Companion to the Old Testament

Edited by Hywel Clifford, SCM Press, £21

As the editor concedes, any introduction to the Old Testament joins “a long list of literature”. With the shelves already groaning, something fresh is required, and Clifford and his team have certainly delivered.

The volume combines basic explanations of the texts, surveys of how those texts have been interpreted, and an exploration of how the Old Testament can be applied in the work of Christian ministry and mission. Clarity is key, and the survey is neatly divided into five sections, dealing with the Pentateuch, the historical books, the books of poetry and wisdom, the prophetic books and the Apocrypha.

The general reader will appreciate the unvarnished summaries of what the texts discuss and there are many treats for a more well-versed audience. There are intriguing words, for instance, on the difference between Calvin, who is judged to have jettisoned spiritual readings in some of his biblical commentaries, and Luther, who, while grumpy about “uncontrolled allegorical interpretation”, attempted to find some place for spiritual and typological exegesis within his broad concept of literal interpretation.

Occasionally, one has the feeling that a particular scholar would have enjoyed the space to riff more expansively on a particular theme, but this only whets the appetite.

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