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Introductions to the OT

There are numerous introductions to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible written from a variety of theological and critical perspectives.

The one I use in my introduction classes is Bandstra.

  • Barry Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (3rd ed.; Wadsworth, 2004). This is a student-friendly textbook that highlights key terms, helpful timelines, and questions for review and reflection. It is written from a moderately critical perspective. It also includes an excellent CD-ROM with many other helps (students will especially want to make use of the concept questions and progress tests on the CD-ROM).Buy from | Buy from
  • Tremper Longman and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan, 1994). This is an excellent introduction from an evangelical perspective that focuses on three aspects of the OT: historical background, literary analysis, and theological message. I have used it in seminary-level classes with great success. Buy from | Buy from
  • William Sanford LA Sor, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, and Leslie C. Allen, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1996). This is another solid evangelical introduction that I can highly recommend, though its approach is not as consistent as Longman and Dillard. Buy from | Buy from

In addition to the comprehensive introductions to the OT/HB, there are many books that introduce readers to specific sections or books of the OT. Here are a few that I believe are worthy of mention (though there are many more excellent works!).


  • T.D. Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch (Baker Academic, 2002). This is a solid evangelical introduction to the first five books of the OT/HB. Buy from | Buy from
  • BHSJoseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (Anchor Bible Reference Library; Doubleday, 2000). This is one of the best introductions available from a scholarly perspective. It focuses on the historical and literary character of the text. Buy from | Buy from
  • R. N. Whybray, Introduction to the Pentateuch (Eerdmans, 1995). A good introduction from a balanced scholarly perspective characteristic of the late biblical scholar. Buy from | Buy from

Historical Books

  • David Howard, Jr., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Moody, 1993). A conservative evangelical introduction. Buy from | Buy from
  • Iain W. Provan, Tremper Longman, and V. Philips Long, A Biblical History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 2003). While not an "introduction" per se, this work deals with many of the hermeneutical issues surrounding the interpretation of the historical books and provides a conservative perspective on the history of ancient Israel. Buy from | Buy from
  • BHSMeir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature; Indiana University Press, reprint edition 1987). An excellent book examining the artistry and ideology of the historical narratives of the OT/HB. Buy from | Buy from
  • Barbara Organ, Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? An Introduction to Biblical Historiography (Paulist Press, 2004). This is an interesting look at biblical history writing that includes the Old and New Testaments as well as the Apocrypha. Buy from | Buy from

Psalms & Wisdom

  • BHSW. H. Bellinger, Psalms: Reading and Studying the Book of Praises (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1990). This is an excellent (and brief) introduction to the book of Psalms that focuses on form-critical interpretation. Buy from | Buy from
  • Nancy L. Declaisse-Walford, Introduction To The Psalms: A Song From Ancient Israel (Chalice Press, 2004). A good introduction that covers all the bases of psalm interpretation, especially the more recent interest in the shape and shaping of the book of Psalms. Buy from | Buy from
  • Susan E. Gillingham, The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford Bible Series; Oxford, 1994). A broad introduction that covers Hebrew poetry, the book of Psalms, as well as psalms outside of the Psalter. Read my review in Critical Review of Books in Religion 8 (1995) 124-125. Buy from | Buy from
  • William L. Holladay, The Psalms Through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Augsburg Fortress, 1996). An excellent introduction that also covers the history of interpretation of the Psalms. Buy from | Buy from
  • William P. Brown, Character in Crisis: A Fresh Approach to the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1996). An interesting introduction that focuses on the wisdom books as a guide to character formation. Buy from | Buy from
  • James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction (Westminster John Knox, revised edition 1998). A solid work by a biblical scholar noted for his work with OT wisdom literature. Buy from | Buy from
  • BHSRoland E. Murphy, The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature (Eerdmans, 2002). A good introduction from a balanced scholarly perspective characteristic of the late Catholic scholar. Buy from | Buy from

Prophetic Books

  • Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Revised edition; Westminster John Knox, 1996). This is one of the best introductions available from a scholarly perspective. Buy from | Buy from
  • James D. Newsome, The Hebrew Prophets (Westminster John Knox Press, 1984). A classic scholarly introduction. Buy from | Buy from
  • Willem A. Vangemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Zondervan, 1996). A very good (albeit somewhat idiosyncratic) evangelical introduction to the prophetic books of the OT/HB. Buy from | Buy from

BHSApocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books

  • Daniel J. Harrington, Invitation to the Apocrypha (Eerdmans, 1999). The most recent introduction to the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament. Buy from | Buy from

In addition to the works noted above, InterVarsity Press has produced a series of introductions to the different sections of the OT/HB that are well-researched and represent a broadly evangelical perspective:


Last Updated on Friday, 08 May 2009 09:39