Review: The Old Testament by Richard S. Hess

28268170Richard S. Hess is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary. Hess earned his Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College and has authored numerous books, including Israelite Religions: An Archaeological and Biblical Survey, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11, and commentaries on Leviticus, Song of Songs, and Joshua. Hess is the current editor of the Denver Journal, former editor of the Bulletin of Biblical Research, and the associate editor of Old Testament, archaeology, and maps for the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Most recently, Hess has released the present volume, a much-anticipated introduction to the Old Testament.

The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction is an up-to-date, sizable, and comprehensive introduction to the OT and the current landscape of OT studies. Hess leaves virtually no stone unturned while he guides the reader through the various layers of the field. The Old Testament is divided into four major parts (Pentateuch, Historical Books, Poetic Books, and Prophetic Books) and covers all thirty-nine of the writings of the Old Testament. Hess opens with a suitable introduction to the structure, canonization, text and textual criticism of the OT. As attention is directed towards the content of the OT, the organization and arrangement of the volume provide readers a unique framework for optimal engagement with each OT book. Each chapter is divided into four major units: (1) Name, Text, and Outline, (2) Overview, (3) Reading, and (4) Theological Perspectives. The third unit (“Reading”) surveys six methods of interpretation, including, premodern readings, higher criticism, literary readings, gender and ideological criticism, ancient Near Eastern context, and canonical context. The fourth unit (“Theological Perspectives”) examines the major themes in each book. Lastly, each chapter includes a brief bibliography for further study.

There is much to be praised about this volume. The organization and arrangement of each of the chapters is easily at the top of the list. Where Hess does exceptionally well is the “Reading” section included in each chapter. Not only does the reader have an opportunity to engage with the standard introductory information expected, but Hess surveys the far-reaching hermeneutical landscape that has interacted with the content. Aside from the chapters, Hess has also included a number of sidebar articles, various maps and photos scattered throughout, and a handful of full-color plates in the center of the volume. The book is targeted towards a graduate-level audience and is scholarly and academic in nature. Nevertheless, as usual, Hess is both engaging and accessible, and thus, The Old Testament should find itself useful for a wide readership. Of course, the most praiseworthy aspect of this book is Hess’ ability to make the OT exciting and applicable for the student, and thus, indispensable for the professor.

The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction by Richard S. Hess contains all the marks of a go-to standard for the field of OT studies. Hess’ expertise in ancient Near Eastern studies and his breadth of knowledge in the OT are on full display. The Old Testament is a must-have resource for scholars, students, and interested laypeople alike. It is accessible, extensive, and overflowing with riches. It comes highly recommended!

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