The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible

By Leo G. Perdue, ed.
Malden, Mass. : Blackwell (2005). xxx + 471 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
18.1 (Spring 2007) : 134-136

Four years after the original hardback edition (2001), Blackwell has published a paperback edition of The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible. Its driving force is to “demonstrate the principal areas of biblical study that are under major investigation” (xxx). A constellation of major contributors from seven countries wrote the 26 essays. Theologically the contributors represent a wide range and the general stance of those essays is non-evangelical. For example, Carol Meyers declares that the biblical sources are a combination of historical memory and fiction (xiii, 67) and, in part, unreliable (63). Leslie Hoppe concludes that biblical narratives are largely legendary and comprise a questionable historical source (xiv, 88) that tends at times to be imprecise (91). Robert Carroll states that the Bible presents “the myth of the empty land” following the Babylonian conquest (xv, 105). Indeed, the exile and return are both myths as well (112). William Dever continues to insist that the Book of Joshua presents an incorrect view of the conquest (xviii, 123). Ronald Clements adheres to a documentarian view of the “D texts” (xxiv; cf. 287-88). Bruce Birch argues that the Hebrew Bible says nothing about private ethics— only community ethics (xxv, 298). Klaus Koch accepts the three-Isaiah composition of that major prophetic book (xxvii, 353). James Crenshaw attributes the final form of the twelve minor prophets to a redaction much later than the historical prophets themselves (xxvii, 369). John Collins identifies some of Daniel’s prophecies as “unreliable and often in need of reformulation” (xxx, cf. 438-39).

This volume is similar in scope to two previous works, identifying current developments in research and writing on the Hebrew Bible. From a nonevangelical perspective, the earlier one (The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters, ed. Douglas A. Knight and Gene M. Tucker [Fortress, 1985]) provides a look at the state of OT studies nearly 25 years ago. A later collection of essays (The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches, ed. David W. Baker and Bill T. Arnold [Baker, 1999]) provides an evangelical perspective on the field within the past decade (see the review in TMSJ 11/2 [Fall 2000]:239-42). The Blackwell volume is contemporary with the latter, but has the perspective of the former.

Antony F. Campbell (Jesuit Theological College, Melbourne, Australia) deals with “Preparatory Issues in Approaching Biblical Texts” (3-18). David Jobling (St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, Canada) surveys “Methods of Modern Literary Criticism” (19-35). Charles E. Carter (Seton Hall University, South Orange, N. J.), who wrote on the same topic for The Face of Old Testament Studies (421-51), analyzes “Social Scientific Approaches” (36-57). Three essays cover the area of OT historical materials: “Early Israel and the Rise of the Israelite Monarchy” (61-86) by Carol Meyers (Duke University, Durham, N. C.), “The History of Israel in the Monarchic Period” (87-101) by Leslie J. Hoppe (Catholic Theological Union, Chicago), and “Exile, Restoration, and Colony: Judah in the Persian Empire” (102- 16) by Robert P. Carroll (deceased; University of Glasgow, Scotland).

William G. Dever (University of Arizona, Tucson) contributes three essays on archaeology: “Archaeology and the History of Israel” (119-26), “Biblical and Syro-Palestinian Archaeology” (127-47), and “Archaeology, the Israelite Monarchy, and the Solomonic Temple” (186-206). Dever’s second essay is the same topic as one he wrote for The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (31-74). Dennis Pardee (University of Chicago) in “Canaan” (151-68) describes the developments in studies of Canaanite religion and culture. Joseph Blenkinsopp (University of Notre Dame) writes on “The Household in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism” (169-85). André Lemaire (The Sorbonne, Paris) deals with “Schools and Literacy in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism” (207-17).

Five essays cover the area of OT theology: “Modern Approaches to Old Testament Theology” (221-40) by Henning Graf Reventlow (retired; University of the Ruhr, Bochum, Germany), “Symmetry and Extremity in the Images of YHWH” (241-57) by W alter Brueggemann (Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga.), “Theological Anthropology in the Hebrew Bible” (258-75) by Phyllis A. Bird (retired; Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill.), “The Community of God in the Hebrew Bible” (276-92) by Ronald E. Clements (King’s College, University of London, England), and “Old Testament Ethics” (293-307) by Bruce C. Birch (Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.).

Rolf Rendtorff (University of Heidelberg, Germany) and Calum Carmichael (Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.) present “Creation and Redemption in the Torah” (311-20) and “Law and Narrative in the Pentateuch” (321-36), respectively, in the area of Torah. For the Prophets, Herman Spieckermann (Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany) covers “Former Prophets: The Deuteronomistic History” (337- 52), Klaus Koch (University of Hamburg, Germany) handles “Latter Prophets: The Major Prophets” (353-68), and James L. Crenshaw (Duke University, Durham, N. C.) deals with “Latter Prophets: The Minor Prophets” (369-81). Crenshaw also contributed an essay on wisdom literature to The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (369-407).

In the Writings, Ralph W. Klein (Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago) contributes “Narrative T exts: Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah” (385-401). Erhard S. Gerstenberger (Philipps University, Marburg, Germany), who wrote the essay on lyrical literature for The Hebrew Bible and Its Modern Interpreters (409-44), presents “The Psalter” (402-17). Katharine J. Dell (Cambridge University, England) surveys studies in “Wisdom Literature” (418-31) and John J. Collins (Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn.) closes the work with “Apocalyptic Literature” (432-47).