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Chris Of The OT (South West of England)

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Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
by G K Beale
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £44.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, original idea, well presented and very interesting, 1 Oct. 2009
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`Commentary on the New Testament[`s] Use of the Old Testament' is a great resource `devoted... to the study of the NT text as it quotes and alludes to the OT text' (from the Introduction).

Like more conventional commentaries, this work is divided into chapters which each deal with, in order, a single NT book; and each chapter is further subdivided into sections discussing (usually) a selection of consecutive verses.

However this format is not followed by all the contributors as `the editors [Beale and Carson] have allowed adequate flexibility in presentation... [because of] the astonishing variety of ways in which the various NT authors make reference to the OT'. While all the articles seek to answer the same basic questions regarding context and interpretation, how each author achieves this varies significantly though none is necessarily `better' or `worse' than any other.

The text itself is printed in two columns per page (like a traditional Bible), which I find really helps the eye follow the text in large format books. The use of bold indented titles or chapter/verse headings with dainty little side and under-linings for each main section make for easy navigation; and one or two articles make use of very simple (but occasionally large) tables. At the end of each chapter there is an absolute monster bibliography: for instance, for Luke alone it stretches to nearly 11 solid pages of small, footnote-size fonts.

At first glance then, this book may not seem like a `usual' commentary and the concept of emphasising how the NT uses the OT is not `usual' either. However, once you get reading a passage you feel the book quickly assumes the familiar genre of a biblical commentary, though it's comments are also quickly seen to be deeper and fuller than many other commentaries.

The variety and flexibility that the editors encouraged has made for very different reading experiences: for instance, I am most familiar with D. A. Carson and I. Howard Marshall as authors (perhaps because I've got so many excellent IVP publications?!). Howard Marshall contributed the article on Acts and I found this to be easier to read than some of the others. This may be because he dispenses with several of the technical issues at the beginning of the article which allows the main text to flow more freely. Conversely, there are one or two other pieces which I found, on occasion, to be prohibitively technical and complex, especially when dealing with direct comparisons of Greek and Hebrew translations.

When I saw this title (actually advertised by the Logos Bible study people) I was stunned that such a concept had reached fruition. It's a fabulous achievement that will prove to be hugely useful in my studies. (I imagine the digital version would be most convenient, particularly for copy-and-pasting.) This book is large and comparatively demanding, I suppose, but I have a passion for the OT, and especially to right (what I perceive to be) a heavy NT bias in all things Christian. This will be a wonderfully useful tool for helping to correct that imbalance: and with over 1200 pages, it's not too expensive either.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2010 11:47 AM GMT


Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums
Lost Treasures of the Bible: Understanding the Bible through Archaeological Artifacts in World Museums
by Clyde E. Fant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous concept, top quality research and presentation make this a very accessible, fascinating book, 23 Sept. 2009
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`Lost Treasures of the Bible' (LTB) by C. E. Fant & M. G. Reddish is divided into ten sections which vary considerably in length:

Creation and Flood Stories (p3-22)
Israel's Ancestral, Exodus, and Settlements Periods (p29-93)
The Period of the Monarchy (p95-221)
The Period of the Babylonian Exile (p223-239)
Poetry and Wisdom Literature (p241-265)
The Persian Period (p267-287)
The Hellenistic Period (p289-297)
The Roman Period (p299-403)
Ancient Biblical Texts (p405-429)
Sensational Finds: Genuine or Forgery? (p431-433)
Bibliography and Indexes follow (including the excellent:
`Index of Objects by Museum' & `... by Museum Number')

Having already purchased these three titles:
Matthews & Benjamin's Old Testament Parallels;
Bancroft-Hunt's absolutely wonderful Historical Atlas of Ancient Mesopotamia;
And John Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament,
I was stunned to stumble upon this title. After reading rave reviews on Amazon US, I thought I'd throw yet more money at this, for me, most fascinating area of biblical study.

I was not disappointed. LTB is a superbly conceived and researched title. It is designed to be used as a museum handbook, for those lucky enough to be able to travel to these places, or so that `armchair travellers can discover for themselves spectacular antiquities not often seen... and explain the meaning of these fascinating objects for an understanding of biblical times and texts' (from the preface).

Because this volume seeks to `explain' and `understand' these ancient artefacts, it does not offer line-by-line translations. Rather, in most cases, it offers highlights of the various inscriptions and then emphasises how the artefact influences biblical understanding. So, for instance, under the `Epic of Gilgamesh' heading (p16) first there is a physical description of the (in this case) clay tablet including size, language it's written in and date, as well as the museum where the tablet(s) can be seen (with the museum ID number). Then there is a four page explanation of how the tablets were found, theories regarding composition and date, etc., with a fairly extensive description of what the Epic of Gilgamesh is about. Within this later section is a half-page translational extract from the Gilgamesh story. The last page of the article, like all the articles, is entitled `Biblical Significance' where a comparison (and contrast) is made between Epic and Bible. Page 17 shows a clear, if somewhat understated black and white photograph of the tablet. (There are some colour plates - sixteen excellent half-page examples - in the centre of the book.)

It has been interesting to compare this title with the other titles above. LTB scores well in two areas: first, it describes many artefacts with no inscription at all. While these may have a special biblical significance, the titles above may not mention them at all because there is no text to translate (e.g. Calf Statuette and Model Shrine (p74) found at Tel Ashkelon, dated c.1550 B.C.). Second, the artefacts studied include many objects specifically relevant to the New Testament (e.g. Statue of Emperor Trajan (p396) in Italy, dated A.D. c.108) - I tend to focus on the OT so this is an interesting addition. Also included are more hum-drum, but equally interesting things like the remains of the Galilee Boat (p308) found in the Sea of Galilee, dated between c.120 B.C and A.D. 40: I've never seen this before.

The only criticism I would offer is that the pictures are not as good as I might like, but I imagine that extending the (very small) section of colour plates would add greatly to the cost. (There is also a curious discrepancy in The Birth Legend of Sargon (p47) were three Sargons are described: Sargon I of Akkad c.2334-2279 B.C.; Sargon I (again!) c.2000; and Sargon II c.721-705 B.C. I have never read about a `second Sargon I' in any other book. Strange!)

In spite of these minor qualms, I love this book. It's very easy to read, well laid out, fascinating and hugely useful. And (one day) I'm going to thoroughly enjoy taking it round the British Museum with me!


Handbook of Life in Bible Times
Handbook of Life in Bible Times
by J.A. Thompson
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and useful resource. Very easy to read & a superbly presented book, 23 Sept. 2009
J. A. Thompson's `Handbook of Life in Bible Times' really is `a delightful & colourful resource', as the cover suggests.

It is divided into eight sections of between two and five chapters each:

Section 1: Introduction (p11-32)
Section 2: People at home (p35-109)
Section 3: Food and drink (p111-165)
Section 4: Industry and commerce (p167-227)
Section 5: Culture and health (p229-281)
Section 6: Warfare (p283-313)
Section 7: Religion (p315-365)

Chapter 15 in section 5 (`Culture and health') entitled `Writing and literature' is a good example: It begins by emphasising the importance of writing and goes on to explain about papyrus plants and how they were used to make sheets for writing on. There are pictures (usually full colour), diagrams or charts on every double-page spread - so no solid blocks of text - including ancient papyrus writings (from Elephantine and Qumran), ivory boards, pottery fragments, clay tablets, etc. There is also a picture of ancient pens and an interesting double-page table comparing ancient alphabets from different periods. This includes several variations of Hebrew and Greek as well as Aramaic, Arabian and Canaanite. Though cuneiform is not shown, surprisingly, the next page shows a superb picture of tablet 11 from the Gilgamesh Epic which is an impressively clear example of cuneiform.

This is a most accessible and interesting book, in the highest traditions of IVP. Though there is plenty of explanatory text to get your teeth into, it is never over-whelming as there are so many excellent illustrations. The layout is just a joy to follow: main text set within wide borders which contain Bible references; clear titles and coloured text boxes all help to make this title a cinch to navigate.

The only criticisms I would offer are: as the next reviewer (Mr Gilmore) notes, it's a real shame this title has never been updated as it is a little old now; Also, many of the drawings and maps have been re-cycled from other IVP publications.

In the end, this handbook is aging but it does not feel old because it's so well presented and researched. It's long out of print nowadays but second-hand copies are plentiful on Amazon - and quite cheap. Warmly recommended!
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Xbox 360 Wireless Wheel (Xbox 360)
Xbox 360 Wireless Wheel (Xbox 360)

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great fun Force Feedback wheel - but over-priced and not up to Microsoft's usual standards, 24 Aug. 2009
I've owned five racing wheels, from the Mad Catz 2 (very poor); to the Logitech Driving Force Pro (DFP): amazing quality and value.

MS WIRELESS RACING WHEEL BUILD QUALITY:
There is noticeable play in the steering column and the wheel unit is nowhere near as solid as the Logitech DFP. The MS wheel has a comfortable thick, rubberised grip and the buttons, D-pad, paddles and peddles all feel solid and work well but the lack of stick-switches mean players cannot look left or right while driving.

GENERAL PERFORMANCE AND DESIGN:
a) Wheel-to-Table Clamp & Lap Mount: Microsoft's innovative quick-release button and locking latch are a bit gimmicky and all centre-clamped wheels allow the unit to rotate on the table.

The lap attachment is just a contoured base to the unit with soft, cloth-gripping rubber ribs, which sits on your lap. It's better than most lap attachments but it moves much too easily. (I have removed my lap attachment as it raises the wheel unit too high off the table.)

b) Paddles: The paddle shifters work fine: they're the right distance from the wheel for comfortable finger-reach and have the right amount of resistance, but they're not be configurable to use as brake and accelerator. (And even if they were, I doubt there would be enough travel for the accelerator.)

c) Peddles: The peddles work perfectly and feel robust, though there is nowhere near enough resistance on the brake (true of all the wheel sets I've used - I use an inch thick slice of washing-up scoring sponge underneath the brake peddle). The large opening in the base to put your heels through is uncomfortable and ineffective.

d) Wireless Connectivity: Basically flawlessly, although a firmware update is required to use more than one wheel with the Xbox 360 (see MS Knowledge Base: 930065). But the term `wireless' is a misnomer: mains power is needed for FF and the data link between peddles and wheel is also wired.

FORCE FEEDBACK PERFORMANCE:
Forza Motorsport 2 and Colin McRae-DiRT are the only real tests for this wheel at time of writing (2007).

FM2: the FF is superbly observed; you can really feel the difference between running a front wheel drive Integra compared to a rear wheel drive M3, for instance. The steering goes satisfyingly light when you crest a rise, it jerks left and right when wheel-spinning off the start in the Integra, and sucks the wheel round in over/under-steer. All in all, this really shows the work Turn 10 put in to FM2 - it's streets ahead of PGR3 and is wonderfully convincing and immersive.

But! Many have been a little surprised that the FF is not stronger. Since feedback strength is important to me, I was disappointed with this.

CM-DiRT: The FF here is stronger than FM2. There is great resistance to steering (in front wheel drive cars especially) and you really have to grip the wheel hard to keep control. Most importantly, DiRT allows FF adjustments: this is sorely missed in FM2.

But! The FF in DiRT is much less convincing; the steering resistance seems to swamp the finer detail of the FF so players should spend time adjusting the FF sliders.

One annoying fault which affects nearly all (!) these wireless wheels is that they automatically centre a few degrees off when mains power is used. Mine thinks 5° left is Top Dead Centre so I have to steer slightly left on long straights: uncomfortable and annoying, but manageable. The wheel only offers 270° of rotation which is not enough for wrist-crossing cornering but it works well enough.

CONCLUSION:
We are left with a fairly good piece of kit, but with several "grey areas": build quality is not up to scratch; the potential advantage of a fully wireless unit is lost; and there are some minor but genuine flaws. And since the MS Wireless Racing Wheel has a pukka FF motor with two rumble motors, the FF is a little weaker in FM2 than I would have liked (though many others find it strong enough).

In driving games, the fun factor is increased exponentially with the MS Wireless Wheel, I love mine and I wouldn't be without it. Though I recommend this wheel, 3½ stars would be more accurate.


Dictionary of Paul and his letters (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
Dictionary of Paul and his letters (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
by Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid (editors) Gerald F. Hawthorne
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable for New Testament study (not just Paul), 7 Aug. 2009
IVP's `Dictionary of Paul and His Letters' (DPL) is a fabulous, `must have' resource for studying Paul himself or the NT letters he penned. IVP have long been ardent supporters of biblical and theological study, offering a plethora of fabulous books, and some software. DPL is just one of these titles.

Remembering that this dictionary focuses quite specifically on `Paul and His Letters', its 1000-page and large format, the size alone shows the breadth of modern scholarship that is made available. (The list of contributors stretches to over three pages.) However, this is a dictionary and does not need to be read from cover-to-cover, it can just be dip into it whenever it's needed.

Although the scholarly input is dizzyingly enormous, none of the vast array of articles are "dry academia", they are all vibrant and modern (even though this is now 16 years old - gasp!) whilst still covering all the theological angles. This means you get the meat of the theology but can still follow the arguments; no mean feat and hugely important.

For instance: if you look up `Works' you'll be re-directed to the `James and Paul' article (among others) for a discussion on justification by works and/or faith: the premise being that Paul says `works of law' (or `good works') are very negative (Gal. 2:16), while James appears to say the opposite: `faith without works [or deeds] is dead' (Jas. 2:26). A four page investigation reveals that `in reality, both James and Paul had similar ideas on the role of good works in the Christian life.' Phew! (The author, P. H. Davids, also notes that conflict arises because we tend to `read Luther into Paul'...)

Following each article there is a `See also' note which lists other especially relevant articles within the dictionary, as well as a (usually) massive bibliography.

If you are serious about understanding Paul and his life and work, as well as the greater New Testament, this dictionary is indispensable: I cannot recommend it enough. If you have more cash and want to go further (within the superb IVP family of dictionaries), these are just as good and as valuable:

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of New Testament Background
Dictionary of the later New Testament and Its Developments

All of these are also available digitally, within the stunning and wonderful Essential IVP Reference Collection CD-ROM (or on download from Logos Bible Software). This digital collection represents fantastic value for money - and if you get the an older version of the collection, it may be even cheaper.


Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
by Joel B. Green/Scot McKnight/I. Howard Marshall
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly indispensable for New Testament study, 7 Aug. 2009
IVP's `Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels' (DJG) is a fabulous, `must have' resource for studying Jesus himself as well as the Gospels. IVP have long been ardent supporters of biblical and theological study, offering a plethora of excellent books, and some software. DJG is just one of these titles.

Remembering that this dictionary focuses quite specifically on `Jesus and the Gospels', it's 900-page, large format size alone shows the breadth of modern scholarship available. (The list of contributors stretches to well over two pages.) However, since this is a dictionary it does not need to be read cover-to-cover, it can be just dipped into it whenever it's needed.

Although the scholarly input is dizzyingly enormous, none of the vast array of articles are "dry academia", they are all vibrant and modern (even though this is now 17 years old - gasp!) whilst still covering all the theological angles. This means you get the meat of the theology but can still follow the arguments; no mean feat and hugely important.

For instance: if you look up `Gospel', you may be surprised to find three entries: `Gospel (Genre)', `Gospel (Good News)' and `Gospels (Apocryphal)'. The first looks at what `category or type of literature [a Gospel is], such as biography or novel'. A five page investigation reveals that the Gospels are closely linked to a type of literature called `Greco-Roman... biography, but they also form a distinctive group [of their own]'. In other words, a Gospel is contemporary with its time but is also quite unique. Hurrah!

Following each article there is a `See also' note which lists other especially relevant articles within the dictionary, as well as a (usually) massive bibliography.

If you are serious about understanding Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, as well as about the four Gospels of the New Testament, this dictionary is indispensable: I cannot recommend it enough. If you have more cash and want to go further (within the superb IVP family of dictionaries), these are just as good and as valuable:

Dictionary of Paul and his Letters
Dictionary of New Testament Background
Dictionary of the later New Testament and Its Developments

All of these are also available digitally, as part of the stunning and wonderful Essential IVP Reference Collection CD-ROM (or on download from Logos Bible Software). This digital collection represents fantastic value for money - and if you get the an older version of the collection, it may be even cheaper.


The Essential IVP Reference Collection: The Complete Electronic Bible Study Resource
The Essential IVP Reference Collection: The Complete Electronic Bible Study Resource

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Quality and Wonderful Value, 7 Aug. 2009
Note: I Am Reviewing Version 2 of this collection. Version 3 is available on the Logos website but `Version 2 and Version 3 are identical. The only difference is the version of Libronix [the user interface] that comes on the disk.' (It appears that this 'New Edition' is the same as Version 3.)

All the books the IVP Reference Collection contains are accessed through the unbeatable Libronix Digital Library System (LDLS) which the Logos Bible Software uses. This is easily the most powerful but easy to use interface for studying printed text I have ever used. This is even more important because there are a multitude of other titles - biblical and secular - which can be accessed through the same Libronix software (see the Logos website).

This is what's included on the IVP Reference Collection CD:

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Letters
Dictionary of New Testament Background
Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

IVP Bible Background Commentary for The Old Testament
IVP Bible Background Commentary The New Testament

Hard Sayings of the Bible (not the 2009 edition)

New Bible Commentary
New Bible Dictionary
New Bible Atlas
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
New Dictionary of Theology

Also included are the Pocket Dictionaries of:
Theological Terms
New Testament Greek
Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion
Biblical Studies

If you look for any of the first seven titles in Amazon you'll see what a stunningly high quality of material is included here. Each of the major works are magnificent achievements in their own right, but that IVP have included them all on one easy to use CD is nothing short of breathtaking. And even the "minor" works (i.e. the Pocket Dictionaries, etc.) are useful for more casual Bible study. I studied for a certificate in biblical theology and found this collection absolutely indispensable, but it is still easy and hugely beneficial to use for more casual Bible study - and both my wife and I do.

There are only two shortcomings: First, while this truly is an essential reference collection for biblical study, it is very New Testament orientated, though the box gives little indication of this. (The mention of Wayne Grudem's 'Systematic Theology' is misleading as it's not available free, out-of-the-box.)

Second, only the King James Bible (or Authorised Version) is available as standard so other translations have to be purchased and `unlocked'. I paid an extra £20 for the New International Version (NIV), together with another £20 for a very old Thomas Nelson Reference Library CD which included a huge number of Bible versions, as well as several reference titles.

My Essential IVP Reference Collection cost £95 a few years ago so I have paid about £135 for the everything: And this is still an absolute bargain. I have used this collection extensively and would find it horribly hard to manage without it now. Though the initial outlay is high, when you consider the number of books you're buying, plus the amazing quality of scholastic insight being made available to you, it is quite literally irresistible. I can not praise this collection highly enough.

(Note that I am desperately hoping IVP will publish a similar collection on CD for the Old Testament - as soon as they do, I shall buy it!)

EDIT:
I have used this wonderful collection for nearly a decade now - and it's still just fabulous. The Logos Bible Software people have developed the Libronix software so well and now a gazillion titles are available. At the time of writing (2009) I note that the wonderful IVP OT dictionaries are now under development by the Logos people:

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books
(But not the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings, yet...)

So my wish is coming true (at least partially)!


New Bible Atlas
New Bible Atlas
by John J. Bimson and J. P. Kane (eds.)
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap - and contains much interesting historical information - but the maps are poor, 6 Aug. 2009
This review is from: New Bible Atlas (Paperback)
The IVP `New Bible Atlas' is a cheap atlas, though it still covers all the appropriate ground - including archaeological information - so may be very useful.

It is divided into six main parts; this is quoted from the `How to use this Atlas' section:

Part One... [describes] the terrain, climate and vegetation [of the Hold Land].
Parts Two and Three are arranged historically, based on the biblical record...
Part Four features the major empires and peoples [of] the biblical scene
Part Five concerns Jerusalem
Part Six provides a brief view of the Holy Land as it is today

Though this `new' atlas is now two decades old but is not really `outdated' as such. Perhaps surprisingly for an atlas, the best, most useful aspect may be its historical discussions. There is a fair amount of archaeological information, like simple town and building descriptions, excavation dating-level diagrams and some old biblical manuscript pictures with explanations and descriptions.

However, this is an atlas and, by definition, the maps are the focus but unfortunately, this is the weakest area of the whole book. Many of the maps are small, very few are full-page, all of them lack detail and some - like the `Early churches' map (p83) are dreadful: just one, flat orange colour for the whole Mediterranean region with dozens of almost microscopically tiny undefined dots for each church. And many maps are just black & white - a few are just line drawings! I also note that many, perhaps most, of the maps and illustrations have been poached directly from other IVP publications (like the Handbook of Life in Bible Times by J. Thompson, which is excellent).

In the end, this is not far off `cheap and nasty'. Good Bible atlases are difficult to find (the best I've ever seen is Atlas of the Bible by John Rogerson which is out of print now but still available second-hand). The `New Bible Atlas does have some useful, interesting information, but as an atlas it's horrible.


A History of Israel in Old Testament Times
A History of Israel in Old Testament Times
by Siegfried Herrmann
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Readable account of Israel's history up until the Roman era, but not the best, 3 Aug. 2009
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Siegfried Herrmann's `A History of Israel in Old Testament Times' is a useful, readable account of Israel's history. Herrmann divides this work thus:

Preface, Introductions, etc. (to p40)
Part One - The Birth of the People of Israel (p41-130)
Part Two - The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (p131-289)
Part Three - Israel in the Hands of the Great Powers (p289-393)
Bibliography, Maps, Charts, Indexes, etc. (p393-440)

I note that it's out of print now so a cheap, second-hand copy could be a real boon. But it's not as good as other examples, notably the magnificent History of Israel by John Bright.

Herrmann's `History' covers all the necessary bases and even scores over Bright in one area: Herrmann's offering extends the `Old Testament history' all the way to 63 B.C. when the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem and entered the temple. (Bright stops at the Maccabean Revolt in 164 B.C.) This extension is hugely helpful in explaining the journey Israel was forced to take in getting to the Roman period.

My criticisms are these:

The leap in `Part One' from pre-history to the `The Patriarchs' (p41) feels if Herrmann has rather skimped on the background and build-up of Israel's origins. Several pages are `wasted' here on a massively over-detailed and impossible to follow geographical description of the whole Levant. Similar deviations occur throughout the book giving the impression of a lack of focus.

Also, the production of Herrmann's `History' is cheap and nasty: I have several miss-cut pages and though there are eight full-page maps at the end of the book, they are all the most basic line-drawings which only just about suffice. More annoying is the formatting: the whole text essentially one style punctuated by chapters. The exceptions are numerous (slightly) indented sections offering more detailed information on a topic. Because the indentations are so slight and indistinct, it's easy to miss it or forget you are reading within one. For instance, on page 6 a section describes the distribution of languages. However, like several other indented sections, the place where it should return to normal formatting has been missed. This makes following Herrmann's line of thought hard work sometimes.

Herrmann also chooses to put the extensive footnotes at the end of each chapter rather than underneath the main text on each page which means you have to constantly flick back and forth if you want to read the footnotes.

If you have never read a `History of Israel', get John Bright's - it's superb - but if you want a very cheap `History' (or a second one for comparison) this will do. Herrmann's example has the benefit of being easy to read and it extends to 63 B.C., but his inconsistent focus and the shoddy presentation let it down.
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Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible
by John H. Walton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, modern overview of ancient Israel's cultural neighbours & influences (which helped shape the Old Testament), 3 Jun. 2009
John Walton's `Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament' offers an accessible (on the whole) and interesting comparison of Israel's ancient beliefs with those of her neighbours - Sumeria, Egypt, Hittite, etc. The goal of `comparative studies' is to `learn from one [culture] to enhance the understanding of another': i.e. to study the broader ancient Near Eastern literature & archaeology to see what light that might shed on Israel and the Old Testament.

This book is divided into five parts:

Part 1 Comparative Studies (to p40)
- this is introductory tracing the history of comparative study, the theology, etc.
Part 2 Literature of the Ancient Near East (p43-83)
- a hugely useful summary of all ancient Near Eastern literature so far unearthed
Part 3 - Religion (p87-161)
- describing the various ancient gods, temples and religion, etc. of the Near East
Part 4 Cosmos (p165-199)
- explaining ancient understandings of the physical and spiritual universe
Part 5 People (p203-329)
- explores the ancient's understanding of themselves in history, the future, within society, etc.
Indexes, etc. follow

I was keenly looking forward to this book to compliment V H Matthews' Old Testament Parallels and Bancroft-Hunt's superb Historical Atlas of Ancient Mesopotamia. I was not disappointed. In Part 1's introduction it is easy to absorb Walton's clear and honest enthusiasm for the concept of comparing various ancient world views with the biblical world view. The ancient Near Eastern literature summarised in Part 2 is hugely useful as many theological books make passing reference to the `Gilgamesh Epic' or the `Amarna Letters', for instance, and this section offers an explanation of what these works or collections constitute. Some overviews are a lengthy paragraph or two, others just a couple of lines.

Part 3 onwards represents the main body of this book and here we find the often lowly black-and-white photos seen in other publications (though there are some in Part 2) as well as the all important `Comparative Exploration' text boxes. These text boxes are set within the main text, titled and slightly indented with a grey background & boarder to highlight & separate each `exploration' from the main text. They range from less than half a page to three or four pages long with a smaller type face which squeezes in more text. These sections directly compare the various Near Eastern understandings (Assyrian, Canaanite, Babylonian, etc.) of each topic with biblical understandings. While these are very interesting and illuminating, I wasn't necessarily convinced by all the arguments, though the whys and wherefores are all clearly explained. Some of the most interesting explored law and religion; the similarities are many, but so are the striking (and hugely distinctive) differences. For instance, much religious & legal belief outside Israel looked to ensuring that the needs of the various deities were met, while Yahweh's `needs' could never be met by people, it's the other way around. Walton notes that Idols and images are a sort of vessel to contain the deity's personality (as it were), where Yahweh's `personality' is present, via the Holy Spirit, within the Christian. (Also, humans being `the image of God'.) Shed-loads of material for meditation & theological study there!

Another hugely useful section is the Appendix `Individual Gods' (p335-341) which describes each regions' gods: `Mesopotamian', `Canaanite', `Egyptian' and `Others'. All the main players are listed, including, Enlil, Ishtar, Marduk, El, Baal/Hadad, Amon-Re, etc. with a few lines explaining their rank or role within the pantheon. In the `Others' section, only two are listed: `Kemosh/Chemosh... [who] was the national god of Moab' and `Yahweh... the God of Israel'. This entry ends with: `Only tantalising hints suggest an early history outside Israel'. Hmm!

If I were to offer a criticism, it would be that once the main body of the book is reached (Part 3), the text can get a tad technical here and there. The writing style is easy to follow - which is hugely important - but there is frequent mention of quite technical things like anomalies of ancient Hebrew text or `the protasis ("If...")', and such like. It is necessary but such technicalities can bog you down in parts.

In the end, I liked this work and find it helpful and useful. For essays, it's a gem with all the summarised ancient texts and descriptions of the gods but the `Comparative Exploration' sections (especially) can offer genuine devotional benefits if your faith really is `living and active'. I might deduct points for the occasionally technical nature of the text, and for the flimsy cover (even for a soft back), but it's still a title I'm happy to recommend (maybe 3½ stars?).


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