This is the third 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.
III. THE SELECTION OF A TEXTBOOK
What do college and seminary students need as they study the Old Testament for the first time in an academic setting? I am sure that our answer to this question will be different and that we will not agree on what needs to happen in the classroom to better expose beginner students to the Old Testament. But here is my answer to this question.
I believe that beginner students need more content than theory, more history and theology than a heavy dose of biblical criticism. All of these areas of biblical studies are important, and students, either in the college or the seminary level must be exposed to them.
However, I suspect that when the emphasis of the book is intense on the side of biblical criticism, as is done in Soggin’s book, then students will be turned off to Old Testament. For this reason, Soggin’s book, although it is an excellent critical introduction, is not accepted by most students.
In reality, some students in seminary cannot even understand what they read when they read Soggin. For the same reason, Childs’s book, although an important work in Old Testament studies, does not provide students the kind of information they need to develop a deeper appreciation for the Old Testament.
I believe that the ideal textbook, either for college or seminary, should cover four areas:
1. An introduction to biblical criticism, without overwhelming the students with detailed information and different scholarly views on some issues, as Soggin does.
2. An historical presentation of the content of the Old Testament, beginning with the primeval history in Genesis 1-11 and ending with the rise of Judaism in post-exilic times.
3. A theological perspective of the content of the Old Testament without being doctrinaire or dogmatic. This means relating the history of the book of Kings, for instance, to the message of the prophets in its proper context .
4 . An introduction to most books of the Old Testament within its appropriate historical framework .
I know that this ideal textbook is a tall order for a writer or for a publisher . Therefore , with the understanding listed above of what should be included in a textbook, here then is my final selection of textbooks for my classes .
When I was a college professor, I chose John Tullock’s The Old Testament Story. Tullock’s book is easy to read and incorporates biblical criticism, history, theology, archaeology, and geography in a manner that keeps students interested in the Old Testament .
Now that I am a seminary professor I use Flanders, Crapps, and Smith for the same reason. The People of the Covenant covers the same areas that Tullock does, only in more detail and in greater depth.
In addition , I supplement the reading with John Bright for the historical emphasis and with Hans Walter Wolff, The Old Testament: A Guide to Its Writings to augment the introduction to biblical criticism.
This is not the ideal way to teach the Old Testament, but some day I hope to change that. Some day I will write my own Introduction to the Old Testament as a textbook for classroom use , knowing fully well that your grandson or granddaughter will criticize my book as much as I am criticizing these textbooks today.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
14. John H. Tullock, The Old Testament Story (2nd ed.; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1981).
15. Hans Walter Wolff, The Old Testament: A Guide to Its Writings (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973).
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