craigie, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985).

11. Michael Brennan Dick, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible: An Inductive Reading of the Old Testament (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1988).

12. Alice L. Laffey, An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).

13. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979).

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