A Survey of the Old Testament. 3rd ed.

By Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton
Grand Rapids : Zondervan (2009). 799 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
21.1 (Spring 2010) : 117-119

Hill serves as professor of OT studies at Wheaton College (1984-present) and Walton taught for 20 years at Moody Bible Institute before joining Wheaton Graduate School as professor of OT (2001-present). Zondervan published the first edition of A Survey of the Old Testament in 1991 and the second in 2000. Hill and Walton mix general and special introductions together rather than keeping them separate. Following a longer curriculum approach, they provide sections on OT geography (Chapter 2, 34-54), OT historical backgrounds (Chapter 9, 180-201), archaeology (Chapter 19, 356-71), and the formation (text, transmission, and canon) of the OT (Chapter 26, 480-99). Although their materials address a number of significant issues, a few escape notice. For example, Hill and Walton do not cover the orographic effect on the weather patterns of Palestine. Methods of field archaeology also are noticeably absent.

On a seminary level, professors must choose what to teach as part of a course in Old Testament Introduction (OTI). They must also select the textbook(s) that will provide at least the core material for the course’s content. Professors who opt for the shorter curriculum deal with canonicity, textual criticism, higher critical methodologies, and archaeology. The longer curriculum adds inspiration and inerrancy, ancient Near Eastern history and culture, and ancient Near Eastern and Palestinian geography. Teachers might elect to include topics absent from the required curriculum for the degree (normally the M.Div.) in order to fill the vacuum and to round out the student’s exposure to the breadth of OT studies.

Unfortunately, the title for Hill and Walton’s volume (A Survey of the Old Testament) creates some confusion. OT survey usually involves more special introduction topics like authorship, date, background, structure, and theme for individual OT books—thus distinguishing it from OTI. Dillard and Longman’s An Introduction to the Old Testament (2nd ed., Zondervan 2006) serves as an OT survey textbook.

Gleason Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd ed., Moody, 2007) has not changed substantially in thirty or forty years. It omits major OTI topics like history and geography and focuses primarily on the documentary hypothesis rather than exposing the student to the wider range of higher critical methodologies. R. K. Harrison’s Introduction to the Old Testament (reprint, Hendrickson 2004) also has not kept pace with developments in the field of OT since its first edition in 1969.

In contrast, A Survey of the Old Testament expresses an up-to-date evangelical stance in regard to significant areas of OT studies. It integrates the examination of higher critical methodologies with specific sections of the OT most affected by higher critical views. Two appendixes handle the more general discussions of higher critical methodologies (“Appendix A: Critical Methodologies,” 753-60, and “Appendix B: The Composition of the Pentateuch,” 761-69). Hill and Walton provide a balanced discussion of various existing viewpoints on such matters as the dating of the exodus from Egypt (105-8). Throughout the book the authors engage the reader in discussion concerning the relationship of the OT to the NT (e.g., 117, 118, 120).

All of the accouterments of pedagogically sound textbook production make their appearance: annotated bibliographies (concluding each section of the text; e.g., 73-75), visual presentations of key issues by means of charts and tables (e.g., “Comparison of Chronological Systems,” 66), “Questions for Further Study and Discussion” as well as a bibliography “For Further Reading” concluding each chapter, attractive and pertinent color photos, maps, and charts illustrating the text.

Hill and Walton’s third edition updates chapter bibliographies (“For Further Reading”). For example, at the end of Chapter 4, “Genesis” (97-98), Walton adds nine entries and eliminates eight from the second edition. Entries involving volumes within a series lack a consistent formatting. Sometimes the author of a chapter abbreviates the series titles or omits series titles entirely. This reviewer would prefer that series titles consistently appear as an acronym (e.g., AB for Boling’s Joshua and NICOT for Woudstra’s The Book of Joshua, 233).

In the second edition the final section (“Epilogue”) contains two chapters (“Toward the New Testament,” 555-61, and “What We Have Learned,” 562-70). The third edition provides three chapters: “What We Have Learned” (a brief OT theology; 715-27), “Responding to God” (basic OT ethics; 728-41), and “The Journey to Jesus” (revised “Toward the New Testament,” 742-52). “Anthropomorphism,” “covenant,” “Levant,” “Mesopotamia,” “Pentateuch,” “Septuagint,” “theophany,” and “Torah” enter the third edition’s “Glossary” (770-74), whereas “kinsman-redeemer” and “levirate marriage” drop out.

Weaknesses still manifest themselves in this third edition. For example, Hill and Walton deny Mosaic authorship to large sections of the Pentateuch (60, 79, 104, 165). They make no reference to sources dealing with the creation/evolution debate in Genesis 1–11 (97-98). Their map of the Red Sea crossing ignores any potential deep water crossings (109). The authors also elected not to include the “Berekhyahu son of Neriyahu” bulla from the City of David (see photo and caption, 538) as a reference to an OT individual by name in contemporary materials (368). In addition, they provide no response to critical views on the historical accuracy and integrity of Jonah (631-35) or on the unity of Isaiah (520-22). In the consideration of the Psalter’s headings, they make no mention of the superscription and subscription to Habakkuk 3 and its significance to the discussion (420-32, 664). Hill and Walton conclude the textbook on a negative note when they declare that “the question of historical reliability [of the Pentateuch] remains” (769). They indicate that the “current form” of the Pentateuch’s poetic sections “range from the thirteenth to the eleventh centuries BC” (60; cp. 377), but contradict the observation by giving a fifteenth-century date for the exodus in the chart on page 103.

Some omissions appear to be more accidental in nature. For example, Daniel 2:4–7:28 is missing from the list of Aramaic sections of the OT (481; but cp. 333). Emanuel Tov’s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (2nd ed., Fortress, 2001) should have been added to “For Further Reading” at the end of “Formation of the Old Testament Scriptures” (499). Lastly, the authors (or, was it an editor’s decision?) fail to provide a Scripture index. This is an unfortunate omission since it markedly reduces the academic usefulness of the volume as a textbook.

The reviewer and a colleague both require this volume for the seminary OTI course that they teach. Students benefit significantly from the visual information conveyed in the third edition’s photos and charts. Two graduates of The Master’s Seminary provided a number of the photos (Todd Bolen: 6, 40, 41, 45, 61 et al.; Fred Mabie: 100, 108, 111, 128, 180 et al.). A laminated key for A Survey of the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2007) serves as a helpful supplement to the volume.