For the modern seeker of spiritual guidance, the Hebrew Bible seemingly has everything we want and everything we don’t want. It includes some of the most sublime literary moments available in world literature. There are the paradigmatic reflections in the Wisdom literature (Job 28; Eccl 3), Psalms that speak into the very heart of human strivings (Pss 38; 67; 150), powerful theological imagery (Exod 3; Zech 3), and the prophetic advocacy of justice (Isa 2:4; Amos 1; Joel 2). And yet, today’s readers often feel that the Hebrew Bible is unapproachable or that its depiction of God is unsettling. The reasons that undergird these preferences go beyond what I can speak to here, but we should never be afraid to interact with these aspects of the text.
The centuries that stand between us and the original audiences of the Hebrew Bible are a foundational cause for our disorientation. There is an abyss of time and culture that separates us. We simply think differently, but that doesn’t mean that ancient people’s reflections on God do not matter. This is especially true for Jews and Christians. The sages, kings, and prophets of the Hebrew Bible have much to teach us.
The list of written sources provided below includes scholarly works as well as those that are more theologically inspired. There is a lot to explore that goes far beyond this list!
- Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. Revised Version; New York: Basic Books, 2011.
- Bertman, Stephen. Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford: Oxford University, 2003.
- Brown, William P. The Ethos of the Cosmos: The Genesis of Moral Imagination in the Bible. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
- Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. Second Edition; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.
- Childs, Brevard S. Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985.
- Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Second Edition; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
- Crenshaw, James L. Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction. Third Edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010.
- Davis, Ellen G. Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publications, 2001.
- Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
- Fox, Michael V. A Time to Tear Down and A Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2010.
- Fretheim, Terence E. The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective. Overtures to Biblical Theology; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.
- Gutiérrez, Gustavo. On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent. Translated by Matthew J. O’Connell. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2007.
- Levenson, Jon D. The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993.
- Lundbom, Jack R. The Hebrew Prophets: An Introduction. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.
- Matthews, Victor H. Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.
- Nickelsburg, George W.E. Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
- Perdue, Leo G. Reconstructing Old Testament Theology: After the Collapse of History. Overtures to Biblical Theology; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.
- Pritchard, James B., ed. The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts & Pictures. Princeton: Princeton University, 2011.
- von Rad, Gerhard. Wisdom in Israel. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1972.