'The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament': reading Hebrew Scripture demystified
Written by Gregg Brekke
February 18, 2009
A new release from Pilgrim Press, "The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament," 2009, is the publisher's third title in the "Indispensible Guide" series.
Intended for lay leaders and those pursuing theological education outside of Masters of Divinity coursework, "The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament" is a thorough, yet readable, guide to understanding and interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures.
The author, Angela Bauer-Levesque, is associate professor of Bible, Culture and Interpretation and acting Academic Dean at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. Her approach to the Old Testament texts is not so much an exhaustive overview as it is a roadmap for further study.
An introductory chapter invites readers to dig deeper into the context of the biblical story – discouraging students from being satisfied with an "ordinary reading," or literal reading, of the texts that was highly influenced by those who had the power to ensure their story was transmitted to future generations.
Bauer-Levesque doesn't feel that obtaining an understanding of the historical-political context is an end in itself for Old Testament study as has become standard with many overviews. She urges students to engage in "deep reading" where the biblical texts inform "the living out of one's scriptural truths in one's particular context/community as a way of living faithfully."
Subsequent chapters each introduce a set of Old Testament books and the time period in which they were written. Major social and political events in the history of Israel are interwoven with the religious life of the Hebrew people as an interpretive framework for continued "deep reading" exercises.
Chapters are well organized, condensing the expanse of Old Testament writings by focusing thematically on the identification of the Hebrew people, covenant and law making, David and Solomon, prophetic movements and the exilic periods in Israel's history.
Each chapter ends with a series of study questions meant to foster discussion on how the spiritual realities experienced by the Hebrew people continue to resonate in our own time. A list of reference texts and noted citations also conclude each chapter and contribute to the scholarly merit of the guide.
Like the two previous titles in the series, "The Indispensable Guide for Smaller Churches," 2003, and "The Indispensable Guide to Pastoral Care," 2008, "The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament" attempts to fill the void between academic research and pastoral/practical application.
That is to say, these titles are written by practitioners in the fields where their academic rigor has borne the fruit of experience and for those who will use them as a means to understand their context and apply study to real-life situations.
If you've ever been intimidated by the size or esoteric language of a one volume Old Testament overview, or overwhelmed by the number of titles on the market, "The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament" may be a great starting point. In it you will find valuable resources for further study as well as the tools for sharing the fascinating story of the Hebrew people in spiritual exploration.
"The Indispensable Guide to the Old Testament" by Angela Bauer-Levesque from Pilgrim Press, 2009. Paperback, $17.00, ISBN: 978-0-8298-1780-5.