Old Testament Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

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Subsections

On the History & Possible Inerrancy of the Hebrew Vowel-Points

The Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha & Dead Sea Scrolls

Bible Chronology

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Order of Contents

Authenticity of the OT  10+
Introduction to the OT  9
OT History  5
OT Background  6

Transmission & Preservation of the OT  1
Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the OT  3
Archaeology  4
Geography  1


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On the Authenticity & Integrity of the Old Testament

See also the ‘Authenticity of the Whole Bible’

“To surrender the Old Testament is to surrender also the New.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Beginner

Articles

1800’s

Haldane, Robert – ‘The Genuineness & Authenticity of the Holy Scriptures: the Old Testament’  (1830)  44 pp. being ch. 1 of The Books of the Old & New Testaments Proved to be Canonical, & their Verbal Inspiration Maintained & Established; with an Account of the Introduction & Character of the Apocrypha

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1900’s

Wilson, Robert – ‘Is the Higher Criticism Scholarly?  Clearly Attested Facts Showing that the Destructive ‘Assured Results of Modern Scholarship’ are Indefensible’  (1922)  48 pp.  At the level for a Sunday School with an engaging 8 page bio of Wilson in the Forward

Wilson (1856–1930) was an eminent linguist and scholar of Princeton and early Westminster, devoting his life to defending the reliability of the Old Testament.

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Intermediate

Articles

1900’s

Allis, O.T. – ‘The Conflict Over the Old Testament’  (1923)  37 pp. in The Princeton Theological Review

Ridderbos, N.H. – ‘Reversals of Old Testament Criticism’  (1958)  15 pp. in  Revelation & the Bible. Contemporary Evangelical Thought, ed. Carl Henry

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Books

1800’s

Stuart, Alexander Moody – The Bible True to Itself: a Treatise on the Historical Truth of the Old Testament  (1884)  534 pp.

Stuart was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland.

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1900’s

Wilson, Robert – A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament  (1919)  200 pp.

Wilson (1856–1930) was an eminent linguist and scholar of Princeton and early Westminster, devoting his life to defending the reliability of the Old Testament.

“An examination of the text, grammar, vocabularly, history, and religion of the OT based squarely upon the ‘laws of evidence’.  Repudiates such theories as the Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch, and defends the evangelical position on such matters as transmission of the text.” – Cyril J. Barber

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Advanced

Books

1800’s

Keil, C.F. –  Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (OT in General, Torah, Prophets, Poetical), 2 (Historical Books, Transmission of OT, Canon, History of Hermeneutics of)  (1869)

Keil (1807-88) was a conservative, Lutheran, German Old Testament scholar, known for his contributions to the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, the best advanced commentary on the Old Testament that there is.

Keil did make some smaller concessions that the reader may forgive, but on the whole, his work is one of the most magnificent, in-depth defenses of the authenticity and integrity of the Old Testament ever written.

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1900’s

Allis, O.T. – The Old Testament: its Claims & its Critics  Buy  (1972)  487 pp.  See a lengthy excerpt here.

Allis (1880-1973) was one of the renowned, conservative scholars of early Westminster Seminary.

“A definitive analysis of OT criticism with a vindication of the inerrancy of Scripture and the infallible authority of the Word.  Here is Allis at his best!” – Cyril J. Barber

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2000’s

Kitchen, K.A. – On the Reliability of the Old Testament  (Eerdmans, 2003)  684 pp.  ToC

Kitchen follows certain higher critical views.

“Working back from the latest periods (for which hard evidence is readily available) to the remotest times, Kitchen systematically shows up the many failures of favored arguments against the Bible and marshals pertinent permanent evidence from antiquity’s inscriptions and artifacts to demonstrate the basic honesty of the Old Testament writers.” – The book-flap

On another work of Kitchen, Cyril J. Barber says:  “…this work is one of the best.  Because [John] Bright and Kitchen follow certain higher critical views, the pastor needs to keep Archer’s Introductory Survey to the Old Testament close at hand.”

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See Also

See on ‘The Authenticity of the Pentateuch’ on our page: Commentaries on the Pentateuch.  There are also sections on the authenticity of many of the individual books of the Old Testament on our page: Old Testament Commentaries.

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Mediating

1900’s

Orr, James – The Problem of the Old Testament Considered with Reference to Recent Criticism  (1906)

Orr was a minister and professor in the United Free Church of Scotland, post-1900, and was amongst a group of men (including Alexander Whyte) who sought to mediate between the old orthodoxy and the newer liberalism, making some concessions thereto.

The work is important and shows the struggle and issues that believers and scholarship were wrestling with in that time, though it shoud be read with discernment.

“A standard work refuting the Documentary Hypothesis.” – Cyril J. Barber

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Liberal

1800’s

Kirkpatrick, Alexander F. – The Divine Library of the Old Testament: Its Origin, Preservation, Inspiration & Permanent Value, 5 Lectures  (1892)

Kirkpatrick was a Cambridge professor.  He has, on the one hand, a high view of the authority of the Old Testament as a Revelation from God, though on the other hand, allows for the Inspiration thereof to consist with errors of fact, history, geography, etc.  While the work should be read with discernment, it can be read with profit.

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Introduction to the Old Testament

See also ‘Bible Background, Survey & General Introduction’

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Intermediate

1900’s

Raven, John Howard – Old Testament Introduction: General & Special  (1910)

“An old, conservative introduction  Valuable, but not as comprehensive as Archer’s Survey of Old Testament Introduction.” – Cyril J. Barber

“For an intermediate level, consult John Raven, Old Testament Introduction… which has been a conservative, somewhat dry, standard text for half a century…” – Joel Beeke

Young, E.J. – An Introduction to the Old Testament  (1948; Eerdmans, 1953)  415 pp.  ToC

Young was one of the great, early, Westminster Seminary scholars.  This is written at a very accessible level and has brief introductions to each O.T. book.

“For an intermediate level, consult…  Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament… usurps Raven as the most reliable guide to treat the major critical problems…“ – Joel Beeke

“Young, late professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, presents an erudite but brief introduction.  While consistently conservative, Young does not back off from non-traditional interpretations (e.g., his argument that Ecclesiastes as not authored by Solomon).  Still worthwhile, the book is nonetheless dated.” – Tremper Longman III

Unger, Merrill – Introductory Guide to the Old Testament  Buy  (1951)

“An extensive treatment which ably sets forth the Mosaic authorship and unity of the Pentateuch, the date of the Exodus, Israel’s conquest of Canaan, and the chronological problems of Joshua-Judges.  Refutes the Deutero-Isaiah theory and rejects a late date for the book of Daniel.” – Cyril J. Barber

Archer, Gleason – A Survey of Old Testament Introduction  rev. ed.  (Moody, 1974)  525 pp.  ToC

Published by Moody Press, this is a medium level treatment, in-depth enough to be fascinating.  In treating of each of the Biblical books, with few exceptions, Archer defends conservative positions on them.  The all-around, best modern work on the subject.

“A definitive studdy which takes its place among the front rank of works in the field, ably defends the conservative position against the attacks of critics, and is essential for evangelicals who wish to have an intelligent grasp of the OT.” – Cyril J. Barber

“For an intermediate level, consult…  Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction… ably defends the conservative evangelical position…” – Joel Beeke

“Certainly the most conservative introduction on the list, it takes a more apologetic and polemical perspective than other evangelical introductions.  Nonetheless, Archer is very well informed and much value may be gained from reading this introduction.  Much of the book is dated.” – Tremper Longman III

Merrill, Eugene – An Historical Survey of the Old Testament  Buy  (1966)

“A conservative presentation of Israel’s history with special concentration on the early chapters of Genesis.” – Cyril J. Barber

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2000’s

ed. Van Pelt, Miles – A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: the Gospel Promised  Buy  Pre  (2016)

This volume, done by a number of Reformed Theological Seminary professors, is an attempt to do Old Testament Introduction through the lens of Biblical Theology.  That is, they answer the regular questions on each book of who, what, when, where & why, while giving a Biblial theology on each book of the O.T.

The work is done well, and it is reformed and conservative in outlook (see a review here and the Preview linked above), though do note that Biblical Theology is much more expansive than simply Biblical theologies of each book of the Bible, and hence this volume by no means exhausts its subject.

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Advanced

1800’s

Keil, C.F. –  Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, vol. 1 (OT in General, Torah, Prophets, Poetical), 2 (Historical Books, Transmission of OT, Canon, History of Hermeneutics of)  (1869)

Keil (1807-88) was a conservative, Lutheran, German Old Testament scholar, known for his contributions to the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, the best advanced commentary on the Old Testament that there is.

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1900’s

Green, William – General Introduction to the Old Testament: vol. 1 (the Canon), 2 (the Text)  (1911-1913)  210 & 215 pp.

Green (1825–1900) was an imminent Princeton, Hebrew scholar.  ‘General’ in the title means that Green stays at the level of background issues that involve the whole O.T., as opposed to ‘special introduction’, which dives into the issues related to particular books.

Dillard, Raymond & Tremper Longman III – An Introduction to the Old Testament  (Zondervan, 1995)  475 pp.  ToC  Special Introduction

Dillard and Longman were longtime professors at Westminster East Seminary.

“For a scholarly level, see the generally reliable works of…  Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman III, An Introduction to the Old Testament…“ – Joel Beeke

“This introduction covers the whole Old Testament along three main lines: historical background, literary analysis, and theological message.  It intends to give the reader of the Bible the information necessary to understand the Old Testament according to its original intention.” – Tremper Longman III

Harrison, R.K. – Introduction to the Old Testament  (Eerdmans, 1969)  1,340 pp.  ToC

This is perhaps the most scholarly, generally conservative, modern work in the field.  It surveys nearly every aspect of the field, including special introductions to each of the Biblical books.

“For a scholarly level, see the generally reliable works of…  Roland K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament…“ – Joel Beeke

“One of the most complete introductions.  It has a definite proclivity for historical issues, as opposed to literary and theological ones.  There is a heavy emphasis on history of research.  It shows the erudition and competency of the author and is an admirable reference tool.  It is a little too heavy for classroom use and is dated.” – Tremper Longman III


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Old Testament History

See also Commentaries on the Historical Passages of the Old Testament, as well as ‘Bible History’ on our page: Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

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Ancient Author

Josephus – Jewish Antiquities  trans. William Whiston  (Porter & Coates, 187?)  618 pp.  ToC

Josephus (37-100), the 1st century Jewish historian gives his recounting of the history of the O.T. era, including numerous additional traditionary Jewish materials and legends that may have been popularly believed during his time.

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1800’s

Alexander, Archibald – A History of the Israelitish Nation: From Their Origin to Their Dispersion at the Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans  (1853)  653 pp.  Parts 1-4 & 5, sections 1-3

Alexander was the first professor at Old Princeton seminary.  This work gives history and background information (as well as much exposition) to the Old Testament, from Creation to the fall of the Temple in AD 70.  This volume is a further expansion of his previous work, Annals of the Jewish Nation During the Period of the Second Temple  1832.

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1900’s

Payne, John Barton – An Outline of Hebrew History  (Baker, 1954)  260 pp.  ToC

Payne was reformed.

“An excellent, well-documented text of particular value for its loyalty to the Scriptures and the way in which the writer synchronizes the history and chronology of Israel with the events of the surrounding nations.” – Cyril J. Barber

Vos, Johannes – Old Testament History  Buy  (1963)  145 pp.

Wood, Leon James – A Survey of Israel’s History  (Zondervan, 1970)  460 pp.  ToC  See also the revised & enlarged edition by David O’Brien, 1986

“A strongly conservative book written with the undergraduate student in mind.  Meets a definite need in that it is a selective rather than exhaustive treatment of Israel’s history.” – Cyril J. Barber

Merrill, E.H. – Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel  (1987)  545 pp.  ToC  This was revised in 2008.

“Merrill has written a chronologically comprehensive survey of Israel’s history from a decidedly conservative perspective.  There has been a great need for a suitable seminary-level textbook in this area and this volume will fill the gap at least temporarily.  Its weakness is that it often merely paraphrases the biblical story, throwing in some interesting archeological and Near Eastern facts.  It highlights chronology, giving absolute dates for early history–a dubious enterprise.” – Tremper Longman III, 3 out of 5 stars


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Old Testament Background

See also ‘Bible Background’ on our page: Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

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Intermediate

1900’s

Bruce, F.F. – Israel & the Nations  (1963; Paternoster, 1997)  265 pp.  ToC

“Presents, with apparent approval, support for the documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch, a late date for the Exodus [as opposed to the early conservative date], a Persian date of composition of Isaiah 40-66 [after the predicted events transpired], and a Maccabaean date for the prophecy of Daniel [after the predicted events transpired].” – Cyril J. Barber

Harrison, R.K. – Old Testament Times: a Social, Political & Cultural Context  (1970; Baker, 2005)  348 pp.  ToC  Full color ed.

Harrison was a professor of Old Testament at Wycliff College, University of Toronto.

“A blending of the history and religion, languages and literature, economy and culture of the peoples of the Near East, with due emphasis upon and regard for the geographic and political interdependence of the different nations.” – Cyril J. Barber

Heaton, Eric William – Everyday Life in Old Testament Times  (London: B.T. Batsford, 1956)  235 pp.  ToC

“A widely read sourcebook which serves as an able supplement to de Vaux’s Ancient Israel.” – Cyril J. Barber

Kaiser, Walter – Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation  (Baker, 1972)  263 pp.  ToC

Vaux, Roland de – Ancient Israel: its Life & Institutions  rev. ed.  (McGraw-Hill, 1997)  615 pp.  ToC

“Liberal.  By a French Roman Catholic Priest.  Vast in scope and covers virtually every aspect of Israelitish life and culture in O.T. times.

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Advanced

1900’s

Kitchen, K.A. – Ancient Orient & Old Testament  (IVP, 1966)  191 pp.  ToC

“Together with John Bright’s History of Israel, this work is one of the best.  Because Bright and Kitchen follow certain higher critical views, the pastor needs to keep Archer’s ‘Introductory Survey to the Old Testament’ close at hand.” – Cyril J. Barber


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On the Transmission & Preservation of the Hebrew Text

Be sure to see our pages on The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible and Innerancy, as well as, on the New Testament, The Majority Text .

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Scholarly

Keil, C.F. – Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament  trans. from 2nd ed., George C.M. Douglas  (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1882), vol. 2, 3rd Section, ‘The Critical Treatment of the Old Testament’  ToC

‘History of the Criticism of the Unprinted Text’
‘Nature & Condition of the Text Before & at the Closing of the Canon’
‘How the Text took Firm Shape in the Age of the Sopherim [Scribes]’
‘The Samaritan-Alexandrian Text’
‘The Hebrew Text in the Talmudic Period’
‘The Text & its Treatment During the Masoretic Period’
‘The Masora’
‘Subsequent Fortunes of the Unprinted Text’
‘The Principle Editions of the Old Testament’
‘Critical Apparatus’
‘The Transactions Respecting the Integrity of the Masoretic Text’

Caution:  This treatment, with a few qualifications, is excellent.  Keil, while very conservative, and holding to the inerrancy of the autographs of Scripture, yet conceded there to be numerous, very minor errors in the manuscripts due to the mistakes of sincere copyists before the close of the canon in the first century and before the manuscripts attained their final form in the Middle Ages by the Jewish Massoretes, as we possess them today.  Yet, his survey of compiled researches and material are invaluable and are necessary for the advanced student.  His work is here for that reason.

Jesus said ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,’ (Mt. 5:18) the import of which necessarily entails that the smallest letter of the Scriptures shall not be lost through history.

Keil lists on pp. 297-8 the instances that he believes are slight errors in the Hebrew, involving differences of spelling, interchanged letters, supposed mistakes of memory, omissions, and a few other difficult readings.  The advanced student of Scripture should be aware of all of the passages that he cites.

However, many of these instances can be explained as differences of temporal and local colloquiums in Hebrew spelling and grammar (which we would expect, demonstrating their authenticity).  In all cases there are usually multiple legitimate explanations for the difficulty (not to mention innumerable unknown factors that we may not be aware of) that fully resolve the issue.

The burden of proof is on the person seeking to show that there is an unresolved mistake in the text and that there cannot be a legitimate solution to it.  If there is a possible, sufficient explanation that explains the difficulty, then the burden of proof cannot be met (as Keil does not meet it), and the inerrancy of Scripture remains.  To see solutions to many of these difficulties, see any evangelical book on difficulties in the Bible, or any advanced evangelical commentary on that book of Scripture.

The good news is that these examples that Keil lists are nearly all of the proposed ‘mistakes’ that a sincere person may inquire about in the Old Testament relating to manuscript transmission.  All of the instances can be fully met, and therefore your faith in God’s Word as inerrant should be greatly confirmed.

God’s promise of the providential preservation of Scripture through all time, while promising that every jot of Scripture is preserved extant by the Church ‘in all generations’ (W.C.F. 1.8), does not, though, promise the continued inerrency of fallible copyists through all generations.  Hence, it is expected that there will be very infrequent and insignificant variant readings, of which, the original reading is one of them.  Thus the student should not be surprised that there are some infrequent alternate readings given in the Massoretic texts, and others in non-Massoretic texts.

All this being said, Keil’s survey and argumentation are some of the best that history has handed down to us on the sterling reliability of the transmission of the Old Testament text into our hands.

Though Keil slightly differs from them, he lists on p. 329 about a dozen of ‘the principal defenders of the [inerrancy of the] Hebrew’ from the Reformation and Puritan era that ‘had the truth upon their side…’;  ‘while they conceded in general that there were smaller faults in the Hebrew manuscripts [as we have them through the Massoretes] and editions of the Bible; still they were not willing in any concrete case to acknowledge any actual error whatsoever, however insignificant…’  Their works are in Latin and many of them can be found at PRDL.

May the Lord give you discernment, and in you studying to show yourself approved, may your faith be greatly strengthened in the perfection of the God-breathed and God-preserved Scriptures.  Remember that Jesus prefaced Mt. 5:18, with ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you…’.  That is, for the sake of special emphasis, that we would take extra heed and be absolutely certain about it: ‘Truly, truly, I say unto you…  one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.’  ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar.’ (Rom. 3:4)

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Ancient Near East Texts Relating to the Old Testament

ed. Pritchard, James

Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament  3rd ed.  (1969)  740 pp.

This is the standard collection of ancient documents relating to and shedding light on the Old Testament in one volume (known as ANET) that would otherwise cost you over $100 to purchase.

Though this volume has been much abused by liberals (the editor was a liberal professor at Princeton), often trying to show by literary parallels how the Biblical texts were products of the influences of foreign nations and their own larger culture and times, yet to the one with honest discernment, you will revel in how great a contrast there is between the upright and pure religion that God revealed through Hebrew history in contrast to the pagan nations around them that could never have produced the wisdom-higher-than-man found and preserved in the Hebrew scriptures.

The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament  Buy  (1955)

“A companion volume to ANET.  Contains 769 illustrations classified according to the peoples and their dress, daily life, scenes from history, royalty and dignitaries, gods and their emblems, the practice of religion, and myths, legends, and rituals.  A paperback volume entitled The Ancient Near East contains the most significant photographs from this volume and the most important texts from ANET.” – Cyril J. Barber

The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts & Pictures Relating to the Old Testament  Buy  (1969)

“This supplement to ANET contains an abundance of material from recent archaeological excavations.” – Cyril J. Barber


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Archaeology

See also ‘Archaeology’ on our page: Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

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General

1900’s

Article

Donald J. Wiseman – Archaeological Confirmation of the Old Testament  (1959)  14 pp.

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Books

Kyle, Melvin – The Deciding Voice of the Monuments in Biblical Criticism  (1924)  340 pp.

Kyle was the president of Xenia Theological Seminary of the UPCNA in Pittsburgh, USA.

Introduction by James Orr: “The progress of knowledge has not overthrown, but has in innumerable and surprising ways helped to confirm, the view one derives from the Bible itself as to the beginnings of human history, the character of ancient civilizations and the place of the Hebrews in the midst of these… and altogether the course of events as depicted in the holy Scripture, in contrast with the violent and hypothetical constructions… of the modern critical schools…  he makes out a remarkably strong case, and while firmly upholding conservative conclusions…”

“A perceptive account of the role archaeology is playing in Biblical criticism.  Dated.” – Cyril J. Barber

Unger, Merrill F. – Archaeology & the Old Testament  2nd ed.  (Zondervan, 1954)  317 pp.  ToC  This work has later editions.

Unger was a professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary.  The work goes through each period of the Old Testament, using archaeology to shed light on it while he confirms and defends the veracity of our God-given Scriptures.

“Informative, fascinating, and perhaps the best book written on the subject.  Enables the reader to obtain an overall picture of the world and peoples of the OT.” – Cyril J. Barber

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Special Topics

Pfeiffer, Charles

Ras Shamra & the Bible  (Baker, 1962 & 1976)  84 pp.  ToC

Tel Armana & the Bible  Buy  (Baker, 1963)


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Geography

See also ‘Geography’ on our page: Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction

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1900’s

Simons, Jan Jozef – The Geographical & Topographical Texts of the Old Testament: a Concise Commentary…  (Brill, 1959)  625 pp.  ToC

“Exhibits unusual breadth of scholarship.  Covers over 1,700 passages of Scripture in the Bible and the Apocrypha that contain data on geographical identifications.  A work for the scholar.” – Cyril J. Barber

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Related Pages