A Survey of the Old Testament / Edition 3

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The purpose of studying the Old Testament is to understand God and his redemptive work more fully. However, this goal is complicated by the fact that it was transmitted through a very different language and culture from our own. A Survey of the Old Testament provides an indispensable guide for undergraduate students and other readers by exploring the literary, historical, and theological issues behind the Old Testament and its various books.

For each Old Testament book, the Survey addresses background information, purpose, message, structure, and major themes. Chapters introducing each major section of the Old Testament are included, as are chapters dealing with issues of interpretation, geography, archaeology, history, formation of the Old Testament canon, and the Old Testament’s relationship to the New Testament. The text is enhanced throughout by maps, photos, timelines, and charts. This full-color third edition of a widely acclaimed textbook has been expanded and redesigned in both text and graphical elements, making it even more beneficial.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
'“I have used Hill and Walton’s A Survey of the Old Testament from the very first edition to the current third edition because students have responded very positively to it and give the textbook a high rating. It is especially effective for introducing students from traditional church backgrounds to the new world of higher criticism. In discussing more controversial topics such as ‘The Composition of the Pentateuch,’ various viewpoints are represented fairly.” Adjunct Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and New Brunswick Theological Seminary — Andrew Lee

“The one-year Bible and Israel Program in our University has been consistently using A Survey of the Old Testament. We find the text informative, concise, and trustworthy with a high view of Scripture and an appreciation for Ancient Near East studies. In addition, the graphics provide our students with photos of biblical landscapes, illuminating charts, and important archaeological discoveries. This is one textbook that our students want to keep.” Philadelphia Biblical University — William L. Krewson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310280958
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Edition description: New
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 99,410
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew E. Hill (Ph D, University of Michigan) is professor of Old Testament studies at Wheaton College in Illinois. He is the coauthor with John Walton of A Survey of the Old Testament and the author of Malachi in the Anchor Bible commentary series. His articles have appeared in such scholarly publications as Hebrew Annual Review, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Vetus Testamentum.

John H. Walton (Ph D, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament; Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context; Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan; The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; and A Survey of the Old Testament.

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Read an Excerpt

A Survey of the Old Testament

By Andrew E. Hill John H. Walton


Copyright © 2000 Zondervan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-22903-0

Chapter One

Introduction to the Pentateuch

Key Ideas

Abrahamic covenant as Issues related to the unifying theological theme historicity of the narrative texts

Diversity of literary types and distinctive literary features

The term pentateuch is commonly applied to the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This Greek expression simply means "five scrolls" and apparently was popularized by the Hellenized Jews of Alexandria in the first century A.D. The Hebrew-speaking Jewish community traditionally referred to these five books as the "Torah" (or "instruction" in holiness). Other designations for the Pentateuch include the Book of the Law, emphasizing the covenant stipulations as its defining feature; and the Law of Moses, emphasizing the human mediator as its defining feature.

The Pentateuch was the first divinely prompted literary collection acknowledged as Scripture by the Hebrew community. As such, it is the most important division of the Hebrew canon. It always stands first in the threefold division of the Old Testament: Law, Prophets, and Writings. Its supreme rank in the Old Testament canon in respect to authority and holiness is evidenced by its position and separation from the other books in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The careful translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch into Greek also confirms the high regard for the collection in the Hebrew community (in contrast to the incomplete and more loosely translated divisions of the Prophets and Writings).

Theme and General Contents

The "five-book" division of the Pentateuch is really a secondary partitioning of what was intended to be a unified, literary whole. The Pentateuch is better understood as a "five-volume" book, a five-part mini-series of sorts. D. J. A. Clines (1979) has convincingly argued that the Pentateuch has two basic divisions, Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12-Deuteronomy 34. In view of the fall of humankind and the broken fellowship between God and humanity, the first division poses the question, "How can that relationship be repaired or restored?" The second division then provides an answer, or at least a partial answer, to the human dilemma depicted in Genesis 1-11. The solution is rooted in the idea of covenant bonding between God and Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. This passage constitutes the focal point of the second division and actually summarizes the key themes of the Pentateuchal narratives: Yahweh's covenant, Abraham's posterity, divine election and blessing, and the grant of a "promised land."

Part 1 explains the origins of the earth and humankind, explains the nature and purpose of humanity created male and female, records the intrusion of sin into God's good creation, and reveals the character of God, who both judges human sin (as witnessed in the Flood account) and deals mercifully with fallen creation (as seen in the grace extended to Noah and his family).

Part 2 explains how Israel (through Abraham) became the elect covenant people of Yahweh and God's instrument for revealing himself and restoring the broken and corrupted relationship between the Creator and his creation. The Pentateuchal accounts are significant both for Israel, due to their unique covenant relationship with Yahweh, and for the nations of the world, since the destiny of humanity is ultimately tied to Israel's covenant with God.

The unifying theological theme of the Pentateuch is Yahweh's covenant promise to Abram in Genesis 12:3. What humankind was unable to do in all its pride and self-sufficiency (epitomized in the Tower of Babel), God initiated in his covenant promise. The literary plan of the Pentateuch is but an expansion of the three-part covenant promise extended to Abram, as outlined in figure 1.1.

The Literature of the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch, or Book of the Law, is a rich collection of literary genres or types. This diversity of literary types enhances both the artistic nature of the work and the key theological themes unifying the anthology. By the same token, these multiple and complex literary forms have been directly responsible for the ongoing debate over the composition and date of the Pentateuch.

Prose Narrative

Most of the Pentateuchal literature is prose narrative. The narrative is simple but direct and forceful. The text is largely a third-person account of early Israelite history interspersed with prayers, speeches, and other types of direct discourse (e.g., Abraham's intercessory prayer for Sodom in Gen. 18:22-33, Yahweh's speech to Moses in Exod. 3:7-12, and the exchange between Pharaoh and Moses in Exod. 10:1-21).

The narratives artfully blend historical reporting and theological interpretation. This makes the Pentateuch more than a mere register of chronologically ordered events yet something less than pointed religious propaganda serving to explain or justify certain actions, events, institutions, or theological teachings. Perhaps the best example of this blend of historical reporting and theological interpretation is the providential understanding of Joseph's trials as benefiting all of Jacob's family (Gen. 50:15-21).

The language of the Pentateuch is simple and beautiful. It uses anthropomorphic language (i.e., ascribing human qualities to God), and frequent reference to theophany (i.e., a visible and audible manifestation of God to a human being). The detailed characterizations and repetitious plots in the stories have led some scholars to use terms like "myth" or "saga," "folklore," and "legend" for portions of the Pentateuchal narratives (especially Genesis). Traditionally, evangelical scholars have balked at employing such labels for the Pentateuchal narratives lest the accounts be thought of as fiction. The inability of modern scholarship to define these genres or literary categories clearly has also contributed to this reluctance to use these terms. Once again, belief in the historicity of the Old Testament make some scholars reluctant to include Genesis (and the rest of the Pentateuch) in these ill-defined genres. This historical aspect of the Pentateuchal prose narratives is discussed later on.


Excerpted from A Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew E. Hill John H. Walton Copyright © 2000 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



Image Sources

Using this book

Pt. I Introduction

Pt. II The Pentateuch

Pt. III The Historical Books

Pt. IV The Poetic Books

Pt. V The Prophets

Pt. VI Epilogue

App. A Critical Methodologies

App. B The Composition of the Pentateuch



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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 24, 2010

    A Must Read for the serious Bible Student

    This is an excellent book with stunning photography of ancient sites and archeaological finds. I found it very informative and concise. The intro at each chapter has a handy PURPOSE for the given book of the Bible being discussed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    This book provides a nice introduction to the books of the Old T

    This book provides a nice introduction to the books of the Old Testament in an accessible way. To begin with, the cover art is attractive. In fact, the book abounds with colour pictures and charts that really help the beginner or even the mid-level student/reader to understand the historical and cultural elements of the O.T. The pictures at the beginning of the chapters, in particular, really bring the book in question to life with a photo of something pertinent to that book.

    This is a survey text, so it does not go super in-depth about the individual books of the Bible, but it does provide a nice overview. It addresses things you might expect, such as canonicity, genre, authorship, and the other basic information about the texts. The authors have no problem admitting something is unknown or they view it as unknown due to the evidence. There is a glossary and an index, which is helpful. A summary and segue to Christological aspects of the New Testament is present as are two appendices, one about the critical methodologies and one regarding the composition of the Pentateuch.

    The book is divided into parts corresponding with the layout of the Bible, which makes it easy for the reader to follow along. There is an introduction, a section on the Pentateuch, a section on the historical books, a section on the poetic books, a section on the prophets (not subdivided into major and minor as many books do), and an epilogue. In addition, there are some chapters devoted to special issues that pertain to the various parts such as archaeology. They combine I and II Samuel, Chronicles, and Kings as is pretty typical, but they also combine Ezra and Nehemiah, which is less standard—by “combine,” I mean they treat them in the same chapter.

    Overall, I like this book. I especially like the artwork as it brings sometimes dry material to life. I deduct one star for the author’s misconception that the Roman Catholic Church represents a “branch” of Christianity rather than a separate religion (as can be demonstrated). I suspect this fault lies in the book being written in a non-confrontational, “let’s appeal to the masses” sort of way. Still, the book has some interesting non-typical ideas; I was particularly enlightened regarding the Book of Jonah with the prophet being a typological figure for Nineveh. I think any non-biblical-specialist would find this text helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2009

    Survey of the Old Testament

    This is an excellent book. Very informative.

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    Posted April 5, 2010

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    Posted December 16, 2010

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