Conditions of Use
This textbook admirably provides a bird’s eye view of modern scholarly consensus on the topics it covers—that is, the books of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical New Testament, as well as apocryphal books of the Hebrew Bible in the (Catholic)... read more
This textbook admirably provides a bird’s eye view of modern scholarly consensus on the topics it covers—that is, the books of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical New Testament, as well as apocryphal books of the Hebrew Bible in the (Catholic) deuterocanonical collection. It would be suitable for non-confessional 101-style classes attempting to cover the entirety of the Bible in one term, and then perhaps as a conversation-starter rather than a fully comprehensive volume. The authors helpfully encourage students to read the biblical texts themselves, and each chapter contains a surprising breadth and depth of questions for consideration.
Its value beyond this beginner setting is somewhat limited by its hesitance to acknowledge active debates within biblical scholarship, as the authors instead present consensus views on topics like the Two-Source solution to the Synoptic Problem (without identifying this as one hypothetical solution among others) and Pauline pseudepigraphy. Even where one is inclined to agree with the views presented, there is a wealth of untapped opinion that must be saved for lectures and discussions if they are to receive a hearing at all.
Index material includes a three-page timeline that appears somewhat disjointed in comparison to the textbook itself. A glossary might be helpful for the beginning student.
While the selections quoted are not necessarily inaccurate, I would want to see a greater depth of biblical scholarship before assigning this textbook for classes. For example, citations in the New Testament sections often come from Study Bible introduction sections, or Kyle Keefer’s “Very Short Introduction” to the New Testament as literature. This method of following only the most basic materials often results in middle-ground consensus dating of the books of the New Testament, when, given the frequent disagreement over dating and authorship of these texts, at the very least a range could also be provided. Similarly, the textbook dates the Muratorian Fragment, which may well be from as late as the late fourth or early fifth century, remarkably early to ca. 170 CE (pp. 19-20).
One genuinely confusing piece of content appears when, on subsequent pages, Saul/Paul can be portrayed as both “a Jewish man” (p. 151) and “a Gentile convert” (p. 152), and elsewhere the authors attribute a doctrine of “original sin” to Paul rather than to later Christian interpreters (p. 15), though this is elsewhere rectified to recognize the doctrinal contributions of Augustine (p. 31).
Content is broadly representative of a late-20th and early-21st century consensus or mainstream scholarship on the Bible, and thus may not need major updating beyond the issues already discussed above and below. Several years of class content could be planned around this text.
On the whole, the textbook is very competently written. Although the authors dip into contributions of biblical scholars, their narrative is often suffused with their own literary interests, ranging from a view of the Bible holistically as literature to authors as literary creations rather than perfect reflections of historical personas.
The date of 1 Thessalonians is given in the introduction to as early as 41 or 49-51 *B*CE (p. 3) and in the Paul chapter to c. 50 CE (p. 163). Although it seems likely “BCE” is just a typo, I am not aware of any modern scholar who places that letter as early as 41 CE, either. Similarly, 2 Peter is dated to 150 CE (p. 3) or several decades earlier, to the turn of the second century (p. 174). Issues of this nature seem few and far between, but one would ideally like to see greater attention to these important bookends to the canonical New Testament.
Just as classes covering the Bible are naturally modular, so too is this textbook. It would almost be necessary, however, to cover the material in the order it is presented (with the possible exception of the Book of Revelation), although for the most part, to do otherwise would make little thematic sense.
The basic canonical structure of the textbook is only broken by the treatment of Revelation in Section II (The Hebrew Bible) rather than its placement at the end of the New Testament. The naming of Section III (The Early Christian Writings) and the textbook’s subtitle are also curious choices given that only the canonical New Testament is covered and not any of the other scriptural texts that early Christians valued, particularly when the OT apocrypha receives some attention. Pg. 139 promises more detail about the “Johannine school” in a later chapter, but this never materializes beyond some brief commentary about the themes present in the Johannine letters (p. 173).
The text is clean and legible, with reliable and consistent breaks between paragraphs and sections. Occasionally, formatting is thrown off by the inclusion of images, as in pg. 161.
The authors fluctuate often between Lord and LORD (with small caps) with no obvious reason for doing so, in spite of a proper identification of the latter form as a substitute for the divine name (p. 45). The small-caps LORD even appears in the discussion of New Testament texts.
Terminal punctuation is doubled on pg. 148 and missing from the parenthetical on pg. 130. With multiple biblical quotations, the final paragraph of pg. 149 reads like a run-on sentence. Saul “is converts” and “could ‘speak[s] boldly’” on p. 152. And finally, in a potential case of missing words, the text reads: “Tradition has it was James … who wrote the book of James” (p. 171). Typos are seemingly minimal but include millenium (instead of millennium, p. 9).
Although the themes discussed and plan of the text collectively seem Protestant in nature, the textbook is broadly relevant to numerous faith traditions.
I teach a class called Introduction to the Bible that is basically a survey class for first and second year students. I was pleased in reading this text, Studying the Bible, to see how similarly the format matched how I present my class. Rather... read more
I teach a class called Introduction to the Bible that is basically a survey class for first and second year students. I was pleased in reading this text, Studying the Bible, to see how similarly the format matched how I present my class. Rather than diving deeply into each book and chapter, the text gives a nice overview of the Bible as a whole, but also enough information on each section (e.g., former and latter prophets) to resource students for their own exploration. I was consistently impressed with the quality of the writing in that it presented a lot of complicated material but in a straightforward and accessible way.
I have been reading and studying the Bible and its commentaries for a number of years. There was nothing in this text that seemed inaccurate or aberrant to me. The authors consistently cite accomplished scholars in the field in presenting their material.
The field of Biblical studies does not tend to change as quickly as other fields, e.g., STEM fields where new discoveries are important to note. That said, the information presented in the text is the most up to date information that I am aware of. When articles are published or archeological discoveries made, it would not be difficult to revise the book to reflect those changes. The synoptic problem, for example, is an ongoing topic in New Testament studies. The authors provide a nice overview of this in their text, but if a book or article was published that shifted the paradigm for the field, it would be easy to revise the text to reflect these changes. I also appreciated that as an online text it was easy for the authors to include links to websites (e.g., Biblegateway, etc.) that will lead students to important resources. I imagine some of the links might break over time, but that would be easily remedied with occasional updates.
Yes, I felt the book was clear and should be clear for students. The authors are careful clarify the technical terms they do use (e.g., Torah, Tanakh, Synoptic), and are careful not to include overly complicated terms that do more harm than good in an introductory level class.
Yes, I found the text consistent throughout. It moves nicely through the Bible as a narrative and the chronology provides the structure. I found the writing to be consistent in each chapter and of a high quality.
Yes, each chapter breaks down nicely and covers its own material. Some chapters are much longer than others but that reflects the nature of the material (e.g., the chapter on the Latter Prophets is long because there is a lot of material to cover). However, the adroitness of the writing is such that the authors can present a relatively short chapter on a topic such as Apocalyptic Literature without overwhelming the reader.
Presenting the overview of the material in chapter one and then presenting each section in preceding chapters is very effective. I especially included the use of charts and tables to help visualize the material and know this can be helpful in meeting the needs of students with different learning styles. One example of this is the presentation of texts from the apocrypha and how these texts fit in different traditions. But that is just one example among many.
Everything I encountered in the text presented itself in a very clear way. I like that you can download the book chapter by chapter in a pdf format.
I found the book to be very well written and did not notice any writing errors as I read.
I did not see anything that was insensitive or offensive. It is in the nature of such a project that it is almost impossible to include too much cultural diversity. For example, faith communities in Africa or South Asia might encounter and interpret these texts in different ways, but to include such perspectives in a text like this one would have detracted from its effectiveness.
I was very impressed with the quality of the writing. Very complicated material was condensed and presented in a very effective way without losing much content. Certainly some ideas could have used additional exploration in a longer version of a book like this (e.g., there is a short section on reading the Bible online that raises some intriguing questions). However, that said, to try to expand on every area will detract from the effectiveness of a text like this one -- it is just not in keeping with the goal of the book. I also appreciated the care and respect that was shown to the Bible as a complex literary and historical phenomena that is sacred to many communities but also worthy of academic study in and of itself.
This is a solid introductory textbook for undergraduates. As a biblical scholar myself, there are many places where I want the authors to linger and expand on the ideas they present, but the relative brevity allows them to touch on all areas of... read more
This is a solid introductory textbook for undergraduates. As a biblical scholar myself, there are many places where I want the authors to linger and expand on the ideas they present, but the relative brevity allows them to touch on all areas of Scripture.
The authors, though not biblical scholars themselves, reference a range of respected biblical scholars in the field.
This is a solid introductory text that accurately assesses the state of the field, incorporating a variety of methodologies from historical criticism to postmodern.
The text is very readable. I would be comfortable assigning it to beginning undergraduates. Most terms are clearly defined.
The text introduces basic concepts in introductory chapters and returns to this framework regularly.
The book is divided by chapter into books/sections of the Bible. Internally, chapters could be broken down for separate assignment as well.
The flow reflects the order of the Bible and includes the apocrypha. The only surprising feature is that Revelation is covered with Daniel.
The text is clear and readable.
There are a few small grammatical issues or accidental content errors (e.g. says at one point that Biblical Hebrew is written without consonants).
The authors demonstrate cultural awareness and sensitivity in laying out the work, pointing out biblical texts that are problematic from the perspective of our current sensibilities. The roles of women in the biblical world are also featured.
It covers both testaments and each book of each testament. Quite comprehensive read more
It covers both testaments and each book of each testament. Quite comprehensive
There are a few errors (reversed timing of Elohist and Priestly traditions) but is well done from its perspective. There is no bias to the text.
The Bible is not changing (much) in the next few decades so the text will sustain
Excellent regarding clarity. Graphs and maps help students locate where they are in the world and in history.
The text was consistent througout which is tough given three authors.
The text has good modularity but is limited, of course, by the Bible. I can see it being easy to use this text for teaching the Bible from a literature perspective.
It assumes the logical progression of the Bible. Most of the text is split by chronology within the genre divisions of the Bible itself. The only surprise is the Book of Revelation is covered with the Book of Daniel (NT and OT)
Easy to read and would be easy to use
No grammatical issues. Authors are literature faculty so their evaluation of the texts are in translation, not Hebrew or Greek.
The text wrestles with the cultural issues that are raised by the analysis of an anciet text
This text is well done and would be helpful for a course on the literature of the Bible which is what it claims to be. It does not deal with many theological or spiritual claims that have been made about the texts and thus would not be a good text to use in a theology or religious studies course. Moreover, it deal with both the Old and New Testament (Jewish and Chrisitan Bible) which is a substantial amount for a year long course. If not OER, I would recommend splitting the text into two for use in specific courses.
Most of the references are to English language sources which would distinguish this book from most theological texts on the Scriptures.
This text addresses each of the sections of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and what Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha. An introductory section acquaints readers with issues related to textual research, transmission, and... read more
This text addresses each of the sections of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and what Protestants refer to as the Apocrypha. An introductory section acquaints readers with issues related to textual research, transmission, and translation. The table of contents may be sufficient for readers familiar with this canonical order, but an index might prove helpful for those who know less about how the Bible is put together. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and a bibliography.
The authors do not claim to be biblical scholars. (Nor would I say that of myself.) That said, much of the material found in this text is consistent with other introductions to the Bible and other works of contemporary biblical scholarship. The authors make considerable use of The New Oxford Annotated Bible, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, and the work of Robert Alter, among others. As a result, the sections often offer a synthesis of the work of others, with these contributors staying safely within the orbit of scholars in the field.
The authors’ reliance on authorities in biblical studies results in a serviceable introduction to how scholars have thought about the Bible, at least over several decades. More recent insights also receive attention, though this work does not claim to provide an exhaustive treatment of the field. The kind of introductory material provided here facilitates readers’ own study without requiring extensive exploration of the study already done by others.
At some points the frequency of references to the works of others may tempt some readers to lay this work aside and to read those introductions on which the authors sometimes rely. Also, some points could be developed more fully, such as the reference to “a chiastically structured series of stories” (54) at the end of 2 Samuel. Still, the accessible style of this book may prove more hospitable to those students who might find other material more daunting.
There are two points at which the need for further editing is especially evident. One is the single sentence asserting that “biblical Hebrew is written without consonants,” (28) the opposite of what is stated elsewhere in the book. The other involves two separate treatments of the Megillot. (92, 100-101) It certainly is understandable that the same topic or text would be given attention more than once. But these two points seem occasions for revision rather than examples of reiteration.
The chapters vary in length, but each has clearly indicated subsections (which are convenient for assigning portions to students).
The book is organized according to sections of the canon, and its chapters are likely to line up well with introductory Bible courses.
The layout of the book is helpful and inviting. Images and tables are somewhat infrequent, but pages are not crowded with text in a way that might discourage readers.
A few errors appear along the way. Perhaps Aaron sometimes was the “bother” of Moses (36), but something else probably was intended. Saul converts or is converted (152), but the current construction is awkward. A chapter citation for the block quote on 158 would be helpful. Also, it seems to be that the work of John Bright regarding the prophet Jeremiah is intended, rather than “Jeremiah Bright” (62).
Readers will find some attention to the role of women in scripture and an emphasis on the prophets’ concern for justice. In addition to particular themes, the book as a whole aims to improve cultural literacy by facilitating serious engagement with an ancient and complex text.
The authors demonstrate a clear regard for the text, inviting readers to an engagement with the text that is emotional as well as intellectual. Their own response to the text communicates to readers taking the text seriously need not prevent one from being delighted or disturbed by it.
Table of Contents
Section I Introduction
- Chapter One The Bible and Literature
- Chapter Two The Composition, Editing, and Transmission of the Bible
Section II The Hebrew Bible
- Chapter Three The Torah
- Chapter Four The Former Prophets
- Chapter Five The Latter Prophets
- Chapter Six The Writings
- Chapter Seven Apocalypse
- Chapter Eight The Apocrypha and Post-Exilic Literature
Section III The Early Christian Writings
- Chapter Nine The Gospels
- Chapter Ten The Acts of the Apostles
- Chapter Eleven The Pauline Letters
- Chapter Twelve The General Letters
About the Book
Studying the Bible: The Tanakh and Early Christian Writings is a university-level, textbook introduction to the study of the Bible, its literary forms, and historical and cultural contexts. This textbook is a companion to the Bible courses taught in the English Department at Kansas State University, in particular ENGL 470 The Bible, though it is available for use in other courses and contexts. This textbook examines the Hebrew Bible (also known as the Tanakh) and the early Christian writings of the New Testament. It is an introduction to the analysis of biblical texts, their histories, and their interpretations. The emphasis throughout this textbook is on the literary qualities of these biblical texts as well as their cultural and historical contexts.
About the Contributors
Gregory Eiselein, Kansas State University
Anna Goins, Kansas State University
Naomi J. Wood, Kansas State University