12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2006
An updated English translation of Professor J. Alberto Soggin's heralded Italian work covering the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. Soggin opens his introduction by encouraging both believers and non-believers to set aside personal prejudice and preconceived notions so that the Old Testament may be considered in its relevant historical contexts. The purpose of the Author here is not to convert or deconvert the reader, but to encourage the student to see the texts in a newly connected way considering a number of different perspectives. Reading Soggin's volume, I came to expand my understanding of how the various Old Testament writings developed.
Soggin explains how these books came to be considered canon in the Jewish tradition and later by Christians, as well as the controversies relating to certain books. The differences between pronounciation in Jewish cultures (Ashkenazi vs. Sephardic), how "modernized" Hebrew came about in order to insure standard pronounciation of text, Palestinian vs. Alexandrian Canon, The Hebrew Bible (Codix Leningradensis), The Greek Translations (Septuigent), the Samartian Pentateuch, Aramaic paraphrases and translations, Latin translations, and...well, you get the idea.
Soggin explains the differences between the "Yawahist" and the "Elohist" texts (usually blended together in our modern ranslations), their hallmarks, and how to tell them apart. He discusses the parallel histories of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel and the sources of Legal and the Priestly writings, influences, basis, etc. Soggin covers all of the books, including all of the known deutero-canonical works (more commonly called the apocrypha), such as Tobit, Judith, additions to Daniel and Esther, Maccabees i-iv, etc. Soggin lists other prominent works and highlights the various disputes among scholars in each book's overview. Bibliographies are listed at the end of each chapter, which helps pinpoint specific works relevant to each individual subject.
Includes Appendices on Palestinian Inscriptions, Samraritan Papyri, etc. and a Chronological table showing the relation in time between Israel, Judah, events in text, Egypt, and Phonecia/Syria. Indexed. This book isn't an easy read for the non-academic, indeed this text has been used in theological seminaries for years. I found my efforts at reading this book rewarded chapter by chapter. All in all, an excellent study and introduction to literary criticism in the Old Testament.