Review: Old Testament Survey

2186996This second edition of the widely used and broadly praised Old Testament Survey by Paul R. House offers an up-to-date, revised and expanded exploration of the Old Testament with the assistance of Eric Mitchell. Mitchell is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Archeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his involvement is observed throughout with the newfound emphasis on historical and geographical topics.

House and Mitchell complement each other well in this volume. House is particularly strong in the literature and narratival structure of the Old Testament, and Mitchell is exceptionally strong in the historical and geographical background of the Old Testament. The result is one of the finest, most versatile undergraduate-level Old Testament surveys on the market today.

Old Testament Survey is divided into four major sections: (1) The Pentateuch, (2) The Former Prophets, (3) The Prophets, and (4) The Writings. The structure of the book follows the order of the Hebrew Bible, and it does so purposely to encourage the readers understanding of the Old Testament. As House and Mitchell explain, “the Hebrew Bible’s sequence shows what happened to Israel, why it happened, and how believers responded to both” (p. 3). In other words, the order of the Hebrew Bible, and thus, the order of the present book is most appropriately positioned for guiding new readers through the Old Testament.

Throughout the volume readers will find improved and more detailed maps, revised charts, and additional excursus-like material on historical and geographical issues. There is also a number of full-color maps included in the rear of the volume. As to be expected, the volume is theologically conservative in its conclusions but does not shy away from dealing with critical issues. Overall, House and Mitchell are balanced in all the right places, and yet they likewise leave room for ambiguity if uncertainty the consensus. That said, this volume is intended as an undergraduate-level (freshman-level) textbook for those with little or no background in the Old Testament, and thus detail is lacking at times.

Old Testament Survey by Paul R. House and Eric Mitchell is the textbook that I wish was used when I was an undergraduate Old Testament student. It is both informative and intentionally presented to allow the student to enter into the exhilarating world of the Old Testament. This is a book that will quickly ignite a passion and excite an understanding for the Old Testament. If you are an incoming Old Testament student or simply an interested layman, Old Testament Survey by Paul R. House and Eric Mitchell is a book to have nearby. It comes highly recommended!

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