Bible Study Helps: The Old Testament
The importance of the Old Testament for believers today cannot be overstated. But neither can it be overstated how often and how much the OT is ignored by contemporary Christians. This is a tragedy, and a long-standing one. Back in 1523 Martin Luther published his German translation of the Pentateuch. In his preface he said, in part:
There are some who have little regard for the Old Testament. They think of it as a book that was given to the Jewish people only and is now out of date, containing only stories of past times. . . . But Christ says in John 5, “Search the Scriptures, for it is they that bear witness to me.” . . . [T]he Scriptures of the Old Testament are not to be despised but diligently read. . . . Therefore dismiss your own opinions and feelings and think of the Scriptures as the loftiest and noblest of holy things, as the richest of mines which can never be sufficiently explored, in order that you may find that divine wisdom which God here lays before you in such simple guise as to quench all pride. Here you will find the swaddling cloths and the manger in which Christ lies. . . . Simple and lowly are these swaddling cloths, but dear is the treasure, Christ, who lies in them.
Amen to that. So in part to rectify that, I offer this listing of helpful books on and about the Old Testament. However I may have things a bit backwards here, given that I just completed a series of articles on “Bible Study Tools” for the Old Testament.
Since I encourage Christians each new year to read three and a bit chapters a day in order to read through the entire Bible in a year, over the past 8 months or so I have posted almost 20 articles on the various OT books, offering helps, introductions, theology, and recommended reading lists.
Thus this article should have first appeared back in January. But offering it here at the end of my series on OT pieces is OK as well. As to the recommendations offered here, it must be stated that there are countless thousands of books on the Old Testament, far more to cover here in any reasonable sort of fashion.
So this list will be rather selective. They pretty much all reflect a conservative and/or evangelical approach to Scripture and theology, and they are mostly all penned within the past few decades. These 60 volumes are divided into two main groupings: general titles, and books on the reliability of the Old Testament. They are all helpful guides, and well worth reading.
General: Old Testament introductions, surveys, theologies, etc.
Alexander, T.D., From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Main Themes of the Pentateuch. Paternoster, 1995.
Arnold, Bill and Brent Strawn, eds., The World Around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East. Baker, 2016.
Baker, David and Bill Arnold, The Face of Old Testament Studies. Baker Books, 1999.
Baylis, Albert, From Creation to the Cross. Zondervan, 1996.
Beale, Greg, ed., The Right Doctrines from the Wrong Texts: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New. Baker, 1994.
Bright, John, A History of Israel. Westminster, 1960.
Brueggemann, Walter, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. John Knox Press, 2003.
Brueggemann, Walter, Theology of the Old Testament. Augsburg Fortress, 1977.
Dillard, Raymond and Tremper Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1994.
Dorsey, David, The Literary Structure Of The Old Testament: A Commentary On Genesis-Malachi. Baker, 2004.
Dumbrell, William, The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. Baker, 2002.
Dyrness, William. Themes in Old Testament Theology. IVP, 1977.
Goldingay, John, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Exploring Text Approaches and Issues. SPCK, 2016.
Goldingay, John, Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers. Baker, 2010.
Goldingay, John, Old Testament Theology, vol. 1: Israel’s Gospel. IVP, 2003.
Goldingay, John, Old Testament Theology, vol. 2: Israel’s Faith. IVP, 2006.
Goldingay, John, Old Testament Theology, vol. 3: Israel’s Life. IVP, 2009.
Harrison, R.K., Introduction to the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1969.
Harrison, R.K., Old Testament Times. Eerdmans, 1970.
House, Paul, Old Testament Theology. IVP, 1998.
Howard, David and Michael Grisanti, eds., Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts. Apollos, 2003.
Hubbard, Robert and J. Andrew Dearman, Introducing the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 2018.
Hubbard, Robert, Robert Johnston and Robert Meye, eds., Studies in Old Testament Theology. Word, 1992.
Kaiser, Walter, A History of Israel: From the Bronze Age Through the Jewish Wars. Broadman and Holman, 1998.
Kaiser, Walter, Mission in the Old Testament. Baker, 2000.
Kaiser, Walter, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament. Baker, 2003.
Kaiser, Walter, Toward Old Testament Ethics. Zondervan, 1983.
Kaiser, Walter, Toward an Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 1978.
Knight, George, A Christian Theology of the Old Testament. Paternoster, 1959, 1998.
Lasor, William, David Hubbard and Frederic Bush, Old Testament Survey, 2nd ed. Eerdmans, 1996.
Longman, Tremper, Making Sense of the Old Testament. Baker, 1998.
Martens, Elmer, God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology. Bibal Press, 1998.
Merrill, Eugene, Mark Rooker and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament. B&H, 2011.
Motyer, Alec, 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today. Crossway, 1994, 2018.
Motyer, Alec, Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ. IVP, 1996.
Motyer, Alec, The Story of the Old Testament. Baker, 2001.
Pfeiffer, Charles, Old Testament History. Baker, 1973.
Pratt, Richard, He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives. P&R, 1993.
Richter, Sandra, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. IVP, 2008.
Routledge, Robin, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach. Apollos, 2008.
Sandy, D. and R. Giese, eds., Cracking Old Testament Codes: A Guide to Interpreting the Literary Genres of the Old Testament. Broadman and Holman, 1995.
Schultz, Samuel, The Old Testament Speaks. Harper and Row, 1960.
Waltke, Bruce, An Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 2007.
Walton, John, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. Baker, 2006.
Walton, John, Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief. IVP, 2017.
Walton, John and Andrew Hill, A Survey of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1991.
Walton, John and Andrew Hill, Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance. Zondervan, 2004.
Wright, Chris, God’s People in God’s Land. Eerdmans, 1990.
Wright, Chris, Knowing God the Father Through the Old Testament. Monarch, 2007.
Wright, Chris, Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament. Monarch, 2006.
Wright, Chris, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Marshall Pickering, 1992.
Wright, Chris, Living as the People of God: The Relevance of Old Testament Ethics. IVP, 1983.
Wright, Chris, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. IVP, 2006.
Yancey, Philip, The Bible Jesus Read. Zondervan, 1999.
Youngblood, Ronald, The Heart of the Old Testament. Baker, 1971, 1998.
The Reliability of the Old Testament; The Historicity of Israel
Arnold, Bill and Richard Hess, Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources. Baker, 2014.
Dever, William, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel. Eerdmans, 2001.
Dever, William, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Eerdmans, 2003.
Kaiser, Walter, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? IVP, 2001.
Kitchen, K.A., On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 2003.
Long, V. Philips, Tremper Longman and Iain W. Provan, A Biblical History of Israel. Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
Long, V. Philips, David Baker, and Gordon Wenham, eds., Windows into Old Testament History: Evidence, Argument, and the Crisis of Biblical Israel. Eerdmans, 2002.
Once again, there are a lot of titles here. If folks want me to narrow things down a bit, let me do so by simply highlighting a few authors who are always great value, and any of their works would be well worth getting and reading. They are: Goldingay, Kaiser, Motyer and Wright.
13 Replies to “Bible Study Helps: The Old Testament”
Thanks for all the preparation that goes into these Bill. I’ve saved them all in a folder for ongoing reference. It is easy to be overwhelmed with all the choice available with commentaries, so it is nice to have you do the hard work for us.
Thanks Kerry. Good to know at least one person is benefiting from this!
“This is a tragedy, and a long-standing one. Back in 1523…”
I think it goes back way longer than that. I seem to recall reading about an early heretic named Marcion(?) who hated much of the OT and cut them out of his reading or something like that.
On a side note, encourage the PM:
Spot on Bill, way too many Christians ignore the OT. Way back, I was appalled that a Christian Religious Education coordinator insisted that children were offered only New Testaments and refused an offer to supply complete Bibles.
I had a girlfriend 40 years ago who was a member of a baptist church who did not know anything about the OT especially around the MINOR PROPHETS. I went to her home church once and it was all about entertainment, music and good works. That was in 1979.
The Bible project on utube has some good outlines on the OT
Thanks Bill for this list. I think reading widely and deeply from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us or are walking with us today is always a valuable goal. Greater minds than mine have already provided insights into the richness of the Old Testament Scriptures than I ever will.
One challenge in my mind though is as read all this wonderful literature is how to make its insights more part of my memory and able to recall and contribute in a discussion. Many times I get to the end of a great book but I cannot recall all the wise and insightful points that God has given to the author in their study of the Bible.
As a suggestion, I think taking notes from other books, even extensively can help. But I would consider going further. We should not only study the Bible ourselves, but we should memorise it by heart. It would take time – a lot of time – but the ability to recall entire verses, chapters and even whole books would transform us to even greater Christlikeness, bring light into any dark situation, and totally surrender our lives to God’s plan. We can even write our own thoughts down as a way of remembering what God says through the Bible and what He has shown to others in their writings.
It is incomprehensible to me that there would be people who claim to love God but who are not remotely interested in what He said to all the ancient prophets and the Commandments He gave to the various people. Just as the Pharisees were proven to not have the love of God they claim to have, I think this is very strong evidence that these claimed Christians do not have the love of God they also claim. The Old and New Testaments are part of a whole and are very obviously a continuation one from the other.
Thank you so much, Bill! I have saved this list.
Yesterday at church we had Samuel Green from Answering Islam (answering-islam.org) speaking to us, and he emphasised the critical importance of knowing the Old Testament thoroughly in order to engage Muslims correctly and effectively, in order to refute the claims of the Q’ran. His seminar was very inspiring!
Thanks Bill. My wife and I decided earlier in the year we were always gravitating to the NT for daily devotions, so made a conscious choice to work through the Old. Simply started at Genesis 1 in the morning (now well into 1 Samuel), and I started with Isaiah in the evening (near end of Ezekiel now). It’s been surprisingly refreshing.
It is of great importance to realise that 1. The God Jesus worshipped is the God revealed in the Old Testament. 2. The revelation of God’s nature, will, and purposes are firstly found in the Old Testament, and they provide the basis for both Jesus’ life and ministry, and for ours.
My pastor recently started quoting John Walton on Genesis…. when I looked up his views I was surprised to read that he does not believe in a literal 7 day creation. Did I read the wrong commentary?
Thanks Belinda. Yes he, along with a number of authors featured here, are good on various matters relating to the Old testament, but differ on how to understand the opening chapters of Genesis. When I include a number of books like this in my articles, it is often the case that it does not mean that I endorse every single thing that they have to say. There would be few authors I agree with entirely. So discernment is always needed in this regard.