Review: A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament

9780190238599Michael D. Coogan is Lecturer of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School, Director of Publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum, Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Biblical Studies Online, and Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Stonehill College. Coogan is a respected and accomplished author of numerous scholarly publications and General Editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th ed.). Most recently, Coogan released an updated and revised edition of his well-known Old Testament textbook—an introductory textbook that is commonplace among undergraduate classrooms.

A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context (3rd ed.) is largely a more condensed rendering of The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (3rd ed.). The latter being more technical and detail than the former. For this updated and revised edition Coogan invited a collaborator, Cynthia R. Chapman of Oberlin College, to provide fresh insight and perspective. However, as Coogan explains in the preface, “She brought to the revision not just a fresh perspective, but also expertise in gender theory and anthropological approaches to the study of the Bible” (xix).

Coogan and Chapman have sought to provide updates and revisions throughout the volume that present the most recent scholarship with clarity, accuracy, and accessibility (xx). Moreover, the sections of the volume that deal with women have been more fully integrated into the context of the specific section rather than marginalized into subsections. Likewise, many interested readers will celebrate Coogan’s decision to decrease previous emphasis on the Documentary Hypothesis, and increase discussion of other interpretive strategies and methodologies of the Torah. These changes alone make this edition a welcomed and more balanced experienced.

Those familiar with the previous editions will recognize and rejoice in the overall layout of the volume. Each chapter begins with a short introduction that connects the previous section to the coming material, and closes with a summary section to review the material discussed. Within this framework Coogan has highlighted important names and terms, provided a list of curated review questions, and offered the readers a brief bibliography for further study. At the end of the book the reader will find a general bibliography organized topically for ease of use, a glossary of all the highlighted words for quick reference, and an index for ease of navigation.

A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context (3rd ed.) by Michael D. Coogan and Cynthia R. Chapman provides a welcomed revision to an already well-known and well-received classic. Everything previously praised about this volume remains, and what has changed should only warrant additional adoration. While much of the content in this volume will come with criticism and disagreement from more conservative readers, Coogan has offered an introduction worth engaging for readers with a keen awareness of the underlying issues. This is an Old Testament introduction that you will want on your shelf. Who knows you may even need it for class one day. It comes highly recommended!


I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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