Biblical history can be some of the most difficult material for beginning students to grasp. The conventions of contemporary history writing are quite different from those of ancient Israelite writers. Here a master teacher offers basic orientation to the genre and conventions of the Old Testament historical books, helping students become careful and attentive readers.
Written in an accessible style with many ancient and contemporary examples, this book introduces students to some of the phenomena they will encounter in the historical books and provides strategies for understanding their significance. The goal is to make further reading and study of Scripture more informed and sensitive. Sidebars, discussion questions, and further reading suggestions are included.
Patricia Dutcher-Walls (ThD, Graduate Theological Union) is professor of Hebrew scripture at Vancouver School of Theology, where she also gives administrative oversight to the school's doctoral programs and serves as dean of studies and director of the library. She is the author of several books and a web-based Bible study curriculum. Ordained by the United Presbyterian Church (USA), she now serves as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Somebody once famously wrote, 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.' For those coming to serious study of the Bible for the first time, there cannot be any more important lesson than to understand how to read the Bible's ancient historical records faithfully on their own terms. They are not always the same as ours. You will not find a better or more sympathetic introductory book than this one to point you in the right direction.
-H. G. M. Williamson,
University of Oxford
This student's guide is a model of clarity, economy, and explanatory skill. Writing in a straightforward and interesting style and spicing up her discussion with specific ancient and modern examples, Patricia Dutcher-Walls lays out a sensible reading plan for any who wish to take the Bible seriously in all its aspects: literary, historical, and theological. Her numerous examples from ancient Near Eastern sources locate the Bible in its world, and her frequent modern illustrations help readers connect. Useful sidebars and stimulating study questions enhance the pedagogical attractiveness of the volume. Both author and publisher are to be congratulated on a fine book that should gain a wide readership.
-V. Philips Long,
Regent College, Vancouver
This is a book about the ancient biblical historical books for readers in the text-message age! Engagingly written, it goes beyond matters of introduction, to show how an appreciation of the factors of historical context, storytelling, point of view, and overarching concept play a crucial role for readers in their understanding of the text. Always sympathetically aware of its audiences, and with panels calling for reader involvement, this book will be an invaluable aid to all who have a serious interest in understanding these rich story-histories of the Old Testament.
-J. Gordon McConville,
University of Gloucestershire
This engaging guide to reading historical narrative in the Old Testament is a great text for beginners. Dutcher-Walls assumes little and draws on a wide variety of relevant texts and illustrations from the Bible, ancient Near Eastern sources, and especially modern historical texts and media contexts. There is nothing better for communicating basic principles of Hebrew Bible historiography to modern readers.
-Richard S. Hess,
Professor Dutcher-Walls has given us an excellent treatment of the principles of history writing that guided the historians of this corpus of biblical literature. A judicious examination of texts from ancient Near Eastern literature reveals that these same principles may be found in that larger body of texts as well. Further, she has demonstrated ably that an awareness by the contemporary reader of how these ancient historians told their stories will greatly assist one in engaging the biblical text. Numerous examples from modern media such as family histories, film, and Facebook show that even yet we tell our own stories, mutatis mutandis, in very similar ways to the ancient historiographers. I am happy to recommend Reading the Historical Books.
-Victor P. Hamilton,
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