By Daniel Diffey, PhD
College of Theology
July 15, 2016
One of the questions that I am asked the most by my theology students is for good book recommendations on certain topics. In an attempt to help my students, and anyone else who may see this, I wanted to do a series of blog posts over the next few weeks discussing building a theological library, particularly in the area of Old Testament resources.
My rationale for writing this post is that I believe that books are important to everyone in Christian ministry. They are like a mechanic’s tools. This is especially true for the teacher and the preacher of God’s word. Having the right “tools” is important.
Bias and Apology
I do not claim that these are the only good books in the categories I will be writing on. I am, however, limiting this list to resources that I would consider largely evangelical in nature. In doing this, I am not claiming that non-evangelical resources are not helpful or important. They definitely can be for the more advanced reader and the more discerning.
It should also be known that by recommending a resource, I do not agree with everything that the author (or authors) of that resource say. I do not know that I have ever agreed with any resource completely. But, even where there is disagreement, I have found the resources that I am recommending profitable.
A Note on My Recommendations
In this blog post, I will be looking at resources that I recommend for beginning study in the Old Testament. I will mention if the resource I am recommending is for the beginning student or the more advanced. If I say that it is for the beginning student I am intending for it to be useful to students at the undergraduate level. For the more advanced student, I have the seminary student in mind.
In this post, I will be discussing books that fit the following categories: Old Testament introductions, Old Testament theologies and Old Testament histories. I will do follow-up posts where I will recommend materials on: biblical theology, Bible geography, Hebrew, Pentateuch, historical books, wisdom literature/poetry and prophets/prophecy. I will be giving commentary recommendations in the posts on the last four categories mentioned.
Old Testament Introductions
There are a lot of really good Old Testament introductions, and I could probably find 15 – 20 that would be “worth” having, but these are the top five I would recommend:
“Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey” by Bill Arnold and Brian Beyer
This is a great introduction for the beginning student that gives good historical background and introductory material.
“What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible” by Jason DeRouchie
This is another great introduction that not only gives introduction to the books of the Old Testament, but also discusses them canonically. This provides a great introduction to beginning students.
“The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament” by Eugene Merrill, Mark Rooker and Michael Grisanti
This would probably be helpful for someone near the end of undergraduate studies or entering into seminary. This volume is very solid in introducing major content in each of the Old Testament books.
“A Survey of the Old Testament” by Andrew Hill and John Walton
This book is a thorough introduction intended for advanced students. It gives deeper discussion of introductory issues including background and critical issues.
“Introduction to the Old Testament” by R.K. Harrison
This is an oldie, but a goody. This is a book that has been printed and published several times. Any of the printings are good, and you can get this for cheap. Harrison is extremely thorough in his coverage of each of the biblical books.
Old Testament Theologies
If a more advanced student wants to begin thinking about the task of Old Testament theology, they would do well to read Hasel’s “Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in Current Debate.”Be sure to get the fourth edition. It is substantially different than the previous editions.
For the advanced student, “Old Testament Theology: Flowering and Future” by Ollenburger gives commentary and excerpts from Old Testament theological writings that would prove very helpful. Many of the entries in this volume are not evangelical.
In addition, all of the recommendations below are really for the intermediate to advanced student, but the well-read undergraduate might find them helpful. This category was particularly difficult in that there are many superb non-evangelical theologies, but below are four I would recommend:
“Old Testament Theology” by Paul House
This is a book-by-book treatment of Old Testament theology. House does a good job of introducing students to major themes and theological content in each Old Testament book.
“Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible” by Stephen Dempster
Dempster approaches Old Testament theology from a canonical perspective in this entry. His discussion of the content of books, and groupings of books, is very helpful.
“Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament” by Eugene Merrill
Merrill’s study is a culmination of his years of thinking through the Old Testament and has serval insightful and helpful discussions of themes and individual texts.
“Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach” by Robin Routledge
Routledge approaches Old Testament theology through a series of themes in this book, giving an overview of how a thematic approach works within Old Testament theology.
Old Testament Histories
There are several admirable Old Testament histories, but here are two that rise above the rest:
“Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel” by Eugene Merrill
This volume is for the advanced student, but it is not difficult to understand and the beginning student should find it helpful if they are willing to do detailed study in Old Testament history.
“A Biblical History of Israel” by Iain Provan, V. Philips Long and Tremper Longman
This is a bit more technical and gives a great discussion of historiography. It also traces out the current critical debate among biblical scholars in more detail.