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Suggestions for Further Reading on the Pentateuch

A couple of readers have asked if I have any bibliography to suggest in connection with the thread I am just finishing now on the sources behind the Pentateuch.   Below are the suggestions I make in my textbook on the Bible, the first three chapters.

As you’ll see, they are briefly annotated to give you a sense of where first to turn, based on you particular interests.  The first chapter is an Introduction to the Bible, and so the bibliography comprises general reference works that I highly recommend.  These may be ones you would want to buy if you are hard core into your interests.  The other two chapters are on Genesis and then the rest of the Pentateuch.





Suggestions for Further Reading


Chapter One: What is the Bible?  And Why Is It So Hard to Understand?

Coogan, Michael and Bruce Metzger, eds.   Oxford Companion to the Bible.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.  A superb dictionary of all things biblical, ideal for both beginning and advanced students.

Freedman,  David Noel, ed.  The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  New York: Doubleday, 1992.   This is a six- volume dictionary with articles covering every major aspect of biblical studies.  A highly valuable research tool for all serious students.

May, James L. ed.  HarperCollins Bible Commentary.   San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.  A one-volume commentary on every book of the Bible; a great reference work for anyone wanting help with difficult passages.

Powell, Mark Allan, ed.  HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.  New York: HarperOne, 2011.   An excellent one-volume dictionary covering all the important topics of relevance to the study of the Bible.



Chapter Two: The Book of Genesis

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Are the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Manuscripts Reliable? A Blast From the Past
Did Matthew Write in Hebrew? Did Jesus Institute the Lord’s Supper? Did Josephus Mention Jesus? Weekly Readers’ Mailbag July 9, 2016



  1. Avatar
    rburos  July 10, 2016

    Based on your earlier recommendation I purchased the Anchor Bible Dictionary–can’t thank you enough.

  2. talmoore
    talmoore  July 10, 2016

    I didn’t care much for Book of J. Bloom speculates too much on a topic he’s clearly not an expert in (which is what I’m supposed to do). Though he does give a very vibrant reconstruction of the J source.

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 10, 2016

    Thanks. This list looks quite helpful as are your textbooks on the Bible and on the New Testament. I really urge readers of this blog to read your two textbooks. They are terrific both in format and content. They are also very readable.

  4. Avatar
    nichael  July 10, 2016

    Maybe also E. A. Speiser’s translation of (and notes for) the Book of Genesis for the Anchor Bible series?

    (In addition to a detailed scholarly translation of Genesis, the introduction contains a nice summary of the Documentary Hypothesis. Also, among other things, the line-by-line notes contain indications of the suggested source of the associated text.)

  5. Avatar
    turbopro  July 10, 2016

    Thanks for the recommended readings. Worth the price of entry and then more. I just purchased “Myths from Mesopotamia.”

    “Texts of Terror” next. I’m interested now in the feminist view of the Bible.

  6. Avatar
    dragonfly  July 10, 2016

    Do we have any indication of where the name Israel (wrestle with God?) might have come from?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 11, 2016

      I”m afraid I don’t know. (Among other things, I’m out of the country and don’t have my books with me! Sorry!) Someone else on the blog may know.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  July 11, 2016

      The derived meaning of Israel as “Prevail with God” sounds a lot like a retrojection to me. That is, to me, the name existed first, and only later on did Hebrew writers and chroniclers, attempting to establish an etymology for the name, derived that “Isra” meant “prevailed”, as in triumphed over an enemy. (Technically speaking, it would be the hiphil binyan of the shoresh sin-resh-resh — שרר — which means to “dominate” or “rule over”. The Hebrew word for a prince or ruler, Sar, שר, is related to it, suggesting that the original name might have meant “El [God] reigns”.) Anyway, the name totally smacks of the typical theophoric names of the time of the creation of the Hebrew Bible — such as, e.g., Samuel (“El [is] his name”) or Ezekiel (“El strengthens”) — and so it sounds like the composer of the Biblical story of the patriarchs was trying to create an etiological myth that explained the connection between the name of the Twelve Tribes confederacy of YHWH (El) worshippers (Israel) and the patriarch Jacob (Ya’akov), whose name is certainly not theophoric. An analogy that might explain what I mean is how Muhammad invented the concept of Islam (submission to God) and a Muslim (one who is submissive to God) and then he proceeded to retroject that concept, anachronistically, to prophets and patriarchs of the past, making them, essentially, Muslims — for instance, Jesus (Isu), Joseph (Yusuf), and Abraham (Ibrahim) were suddenly Muslims. In a similar way, by renaming Jacob Israel, the writers of the Hebrew Bible were essentially turning a non-Israelite patriarch, Jacob, into a worshipper of YHWH (El) before there was even a cult of YHWH in that land.

      • Avatar
        dragonfly  July 13, 2016

        I see. So it probably originally meant something like “God reigns” but we don’t know how the Israelites got that name? My understanding is the group that came to be known as Israelites most likely emerged in Canaan and consisted of Canaanites and some foreigners (which could have included escaped slaves from Egypt). I guess it makes sense that a group who’s defining feature is they only worship one god would come to be known as “God reigns”.

  7. Avatar
    sheila0405  July 10, 2016

    Is your textbook on the Bible a dense, academic textbook, or is it aimed at beginners? I’d love to check it out, but if it is meant for a certain educational level, I might be unable to digest it. I have only a tiny bit of college education, with no degree. I ended up becoming a certified LPN through a technical school. I’ve read medical articles before. I’m not familiar how history texts are written.

    • Bart
      Bart  July 11, 2016

      It is absolutely geared for beginners — 19 year olds, actually — with no previous knowledge. So give it a shot!

    • Avatar
      rburos  July 11, 2016

      I purchased it a while ago. It is an excellent place for us to start.

  8. Avatar
    James.levell  July 11, 2016

    “Origins of the Bible” – William Propp
    Very entertaining

  9. Avatar
    FocusMyView  July 11, 2016

    Any more recent recommendations? Is this subject matter a moving target, or is it pretty much set in stone?

    • Bart
      Bart  July 11, 2016

      I don’t know of anything of comparable quality from, say, the past ten years or so, but maybe others on the blog can suggest their favorites?

  10. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 11, 2016

    Readers of this blog mght be interested in Today’s NPR website which has a very interesting article about a Philistine cemetery dating to between the 11th and 8th centuries before Jesus.

  11. Avatar
    rivercrowman  July 11, 2016

    In a future blast from the past, consider June 7, 2013, “Problems with the Hebrew Bible Manuscripts.” … I clicked on it randomly this morning.

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