Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, with CD-Rom

By John J. Collins
Minneapolis : Fortress (2004). xxvi + 613 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Grisanti
18.1 (Spring 2007) : 117-118

John Collins is the Holmes Professor of OT Criticism and Interpretation at Yale University. He wrote this boo k after teaching introductory OT courses at various universities, some with religious commitments and others with none. He wrote this volume for those not well-versed in the OT and without any particular theological perspective. He takes a historical-critical approach and affirms that the OT tells an “ostensibly” historical story. He provides no footnotes but gives suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter. The front matter includes a table of contents, abbreviation key, and 13 clear, helpful maps of different parts of the Bible world as well as different periods of Bible history. He divides his treatment into four major sections: Torah/Pentateuch, Deuteronomistic History, Prophecy, and Writings. He includes the apocryphal (deutero-canonical) books in his treatment, not addressing the canon issue. The book ends with a glossary, but has no indexes.

One of the unique features of this volume (though becoming more common) is the pro vision of a CD-Rom with an electronic version of the book (in Libronix format) as well as a study guide that includes analytical questions for each chapter and numerous internet links for websites that contain relevant articles and numerous images, maps, and explanations of various features.

Collins takes the expected liberal positions with regard to the dating and composition of the OT books. The books he suggests for further reading only rarely include any kind of evangelical writers. That is not surprising in light of his approach to the OT.

Generally, this reviewer would not recommend this volume for readers of TMSJ. It would be better to have a few solid introductions to the OT that will help the student of God’s Word better understand the OT from a faith perspective (affirming the inspiration and authority of God’s Word). However, if someone owns some good OTI texts and desires an up-to-date, clearly written overview of how critics view the OT, Collins does a great job of doing that in the volume. In the end, the reviewer has a hard time recommending a book that potentially would have a narrow impact on one’s understanding of the OT, especially when that book is a paperback that costs almost $50.00.