This reference work by a renowned Old Testament scholar provides brief treatments with bibliography of one hundred significant Old Testament terms or concepts. Examples include “angel,” “the ark,” “blessing,” “canon,” “covenant,” “deuteronomic theology,” “faith,” “history,” “the hymn,” “kingship,” “Messiah,” “plague,” “remnant,” “Samaritans,” “theodicy,” and “yhwh.” As the author admits, the basis for selecting the topics is arbitrary, but clearly the items as a whole are ones that most discerning scholars would include.
Not unexpectedly the discussions are heavily theological in nature. Furthermore there is a remarkable homogeneity of subject matter despite the wide diversity of topics. This kind of interwovenness is possible only by a scholar who has a comprehensive grasp of the totality of the biblical witness, a quality Brueggemann clearly possesses.
The author’s moderately critical stance does, of course, impact his development of many of the themes he explores and in ways that are disconcerting to readers of a more conservative tradition. Thus Brueggemann attributes the creation accounts to “older ancient Near Eastern traditions” (p. 40), he has questions about the historicity of David (p. 43), he denies any need for an actual Exodus event (p. 72), he waffles on the question of Jesus as the only fulfillment of Old Testament messianic expectation (pp. 128–29), he sees monotheism as a late (sixth-century) development (p. 138), and he maintains that Old Testament Israel’s belief in resurrection “took over older Canaanite myths” (p. 173).
Equally disconcerting is Brueggemann’s failure to cite evangelical scholars, especially in areas of their demonstrated and recognized competence. For example Beckwith goes unnoticed in the article on canon; Kline in connection with covenant; McConville on deuteronomic theology; Kitchen on Egypt (and elsewhere); and Yamauchi on the Exile (and Persia). These oversights are inexcusable and leave the author open to the charge of bias or special pleading.
Despite these reservations this is a handy little book to which pastors and students may turn in search of biblical and theological insight into some of the most important Old Testament concepts.