I once studied at a theological college while the author was teaching Old Testament. This means that I am pleased to own this book, but it has not influenced this review.
This is really good. Not aimed at a popular "Bible Study" level, but should prove useful to those preparing studies and esp. to preachers, teachers and theological students. The book aims to present a variety of views in a way that doesn't unduly take theological sides, but nor does it simply leave the student floundering in a sea of alternative possibilities. When the author does challenge a position, it is so that the reader can see the underlying issues. There is no sense of a narrow party-line being pushed. The reader is enabled to see that positions we disagree with and find unconvincing can still have value because of the questions they ask.
There is an excellent mix of main text, side-bars and maps, along with challenging questions. This is attractive and helpful without appearing cluttered or crowded. There are also resources for taking things deeper. Books for further reading are at the end of every chapter/section and this is, sadly, where it loses one star.
In one chapter, the author refers to a specific book which is not listed at the end of that chapter because it has already appeared at the end of an earlier chapter. There is no separate bibliography, either at the beginning or the end of the book. This meant I had to look through this entire volume in order to find the specific title referred to. At first sight, I thought that there were errors in the book because I did not know where to find the details of the book or books cited and assumed they were simply missing.
The author seems to expect that every reader will begin at the beginning and will both see and remember every book that is referenced. I will be using this to prepare studies on specific Prophets, so I will be reading only the general material and the chapters relevant to each Prophet. I do not have time, at the moment, to read everything, nor do I need to. Obviously, repeating material in every chapter would waste time, but adding a global bibliography/topical index - with page numbers for where the book appears in this volume and possibly a topical word - would make things a lot easier. One other issue is not exactly the fault of the book, but the repeated recommendation to go and read other books is both helpful and discouraging: - helpful, because it reminds the reader that this is an introductory text - while it may be all that some need, it is not the last word; - discouraging, because most theological students and many theological professionals have only limited budgets. The interested lay person may be quite unable to purchase more books, esp. as some of them are both highly specialised and often, quite expensive. Obviously, this may not be a problem for those who have access to a good theological library, either at theological college or a local university, but many texts may be hard to locate or obtain through standard local libraries.
Nevertheless, this is an excellent book at a fantastic price - delivery was slower than promised and it arrived when I was out. But, it's here and I hope to buy as many of the others in the series as I can afford.
This book is a useful tool and gives a helpful overview of each of the prophetic books. You have to watch the comments though as there is a clear Calvinistic bias which means that you have to sift through each comment with care. McConville is a helpful academic if you can push past his obvious bias, as much as I wouldn't take every word as 'gospel', I am pleased to have this in my library.
As a theology student and ex-teacher this is the most helpful Old Testament textbook that I have yet found. It provides a helpful overview of the historical background, theological ideas and history of scholarship for each of the "Prophets" which enabled me to quickly understand the points of debate and to read other scholars in a far more informed and fruitful way.
As a Christian believer, I also found the "Going Deeper" sections helped me to avoid a merely academic approach to my studies.
Those looking for a detailed and thoughtful introduction to the Old Testament prophets should find McConville's guide an excellent primer. He provides a helpful overview of biblical criticism and for each of the books gives the reader with a guide to the social context of the various writings and the themes that the prophets explore. In addition, the book encourages the reader to engage in deeper reflection through a series of panels which introduce broader themes relating to the Christian life today. At times, the material can feel quite dense, and could have been broken up with more diagrams or illustrations, but for the serious student this is a great introduction.