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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2004
R.K. Harrison's monumental single-volume "Introduction to the Old Testament" packs in everything you need to get started with a serious study of the Hebrew Scriptures. You will be acquainted especially with the history of scholarly criticisms (e.g. the Graf-Wellhausen JEPD stuff), archaeology, Ancient Near Eastern cultures and languages, book-by-book criticisms, development of theology in the OT era, etc. etc.
Over my years of studying the OT, I have noticed the ever-widening gap between the pew and the academia. The average Church-goer is woefully uninformed regarding issues of OT interpretation. Zealous readers who desire to get more out of their Bible-reading will probably be boggled by the amount of information and views/counter-views of any Critical Commentaries. Most of the time, they have to struggle to understand what was the "big deal" in all the endless arguments of scholars in the said commentaries (I know I did!). Harrison puts all the necessary views/counter-views in one convenient package to acquaint the serious reader with the "esoterica" of the academia.
Harrison hails from the traditional-conservative position. However, he gives ample ground for the presentation and careful consideration of the views of "higher critics" and liberal scholars... all with an objectivity that is laudable in this age of strawberry-flavoured "devotionals". He speaks his mind in many instances - but more with the aim of stimulating his reader to think rather than to convince you of the "infallibility" of traditional-conservative views. All the above reasons make this the BEST single-volume introduction to a lifelong serious study of the Hebrew Scriptures.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 1998
If you want a quick and easy intro to the Old Testament, do not buy this book, as it is long and detailed. If you are a serious student of the scriptures who wants as good of an intro as possible to aid your understanding of the Old Testament, then this is the book for you. This is one of the few academic works about which I can actually say that it made a true difference in my confidence about the truth of Christianity. Highly recommended.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 13, 2002
A handful of years ago Thomas Thompson (of the Copenhagen School) wrote a message on an Internet listserv that he did not consider Roland K. Harrison to be a historian. However that was about 1995 and Harrison's book is from 1969 when the issues of historicity were not the same.
Harrison begins his "introduction" (the book runs over 1300 pages) with a review of the development of Old Testament study. A special chapter is dedicated to the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis and another chapter to reactions to the same. This section is followed by ones on archaeology, chronology, and the text and canon of the Old Testament. Following sections deal with Old Testament history, religion, and
theology.
After almost 500 pages, Harrison begins to deal with the books of the Old Testament beginning with the Pentateuch. This is followed by sections of the prophets and the writings, the other two sections of the Tanakh. Finally comes a section on the Apocrypha.
Needless to say Harrison's Introduction is thorough. His includes some 400 pages more than that of Robert Pfeiffer and 850 pages more than Osterley and Robinson. THIS book is the place to start for anyone interested in what we call Old Testament studies.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2007
Just to inform everyone, the Vol. 1 [paperback] edition, ends with PART EIGHT: THE PENTATEUCH, and is 662 pages. I searched for Vol. 2 but it seems as if it is not available. These are reprints by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (First printing, September 1969; Reprinted, June 1979).

Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., publishes the hardcover edition in arrangement with Eerdmans. It contains both volumes, topping out at 1335 pages.

I own both of the books listed above - the format is identical, the font is a nice readable size, and the paper quality is good.

The paperback edition just edges out over the hardcover because the printing stock is an eggshell color whereas the other is white. A very minor detail for sure, but when reading for an extended period, the off-whites are easier on the eyes.

Finally, might I humbly suggest two sources for a solid start on understanding the OT are the volume listed above and "Kingdom Prologue, by Meredith G. Kline".
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2009
The author seeks to correct many of the errors of mainly 19th century theological liberalism in regard to the old testament. This is not to say that Harrison takes a conservative approach, he is very much still under the modernist mindset. An example: he feels a need to explain that Elijah was probably taken up by means of a tornado (page 727). However, he does a fair job at exposing the way many liberal theories have been made to look silly by archaeological finds in the 19th and 20th centuries. He takes a big part of the book on this and on things like sources. For example, of 37 pages for the book of Isaiah, 31 are on authorship, 1 on structure, 2 on textual criticism, virtual nothing on the message of the book. However, he does not deal with all books in a fixed pattern. Others fare better.
I guess this book is ok for those who are aware of liberal attacks and need some assurance of the Bible as historical truth. For anyone looking for theological insights and understanding of what the old testament books are really about, this book is not it. Despite some justified criticism of von Rad, his two volumes on old testament theology do a far better job at that: see Old Testament Theology (2 Volume Set).
If the title or blurb better explained what this book is about I would have given another star or two.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2007
If you are after a comprehensive study of thought of the Old Testament, then this is the perfect book. Though this book is 40 years old, it still remains highly recommended as one of the best sources for study.
Harrison endeavours to evaluate all views of thought and weighs them by their merits. Harrison is honest and does not let his own view point skew the evidence, no matter where the evidence leads. This isn't to say that he doesn't put forth his views, but when he does it is merely supplementary.
Harrison is faithful to a conservative view of the Old Testament, taking it at face value and justifying his position authoritatively and empirically. Though there have been many attempts at denigrating the historicity of the Old Testament, Harrison is convincing in its defence.

If you want a comprehensive study of thought of the Old Testament, then there is none better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
R.K. Harrison was professor of Old Testament at Wycliffe College in Toronto when he wrote this volume in 1969. (There is a one-volume edition of 1325 pages; the page numbers below refer to the one-volume edition.)

Harrison states in the Preface, "The present work is an attempt to evaluate the contents of the Old Testament and Apocrypha against the vast background of knowledge that is now available ... Considerable emphasis has been placed upon methodology in an endeavor to permit the Hebrew Scriptures to speak for themselves ... Much of what has passed for critical study in this field has in fact consisted largely of this application of a priori literary-critical theories, often in apparent isolation from methodological approaches involving archaeology, comparative religion ... All of these have a part to play in the proper understanding of the Scriptural record, and must now take their place beside literary and textual criticism as valid means to this end."

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"What is immediately clear is that it is far from easy to associate any one of these deposits at all closely with the flood described in Genesis. Yet it is still a fact that Mesopotamia suffered from cataclysmic inundations at different periods in antiquity." (Pg. 99)
"The biblical narratives of the creation and fall of man are particularly good examples of material that partakes of the basic character of ancient Mesopotamian myth. In an even wider sense they reflect the concern of the oriental mind ... to safeguard by every possible means that which is most precious, and protect it from the profane by cloaking it in story form." (Pg. 456)
"(M)any of the supposed anachronisms of the Pentateuch can be explained on the basis of successive scribal revisions that had the effect of bringing the text up to date in certain areas." (Pg. 524)
"Even when a particular book was in substantially its final form long after the time of Moses, there would still be occasion for alterations or additions. This again is in full accord with the general literary traditions of the ancient Near East..." (Pg. 540)
"the translation of Elijah ... was most probably accomplished by means of a tornado." (Pg. 727)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2007
This is an excellent, scholarly and comprehensive treatment of the OT. RK Harrison, the author, is apparently recognized by conservative and liberal thelolgians (possibly begrudgingly by the latter) for his precision and objectivity as a scholar. I especially appreciated Harrison's critical analysis of higher criticism including his conclusion that that discipline as a so-called scientific method is significantly flawed in light of recent archaelogical and related findings. This book is the best of its kind and I highly recommend it!
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on April 16, 2015
Available in 2 parts or in 1 volume, this is **THE** classic Old Testament introduction by an Evangelical/Conservative. You can buy it used for almost nothing, and compared to the newer works on the subject, you are likely to find that you use it more often, except for the bibliographies in the newer books.
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on March 11, 2015
Excelente
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