The Historical Books (A Sheffield Reader, The Biblical Seminar 40)

Written by J. Cheryl Exum (ed.) Reviewed By J. Gary Millar

This volume is one of a series of collections of articles which first appeared in the Journal for the Study of the OT between 1976 and 1996. As the title suggests, the twenty contributions range over Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Whilst there is great variety in the articles, as one would expect, they all fall broadly into what one might call the ‘Sheffield School’, with special attention paid to the application of literary and sociological approaches to the biblical text.

The main question which repeatedly surfaces on reading through this volume is ‘Who on earth would want to buy it?’ Presumably, if one is studying theology at college or university, one already has access to the JSOT. The usefulness of the book is also seriously diminished by its very nature as a collection of JSOT articles—this journal takes a distinctive approach to studying the OT, and on its own, is not sufficient to give a balanced introduction to the ‘state of play’ in a particular area of the discipline. A final drawback is that, in one or two places, the authors have actually written more substantial treatments of the same thing (see e.g. Japhet’s article on Chronicles). The project could. perhaps, have been justified, if it included articles published over a much longer period which had established themselves as particularly significant pieces of work (one or two in the collection may, in time, achieve such a status, but it remains too early to say). As it stands, I am afraid that it will add little to the study of the Historical Books at any level.

J. Gary Millar