Arnold, Bill T., and Bryan E. Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey (Encountering Biblical Studies; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 526 + CD-ROM. Numerous figures. $49.99. ISBN 978-0-8010-3170-0.
This is the second edition of a goal oriented OT textbook, as the multitude of auxiliary boxes proves: outline, objectives, summary, study questions, key persons/places and further reading. General introductions are offered at the beginning of each of its main four sections: Pentateuch, Historical books, Poetical books, and Prophetic books. The approach is mainly canonical and synchronic, taking the biblical books as given literary units. There are few exceptions to this, namely Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, which are studied in halves (Genesis 1-11, 12-50; Isaiah 1-39, 40-66; Jeremiah 1-20, 21-52; and Ezekiel 1-24, 25-48). Other than that, by allowing room for opposite opinion to be presented and quoting primary source material of extra-biblical origin, the authors avoid the charge of being dogmatic. Even so, its main thrust and bias is inescapably evangelical. The included CD-ROM offers an electronic/virtual (PC only) alternative to the book.
Since the main title uses the sintagm “Old Testament”, betraying its Christian agenda, the book’s subtitle – A Christian Survey – becomes rather superfluous. Supposing that its subtitle is meant for emphasis, it may suggest an interest to apply the study of the OT to the Christian context. This orientation can be seen in the mustard margins focus boxes containing modern day applications. Given this intention one would have expected a more detailed exposition of OT connections with the NT, much to the pattern Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III used in their Introduction to the Old Testament (1994, 2006). The full-fledged controversy of how modern Christians relate to the OT law escaped the purpose of this book.