Here is part two of our Old Testament resource suggestions—this part contains more specialized titles (if you missed part one—with introductory books—click here).
Most of these titles (particularly the non-Mormon ones) will need to be special ordered. Please let us know which titles you would like by Feb 28th so that we can place the order.
As we did with the first part, we are offering free shipping on any order placed from this list.
Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible by Emanuel Tov. Fortress, 2011. 512pp. Hardback. $90.00.
From the publisher: In this thoroughly revised third edition, Emanuel Tov has incorporated the insights of the last ten years of scholarship, including new perspectives on the biblical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, all of which have now been published. Here are expanded discussions of the contribution of textual criticism to biblical exegesis and of the role of scribes in the transmission of the text. The introduction and references throughout the book have been thoroughly revised with the beginning student of textual criticism in mind.
Our thoughts: A very interesting analysis from one of the most-respected scholars of the Hebrew Bible. Discusses the history of the text, types of and reasons for textual variants. Very detailed and fairly technical language. If you are willing to work for it, this is easily the best book on the subject.
The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica by Ernst Wurthwein. Eerdmans, 1994. 307pp. Paperback. $30.00.
From the publisher: This classic introduction to textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible is now entirely updated in the light of new critical editions of the texts and recent contributions and findings in the various areas of history of the text-especially the Masoretic text, the Septuagint, the Peshitta, and the Dead Sea Scrolls-and of textual criticism. A new chapter discusses the significance of textual criticism and the history of the text, and a new appendix provides resources for textual research. Includes 439 b&w plates of texts and inscriptions.
Our thoughts: Very much the equivalent of the Alands’ Text of the New Testament. Discusses all the major types of texts: Masoretic (codices, papyrus) and Dead Sea Scrolls, Aramaic, Septuagint, Syriac, etc. Also includes a brief discussion of the types of variants seen and probable causes. The last half of the book is B&W plates of most of the important textual witnesses. A very solid albeit brief resource.
Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction by Ellis R. Brotzman. Baker, 1993. 208pp. Paperback. $21.99.
From the publisher: This basic guide to textual criticism and critical apparatus offers an introduction to the Hebrew texts and versions, the theory of textual criticism, and the technical notes in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Readers learn to evaluate variant readings and understand transmission and manuscript history.
Our thoughts: Similar to the Wurthwein text but includes more discussion of the types of variants. Very useful “hands-on” chapter showing how to apply textual criticism principles to the book of Ruth. Also discusses how to use Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.
The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. ed. by Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner and Johann Jakob Stamm. Brill, 2001. 912 + 1190pp. Hardback. $302.00
From the publisher: In this Study Edition the complete vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible, including those parts of books which are written in Aramaic, is available. The dictionary combines scholarly thoroughness with easy accessibility, and so meets the needs of a wide range of users. The enormous advances that have taken place in the field of Semitic linguistics since the days of the older dictionaries of Classical Hebrew are well documented and assessed, as well as the often detailed discussions in modern Bible commentaries of words where the meaning is particularly difficult. But the alphabetical ordering of entries rather than the traditional arrangement of words according to their roots is particularly helpful to the new student, and also saves the advanced user much time.
Our thoughts: The best lexicon available. Word entries are in Hebrew so it does require a basic grasp of the alphabet. Far more up to date than any other lexicon out there—particularly so with suggested etymologies. Pricey but a key resource for serious study.
Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible by Karel van der Toorn. Harvard, 2009. 416pp. Hardback. $24.00.
From the publisher: We think of the Hebrew Bible as the Book–and yet it was produced by a largely nonliterate culture in which writing, editing, copying, interpretation, and public reading were the work of a professional elite. The scribes of ancient Israel are indeed the main figures behind the Hebrew Bible, and in this book Karel van der Toorn tells their story for the first time. His book considers the Bible in very specific historical terms, as the output of the scribal workshop of the Second Temple active in the period 500-200 BCE. Drawing comparisons with the scribal practices of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, van der Toorn clearly details the methods, the assumptions, and the material means of production that gave rise to biblical texts.
Our thoughts: A fascinating look at an ignored aspect of the production of the Hebrew Bible—the society was largely illiterate and scribes formed their own elite class. Among other insights, van der Toorn notes that most authors in antiquity would not sign a work and documents would often be written under another name. Well-written and full of thought-provoking conclusions.
A Social History of Hebrew: Its Origins Through the Rabbinic Period by William M. Schniedewind. Yale, 2013. 280pp. Hardback. $35.00.
From the publisher: More than simply a method of communication shared by a common people, the Hebrew language was always an integral part of the Jewish cultural system and, as such, tightly interwoven into the lives of the prophets, poets, scribes, and priests who used it. In this unique social history, Schniedewind examines classical Hebrew from its origins in the second millennium BCE until the Rabbinic period, when the principles of Judaism as we know it today were formulated, to view the story of the Israelites through the lens of their language.
Our thoughts: Part of the Anchor Bible Reference Library. A very insightful perspective based on a seemingly obvious premise—Hebrew arose and evolved due to social forces. The author argues against some earlier claims—for example, he uses archaeological evidence to posit that the exile was not in fact a time when Hebrew in general and its literature flourished. Does involve a healthy amount of linguistic terminology.
The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis by Joel S. Baden. Yale, 2012. 392pp. Hardback. $65.00.
From the publisher: Joel Baden presents a fresh and comprehensive argument for the Documentary Hypothesis. Critically engaging both older and more recent scholarship, he fundamentally revises and reorients the classical model of the formation of the Pentateuch. Interweaving historical and methodological chapters with detailed textual case studies, Baden provides a critical introduction to the history of Pentateuchal scholarship, discussions on the most pressing issues in the current debate, and a practical model for the study of the biblical text.
Our thoughts: Part of the Anchor Bible Reference Library. The Documentary Hypothesis has been increasingly attacked as being too inefficient at explaining the final nature of the text. Baden offers a new perspective that looks beyond simple linguistic criteria (i.e. whether the narrative uses Jehovah or Elohim) and requires each textual strand that emerges to tell a coherent and cohesive story. Following the chapters where he describes the four strands is a narrative example where he separates the accounts. Very compelling but not overly technical.
The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament: A Side-By-Side Comparison with the King James Version ed. by Thomas A. Wayment. Deseret Book, 2009. 220pp. Hardback. $29.95. This concise, at-a-glance reference work presents every change the Prophet Joseph Smith made to the Old Testament, including the text of the book of Moses and many changes to Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, and others — compared side-by-side with the corresponding verse of the King James Version. Several years ago, a team of Brigham Young University scholars was given complete access to the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts. This volume condenses into an exceptionally reader-friendly format the wealth of research that has been done with those manuscripts.
The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction by David M. Carr. Oxford, 2011. 544pp. Hardback. $74.00.
From the publisher: David Carr rethinks both the methods and historical orientation points for research into the growth of the Hebrew Bible into its present form. Building on his prior work, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart (Oxford, 2005), he explores both the possibilities and limits of reconstruction of pre-stages of the Bible. The result is a new picture of the formation of the Hebrew Bible, with insights on the initial emergence of Hebrew literary textuality, the development of the first Hexateuch, and the final formation of the Hebrew Bible.
Our thoughts: Unlike some scholars (who think that the majority of the Hebrew Bible was compiled at once), Carr argues that texts are strewn along a long period. He locates the final effort to create a “standard” text came in the Hasmonean period. Very good in using regional context and information from other social science perspectives. Detailed but not overly technical. An interesting fresh perspective from a well-known scholar.
The Formation of the Jewish Canon by Timothy Lim. Yale, 2013. 288pp. Hardback. $45.00.
From the publisher: Timothy Lim here presents a complete account of the formation of the canon in Ancient Judaism from the emergence of the Torah in the Persian period to the final acceptance of the list of twenty-two/twenty-four books in the Rabbinic period. Using many ancient sources as primary evidence he argues that throughout the post-exilic period up to around 100 CE there was not one official “canon” accepted by all Jews; rather, there existed a plurality of collections of scriptures that were authoritative for different communities
Our thoughts: Part of the Anchor Bible Reference Library. Lim starts by reviewing previous theories on how the canon developed (was there actually a council at Jamnia, did the Torah, Prophets and Writings develop in stages, etc). He argues that there was no decision-making meeting at Jamnia and that—in the absence of any central governing body—debate about Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Ruth and Esther continued. While most Jews likely agreed on a canon in the first century CE, it was probably not until the next century that the canon “closed” in a substantive manner.
The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel by Mark S. Smith. Eerdmans, 2002. 289pp. Paperback. $34.00.
From the publisher: In this history of the development of monotheism, Mark S. Smith how Israel’s religion evolved from a cult of Yahweh as a primary deity among many to a fully defined religion with Yahweh as sole god. Repudiating the traditional view that Israel was fundamentally different in culture and religion from its Canaanite neighbors, this provocative book argues that Israelite religion developed, at least in part, from the religion of Canaan. Looking at a wide range of sources, Smith cogently demonstrates that Israelite religion was not an outright rejection of foreign, pagan gods but, rather, was the result of the establishment of a distinctly separate Israelite identity that included the recognition of a singular, universal deity.
Our thoughts: A very paradigm-shifting book—Smith shows that the development of monotheism in Israel’s religion did not involve swift, surgical separation from the religions of the area but was a slow evolution. The author shows how vestiges of these other deities are woven into the Hebrew Bible to a much greater degree than most readers have ever noticed. Very interesting but does involve quite a bit of Semitic vocabulary.
Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever. Eerdmans, 2006. 280pp. Paperback. $24.00.
From the publisher: For centuries, the Western tradition has traced its beginnings back to ancient Israel, but recently some historians and archaeologists have questioned the reality of Israel as it is described in biblical literature. In “Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?”, William Dever explores the continuing controversies regarding the true nature of ancient Israel and presents the archaeological evidence for assessing the accuracy of the well-known Bible stories.
Our thoughts: Dever, never one to shy away from controversy if the evidence leads there, carefully amasses the archaeological evidence to show that the traditional account of the Exodus leading to the people of Israel settling into the land of Israel is not supported. As per his usual style, it is an approachable yet academic look at the question.
The Lives of Ordinary People in Ancient Israel: Where Archaeology and the Bible Intersect by William G. Dever. Eerdmans, 2012. 446pp. Paperback. $25.00.
From the publishers: The Lives of Ordinary People tells the untold story of how the vast majority of Israelites — the people who are usually overlooked in “typical” histories of ancient Israel — lived during the eighth century BCE. William G. Dever applies the latest archaeological evidence and his own considerable expertise to answer the question What was it really like to live in Israel’s divided kingdom?
Our thoughts: An entertaining look at the “common man” in ancient Israel. As it is based mainly on archaeological data, a basic understanding of historical periods (Iron, Bronze Age, etc.) is helpful but not necessary. As accessible as this type of book could be.
A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (2nd ed.). by J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes. Westminster John Knox, 2006. 552pp. Paperback. $40.00.
From the publisher: This classic textbook, widely used for over two decades, constructs a history of ancient Israel and Judah through a thorough investigation of epigraphical, archaeological, and biblical sources. Approaching biblical history as history, Miller and Hayes examine the political and economic factors that give context to the Israelite monarchy’s actions and the biblical writers’ accounts. Now updated with the latest research and critical discoveries, including the Tel Dan Inscription, and considering the lively debate surrounding the reliability of biblical accounts.
Our thoughts: The classic one volume history—recently updated. A very useful “march through Old Testament history” in a traditional, chronological format. Several good introductory chapters set the stage and discuss the nature of ancient “history” and the use of folk materials by the biblical writers. Not technical.
Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament (42nd Sperry Symposium) ed. by David R. Seely, et al. Salt Lake City: RSC/Deseret Book, 2013. 413pp. $25.99.
The Psalmist asks, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” This year’s Sperry Symposium discusses ascending into the Lord’s mountain within the context of theophany, ancient temple worship, sacred space, sacrifice, offerings, and hymns and songs in the text of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. The scriptures contain a rich treasury of information of how ancient Israelites and the people in the Book of Mormon worshipped God and expressed themselves through ritual and devotions as found in the Psalms. These explorations of ancient temple worship help us to better understand and appreciate latter-day temple and worship traditions.