Old Testament Survey
By Tremper Longmann, III
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
7.1 (Spring 1996) : 127-129
This is a useful tool, often, as it updates a work published in 1991 with 19 more pages of listings, 1991—1993. It is by the Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.
The book comments briefly (a few lines in most cases) on a broad spectrum of works relating to the OT: introductions, theology, history of Israel, archaeology, atlases, translations of ancient Near Eastern texts, Near Eastern history, dictionaries, biblical-theological dictionaries, concordances, grammars, text-based lexicons and interlinears, canon, the OT and the computer (one listing), and miscellaneous. Four brief appendices deal with an OT library on a budget, the ideal OT reference library, five-star commentaries (the most scholarly in his judgment), and a list of commentaries Longman has written.
Longman rarely includes books before 1960. Exceptions are usually parts of the old International Critical Commentary or theInterpreter's Bible (1950's), Keil and Delitzsch (latter half of the 19th century), H. C. Leupold's works (1942 ff.), etc. Since they are so few in number, it is strange that he includes some that are far from the best, as H. G. Burrowes, Song of Solomon, Banner of Truth, 1958 (originally 1853), a work that Longman holds in low regard because of its allegorism. Another is A. W. Pink's Gleanings in Genesis, 1922, again with comments that diminish its value.
The main aim seems to be to list works of a high value in scholarly, critical study, whether Longman agrees with their perspective or not. He leaves out many works that teachers and pastors find of much help in biblical interpretation.
Often the work's annotation offers no help on which
perspective is taken on a prophetical book, such as amillennial or premillennial. Most entries on Isaiah are an example. Longman regards J. Alex Motyer's The Prophecy of Isaiah . . . (1994) as "The best of a conservative evangelical approach to the book at the end of the twentieth century," and as "best in matters theological," but beyond these generalities defines nothing on the actual kind of view on prophecy it defends (127-28). Sometimes Longman shows his disfavor of premillennial interpretation. Eugene Cooper's premillennial stance on Ezekiel (New American Commentary) is "difficult to accept" (137). Some find it much less difficult than other views when they face exegetical factors and seek to apply hermeneutics consistently—for blessings as well as judgments. On Jeremiah, Longman bypasses C. L. Feinberg's careful premillennial treatment of the passages (Jeremiah, A Commentary. Zondervan, 1982, 335 pp.), but on Ezekiel he does include Feinberg's good but less valuable work. On Zechariah, no premillennial effort finds a place.
Longman does helpfully alert readers (if they need this) to some things, as J. Goldingay's sometimes radical views on Daniel (Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary). Goldingay holds that Daniel 1—6 present fictitious stories. Longman's comment does not mention that Goldingay sees the fourth empire (Daniel 2, 7) as fulfilled in intertestamental times. While complimentary in part on Leon Wood's Daniel, A Commentary (143), Longman prefers E. J. Young's "theological perspective," apparently his amillennial view.
In some areas, one wonders why books are omitted. An example is archaeology. Only two works appear in such an important area, with no mention of E. M. Blaiklock and R. K. Harrison, eds., The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Zondervan, 1983, 485 pp.); Amihar Majar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (Doubleday, 1990, 576 pp.); Keith N. Schoville, Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Baker, 1991, 511 pp.); or Edwin Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Baker, 1990, 580 pp.). These works are not listed even under "Near Eastern History."
Under biblical-theological dictionaries, Longman includes encyclopedias, yet mentions only W. A. Elwell, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 2 vols. (Baker, 1988). Why is there no mention of the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible or the New International Standard Bible Encyclopedia? Works on manners and customs and on chronology gain no place.
Longman has a greater confidence in the Word Biblical Commentary as being evangelical than some do. He says that of the entries in this set, "most clearly are" evangelical (57). He writes from the perspective of acknowledging a very broad range of scholars who regard themselves as evangelical.
Certainly the book offers much help as far as it goes. A more vigorous attempt to include works from 1991 on would be of far greater help. Also, for the many who have access to biblical libraries, more of the contributing older works could be present. Many of the annotations would offer more help if more definitive, even if still concise. As an overall assessment, the work is of substantial assistance on many OT books, and hopefully, future editions can make it much better.