Aug 23

An Introduction to the Old Testament, by Tremper Longman III and Raymond Dillard ????

Longman & Dillard, both from respectable conservative Reformed seminaries, provide a modern review of the OT, with insights on current academic thinking regarding the source and interpretation of each of the 39 books of the OT. It is an encyclopedic style text, though designed for a standard through-read by poor seminary students. I have mixed feelings about this text, with both good and bad feelings. I certainly would NOT advise this text as the sole OT textbook for seminary studies. The strength of the book is its organization, in that each chapter works through a successive book of the OT, systematically discussing a global overview of the book, references, a literary analysis, historical background, theological message, and finally orientation toward the NT. The text was strong in pointing out the current status of scholarly thinking, including higher form-criticism of the books, and discussion of possible authorship of each book of the OT. Compared to other conservative surveys of the Old Testament, I deeply appreciated the academic approach of L&D, and enjoyed exploring the status of academic scholarship, liberal and conservative, on the study of the Old Testament. Too many textbooks of this sort offer a brief textual criticism, then plunge into a variable-depth survey of the contents of each book of scripture, leaving one with minimally more insight than one could get by simply just reading the text. The books’ weakness is in providing a very poor conservative response to the liberal critics. Oftentimes, idle liberal speculation is given play, without barely a response. This is true of the liberal approach to many of the OT books, who suggest that differing literary styles in the various portions of the book, including Song of Solomon, Isaiah and Zechariah, as a few examples, imply fragmentary assemblage of the biblical text by various authors in various time periods. Such speculation has minimal grounding and a cold assumption that authors never write in differing styles throughout their life. L&D allow liberal assumptions to hold credibility, including a supposition that predictive prophecy could not occur, miracles could not happen, the Scriptures must be inherently inaccurate, and that propositional inspired truth is a fairy-tale. I also had serious problems with some of the theological conclusions of Longman and Dillard, such as their statement that Ecclesiastes was essentially uninspired and  and not useful for instruction in holy living. Sorry L&D, but you some help in better seeing the vast wisdom of scripture. In summary, this text was an enjoyable (though lengthy) read, with disappointments that the authors could have made this a much stronger text without much additional effort. I would hope that conservative scholarship identify the vacuous nature of liberal scholarship as L&D have done, but not take it quite as serious as L&D do in this text. I would compare this OT scholarship to the new-think of the Jesus Seminars, which really is too fanciful and speculative to even demand that serious scholarship provide detailed rebuttals to their ungrounded speculations.


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