Because of my administrative schedule I do not teach often, usually once a year and for various other reasons this is the first time I have taught Intro to Hebrew Bible in four years. In the past I have used Barry Bandstra’s Reading the Old Testament: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. But this year I found out the list price was a whopping $121.95! The discounted Amazon price is only $109.75. That is just too much to ask of students. I considered many and then, since another section was being offered by a colleague I decided to follow their lead and use Michael Coogan’s The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures.This is still a bit pricey at just under $70. ((I also considered and will likely next time use John Collin’s Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. This looks to be very good and under $50, used for a little over $30.))
So I thought I would reach out to this community and ask those of you who teach such a course what you use as a textbook. Or do you? I know many who feel that a textbook is in some way “cheating” and simply have their own lectures with extensive articles and secondary literature readings for the students. Please do give me your thoughts in the comments and I will post a summary of opinions and views once we have a critical mass.
8 thoughts on “Which Hebrew Bible textbook? (Or none?)”
What are the aims of your class? Are you planning to do an introduction to each biblical book? Are you trying to survey the historical sweeps of Israel’s past? Are you looking to trace the various incarnations of Yahwism? Also this is for the graduate level, correct? It may be helpful to know these things in making a recommendation.
Thanks Adam. Those are great questions which I will answer but I should clarify. I am interested not so much in suggestions for me, but to find out what textbooks others use and why.
So my class is an undergraduate class (half first-year) and it is an honors course. It is a survey of the Hebrew Bible and I tend to put an emphasis on the text as literature but we do address historical and certainly theological issues.
I liked Hill and Walton’s Old Testament Survey. It is on the conservative side, but it does a decent job. Roland de Vaux’s Ancient Israel isn’t too bad for historical perspectives (although it is a bit dated). If you are interested in a theological introduction to the Old Testament, Bruce Birch, Walter Brueggemann, Terence Fretheim, and David Petersen did one (I think the title is A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament). They meant their text to be supplemental to the more common text survey books that are available. I am sure there are better books available, but I am familiar with the ones above.
A new standard is the introduction by John J. Collins.
However, if you are going to use Collins, I’d recommend his short introduction. It has all the information without the fluff. It’s also about half the price.
At this point, I’ve been so burnt by intros that I just require articles from a good Bible dictionary. Eerdmans and Zondervan have adequate ones; and of course, there’s always the Anchor. I’ve found the biggest advantage is that I can mix and match and put them on Blackboard (or whatever) for my students to download. Additionally, I can see who has and hasn’t looked at the files — very nice that.
We will augment this class by having at least one article per week demonstrating for the students current scholarship on the topic under discussion. Between that, my lectures, and the textbook (whatever it may be, this time Coogan) I believe the students will get a fairly broad view of things.
I use Coogan at UNC and have been happy with it. I do not follow his chapter sequence. (I’m happy to send a syllabus showing how I divide up his book). If I were teaching something like Homer I’d probably go with only primary sources and lectures, etc., but I feel like (at least here in the Bible Belt) students bring strong opinions about the material with them to class and it is necessary to have a systematic resource to help guide them along. I have very few students who know what kinds of questions they should be asking thebiblical text as they read it (and I have really good students). I like Collins’s text, but Coogan has great images, etc., from around the ancient Near East. For undergrads, the images and other pedagogically oriented features used by Oxford (modeled on B. Ehrman’s NT book) are best. Collins’s book has a CD-ROM, but if it is bought used, the CD might not show up.