July 8th, 2009
House, Paul R. and Eric Mitchell. Old Testament Survey 2nd edition. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Academic, 2007. 384 pp. $39.99.
Originally written in 1991 by Paul R. House, the 1st edition of Old Testament Survey has sold tens of thousands of editions. The first edition focused more on the literature and narrative structures of the Old Testament. This second edition expands and updates the focus of the first while adding greater sections on the historical and geographical topics.
Paul House currently serves as associate dean and professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Eric Mitchell is currently serving as assistant professor of Old Testament and archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
House and Mitchell chose to study the Old Testament (OT) as the unified whole that was understood by the Jewish Christians of the early church. Thus, they follow the Hebrew order that divides the OT into three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. In so doing, they also follow the original Hebrew order as well. This may cause some confusion to the modern OT student but is rest assured that all of the books we have in our OT today are present.
Detail is given to the literary aspects of each book found in the OT. The student learns about each character in a particular story and how he or she interacts with others in a particular book as well as with the rest of OT. The plot is defined using the motives and explanations underlying the story being read. The theme of each book helps the student to understand why certain aspects of stories are written in one part of Scripture as opposed to another perspective in a different area of the OT. Symbols, which are images, words, or phrases, represent something of greater significance than a mere perusal of the word on the page. In all of these, the authors offer insight into how each aspect leads to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
Two more elements they look at are prose and poetry. Most of the OT is written in the non-poetic form we call prose. Prose is the root of the OT. It is in the prose that we learn the history of God’s People. This is done primarily through the writings of the Law and the Former Prophets.
The second major element that is discussed is poetry. Every major section of the OT contains some poetry—some more than others. It is important to know that Hebrew poetry is different from our English poetry. They detail this and offer insight into how one can mine the depths of Hebrew poetry.
The last major aspect of Old Testament Survey is the historical. It is this aspect where we delve into the world of the OT. The reader meets the Assyrians and Babylonians. The historical Egyptians and Canaanites are given much attention as their culture is lost on many readers of the OT.
In the end, the author’s can only strive to provide a general understanding of the many facets of the OT given the vastness of the subject. Because of this sheer size, Eric Mitchell teamed with Archie England, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, to write a much valued students guide.
Mitchell, Eric and Archie England. Old Testament Survey 2nd Edition: A Student’s Guide. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Academic, 2007. 240 pp. $27.99.
This student’s guide was written to be a daily companion to a daily reading of Old Testament Survey 2nd Edition. Written primarily for the student in the classroom, this resource could easily prove invaluable in many churches across the world. Pastors are always looking for a way to study and “break the code” of the OT for their congregation. With 22 chapters in Old Testament Survey 2nd Edition, this study would make a perfect mid-week or Sunday evening study for a small group.
Whether or not you follow this guide in a group setting or on your own as I did, you will be the better for it. Though the study will be challenging and pain staking at times, your perseverance will be rewarded, as the OT will come to life and your knowledge will soar. An answer key is available from the authors upon request.
While there are many OT surveys available on the market today, Broadman and Holman Academic’s Old Testament Survey 2nd Edition and accompanying student’s guide deserves your attention. Because it was originally written with an emphasis on the literature and narrative structures of the OT and then was expanded at length to focus on the historical and geographical components of the OT makes this particular OT survey first among equals. I would highly recommend this for use in Bible Colleges, seminaries and even in the local church though at a combined cost of $67.98, it is fairly expensive.