A Survey of the Old Testament. 2nd ed.

By Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (2000). 608 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Keith Essex
14.2 (Fall 2003) : 338-340

When the first edition of A Survey of the Old Testament was published in 1991, it was intended as a textbook to complement the 1981 revised edition of A Survey of the New Testament by Robert H. Gundry. The authors, Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, both professors of OT at Wheaton College and Graduate School, sought to follow Gundry’s lead “to bring together the most significant data from Old Testament historical and literary backgrounds, critical or technical introduction, biblical commentary, and Old Testament theology” (14). In 1994, a third edition of Gundry’s NT textbook was issued in an expanded and more visually attractive format [see TMSJ 6 (1995):101-2]. This second edition of A Survey of the Old Testament follows the updated format of its NT counterpart.

Very little of the actual text of the first edition has changed in this edition. Most of the previous material is repeated verbatim in this new work. Five basic changes mark the new edition. First, topics previously introduced in five introductory chapters are now scattered throughout the major chapters and appendices of the book. Before working through the OT books in the order of the English canon, the authors introduce the reader to OT theological themes and geography, though these are no longer referred to as chapters (19-44). The discussions of ANE history (146- 66), archeology (289-303), OT canon (383-99), and the basic methodology of higher criticism (571-75) are interspersed throughout the text. Though most of the changes pose no major problems for the reader, the presentation of the historical background of the Pentateuch (147-53) after the discussion of the Pentateuch itself [which interacts with the historical background] (45-143) is a weakness, particularly for the beginning student.

Second, significant terms that appear in bold face within the text are defined in a glossary (588-92). This is a very helpful feature for the first-time OT student. Third, the suggestions for further reading have added volumes written from 1990- 2000. Fourth, the visual presentation has been enhanced. New maps have been included (116, 186, 241, 260, 270, 277, 422, 445); the quality of the pictures and time lines have been sharpened; ‘boxed’ material further explains the main text (50, 93, 127, 175, 185, 244-47, 278, 376, 413, 470, 539); and wider margins are provided for student notations. Fifth, the chapters devoted to a discussion of the biblical books now begin with a statement of the key ideas of the chapter. Also, some chapters have added questions for further study and discussion at the conclusion of the authors’ presentations.

The viewpoint of the authors on major OT issues remains constant from the original text to this second edition. The historical reliability of the Pentateuch, including an early date for the patriarchal era and the Exodus, is affirmed (53-58, 65, 83-86). Further, the unity and early dating of the books of Isaiah (415-17) and Daniel (452-54) are supported. Late dates for Joel, post-exilic [the authors’ do not hyphenate pre-exilic, post-exilic, pre-classical, and pre-monarchic in this second edition] (473-74), and Obadiah, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. (488- 89), are preferred. The one major rewritten section of the revised text is the discussion of the “rhythm of thought” in Hebrew poetry (314-15). The older work used the traditional examples of synonymous, antithetical, synthetic, emblematic, and chiastic parallelism, based primarily on thoughts or ideas. The newer edition uses the categories semantic parallelism [based on word usage], progressive parallelism [based on logical sequence], and grammatical parallelism [based on choice of grammatical forms].

The release of the second edition of A Survey of the Old Testament shortly after the publication of Encountering the Old Testament [see the review above] invites a comparison of the two works. In the opinion of this reviewer, this textbook by Hill and Walton is more detailed, more reliable, and more consistent, and it is less costly than Arnold and Beyer. If the teacher and student can live with black and white in the place of color, A Survey of the Old Testament is the better choice. However, a new colored (and more expensive) edition of Gundry has been released [Spring, 2003]; can a new colored (and more expensive) edition of Hill and Walton be far behind?