To me, the Old Testament has always been a fascinating part of the Bible.
Even as a youth, I found its stories enthralling. Through years of academic studies, of
pastoral ministry, of teaching Old Testament courses, the appeal of this part of the
Scriptures has not dimmed. I have loved the New Testament, too, but it has been the Old
Testament that has helped me to understand the New Testament better, and to appreciate
its redemptive message.
This volume is the product of twenty years of introducing ministerial
students at Asbury Theological Seminary to the Old Testament. Four years ago a change
was made in the biblical studies curriculum so that the basic Old Testament course was
centered in the Pentateuch. One aspect of the study was focused on the world of the
Pentateuch and the problems that have arisen in academic circles in regard to relating
the Pentateuch to ancient Near Eastern cultures. The other phase of the study was concerned
with a method of analyzing the content of the Pentateuch in its English translations, and
relating that content to proclamation. Behind this volume lies the experimental text that
was written in 1970 for the study of the Pentateuch's environment.
Apart from the classroom, I have been stimulated by five visits to the
Middle East. While assisting Dr. G. Douglas Young, in 1959, in establishing the American
Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, I traveled widely throughout Palestine and
was awakened to the significance of archaeololgy for Old Testament studies by listening
to lectures by Mrs.Ruth Amiran and assisting Dr. Johanan Aharoni at the excavation of
During the summers of 1966 and 1968, I was further challenged by the
contributions of archaeology to our knowledge of the ancient Near East. It was my privilege
both summers to serve as a site supervisor under the direction of Dr. Joseph Callaway at
Et Tell (Ai). The interest thus sparked has led to careful study of the significant
ancient Near Eastern literature now available in English translation.
The overall purpose of this volume is to acquaint ministerial candidates,
pastors, and laymen having a basic knowledge of the Bible with the cultural world in
which the Patriarchs and the newly-formed Hebrew nation lived. A century and a half ago,
little was known of the ancient cultrual context of the Israelites, bu in the last fifty
or so years a knowledge explosion concerning that context has burst upon us. As usual, a
lag between the Bible student's grasp of this new knowledge and the transference of it
to relatively nonacademic circles has characterized the past several decades. I have sought
to describe and to interpret the relationship of this knowledge explosion to the Pentateuch,
a protion of the Old Testament of fundamental importance.
Part I of this volume is designed to give a general background to the
entire Old Testament. Part II is focused on the thought patterns of the Pentateuch, both
in their similarity and their contrast to concepts and practices depicted in ancient
nonbiblical literature of religious nature. Part III is structured to speak to problems
of basic import related to manuscripts of the Pentateuch now availalbe. Viewpoints of
various approaches to these problems are evaluated.
I wish to express gratitude to associates who have provided valued
suggestions as this material was gathered and arranged in its present form. Special
appreciation is owed to my esteemd colleague Dr. John N. Oswalt, who not only has teamed
with me in presenting the content of this volume to successive classes of ministerial
students, but has contributed many helpful insights and pointed out changes that needed
to be made in the text.
My thanks are due to Miss Juanita Spencer for critically examining
grammar and punctuation, to Mrs. Rececca Sawyer and Mrs. Marilyn James who contributed
their typing skills to the project, and to my wife, Maria, for her encouragement and
help in proofreading and preparing the indexes.
G. Herbert Livingston
Asbury Theological Seminary