Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 15•11

Barstad, Hans M.  A Brief Guide to the Hebrew Bible  (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). ISBN: 978-0-664-23325-9.

This is a student-friendly introduction to the Old Testament and can be rightly hailed as ‘excellent primer.’ It is translated from the Norwegian original, Det gamle testamente. En innforung  (second edition which appeared in 2003). The author has an novel approach. A brief and simple introduction treats topics a student of the Old Testament need to know before entering into a detailed study. This section deals with topics like, the cultural history of the Bible, the academic study of the Bible, the OT and the NT, a description of the ANE, its culture and languages, canonization, transmission of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran and Biblical exegesis. Instead of presenting book by book, he introduces the theological traditions of the Old Testament and classifies the Pentateuch and Former Prophets according to “authorial groups.” So we have the tetrateuch introduced as the Priestly History and the books from Deuteronomy to Kings as the Deuteronomistic History. This is followed by an introduction of the Chronicler’s works. Two chapters offers a survey of the prophetic literature and the poetic traditions. The books of Jonah, Ruth and Esther are considered as novellas in the last chapter. The Introductions to the Hebrew Bible have been bulky since they deal with individual books separately. These book-by-book treatment is at the cost of userfriendliness. However, Barstad’s Introduction is concise and introduces the students to the corpora of the literature than to individual books. This helps the students to have a grasp of the theologies and movements that shaped the Hebrew Bible. This certainly helps in their appreciation of the individual books and their themes later in their study.