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The Canonical Hebrew Bible The Canonical Hebrew Bible
A Theology of the Old Testament

Rolf Rendtorff (Translated from the German by David E. Orton)
ISBN 9789058540201 (9058540200)
Deo Publishing, 2005
£39.95

Category: Biblical Studies
Subcategory: Old Testament

This volume of over 800 pages is the fruit of a lifetime's research and reflection on the Hebrew Bible. It demonstrates a familiarity with the intricacies of the Hebrew text and a considerable range of scholarship yet it is clearly and coherently written and very readable. The author approaches the Old Testament from a canonical perspective according to the ordering within the Hebrew Bible i.e. Torah, Prophets and Writings.

Part I of this book (400 pages) is a retelling of the biblical story, a narrative survey of the Hebrew Bible. This is divided into four chapters: The Pentateuch, The 'Former Prophets', The 'Latter Prophets' and The Writings. Within each chapter key phrases, key characters and key events are highlighted and their significance within the overall story explained. In this approach Daniel comes within The Writings and receives very little attention as does much of the apocalyptic material. Nevertheless this is a comprehensive retelling of the story which provides a different perspective to the usual Old Testament introduction.

Part II Identifies and explains important themes in the Hebrew canon, as far as possible following the order in which they occur within the retelling of Part I, thus the first theme is The World as God's Creation. Subsequent themes are Covenant and Election, The Fathers of Israel, The Promised and Entrusted Land, The First and Second Exodus, The Torah, the Cult, Moses, The Kingship of David, Zion, Speaking of God and Israel in Conflict. These chapters contain a wealth of interesting material and plenty of food for further study and thought. The subsequent three chapters look briefly at Prophecy, Psalms and Wisdom literature respectively. Then there are three more wide-ranging themes: Israel, the Nations and the Gods, How does Israel view its past? and What does Israel expect in the future?

Part III tackles methodological questions with an interesting chapter on Jewish and Christian Theology of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament. There are frequent helpful cross-references to other pages throughout the book and a comprehensive bibliography.

There is so much in this book to read and ponder, to refer to the biblical text (preferably in Hebrew), and to read and ponder again. It is well written and easy to read although it regularly engages with the Hebrew text (which is usually transliterated). I would not recommend it as an introduction to the Old Testament for beginners, but for someone who has already begun to study the Old Testament and wants to really get to grips with it, then I would say get this book, read it, digest it and keep it somewhere handy as a reference.

Sue Groom, August 2006

The Revd Sue Groom is the Director of Deanery Licensed Ministry for the Kensington Episcopal Area of London. Before this she was Vicar of St Matthew's, Yiewsley and also served as the Reader Training Officer for the Willesden Episcopal Area. She is the author of Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew (Paternoster Press, 2003).

Distributed in the UK by SCM-Canterbury Press

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