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The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book will become a standard reference tool for all serious students of the Bible."

About the Author

David A. Dorsey (Ph.D., Dropsie College) is professor of Old Testament at the Evangelical School of Theology in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Roads and Highways of Ancient Israel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801027934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801027932
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very important one-volume study on chiasmus that deserves shelf space for any biblical enthusiast of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). After a very instructive twenty-nine page introduction to biblical literary structure, the author organizes his analyses of biblical structure book by book (English order) of the Old Testament Scriptures. As he states in his Preface: "At first I planned to include analyses of all the books of the Old Testament. Then reason set in, and I selected a small sampling of biblical books on which to focus. In the end, however, Kenneth Miller, my colleague at Evangelical School of Theology, convinced me to reverse this decision and return to my original (foolhardy) plan. I am keenly aware that what I have gained in breadth by greater coverage I have lost in depth. But I am satisfied with the decision, and hope that the resulting product will be more useful to readers" (p. 9).
If you are at all interested in biblical structure of the Old Testament and its importance in relation to correct interpretation, you will never regret purchasing this indispensable volume. As the author himself states: "Certainly it is time for surface-structural analysis to take its place among the important disciplines within biblical studies. Old Testament authors communicated their message through the arrangement of their compositions as well as through verbal content. Modern commentators devote much effort to clarifying the verbal content of passages of scripture but give relatively little attention to the arrangement of this content. If we are to understand more fully the books of the Hebrew Bible, we must pay greater attention to their structures and to what those structures reveal about their meaning. The purpose of the present work is to encourage renewed interest in this promising and important aspect of interpretation" (pp. 327-328).
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Format: Paperback
This book is valuable to help students of Scripture see the pattern of each Old Testament book. The author provides us with symmetrical outlines, typically providing a "Center Point" which is th emphasis or "pinnacle" of the section. But the arrangement is not just his creation: it really fits the organization of the book under study. This outline exemplifies an orderly arrangement called chiasmus (or chiasm). It looks something like this: A B C Center Point C' B' A' And most of the Old Testament typically does indeed (naturally) flow into this pattern.

This work is useful in two ways:
(1) hermeneutically (interpretationally), it shows us where the climax of the section is located and how the symmetrical pattern before and after it modifies that climax;
(2) instructionally (for preaching or teaching) it directs us to a concentration point. This is useful in many ways, but it is particularly helpful when we are addressing highlights from the various books of the Old Testament.

This is not the type of book one would read through, but it is a reference book to pull off the shelf when a person is preparing to study a particular book of the Old Testament. I would include this volume under the label of "introductory material." Although it is subtitled as a "commentary" it is not a verse by verse work, but rather a commentary on the main structure (and outline) of the books involved. The book is slightly more than 300 pages long.

The average laymen would probably not find this book very useful, but folks interested and active in Bible teaching (particuarly at an adult level) would probably enjoy this work.
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Format: Hardcover
I believe this to be a very important and necessary work.
The Literary Structure of the Old Testament gives a great overview of the use of literary patterns found to be common in the OT. It also covers each book of the OT in some detail.
Why should we care about the literary patterns in the OT? The ancient Hebrew author used them to communicate meaning. And if you want to know what an OT author was saying then you need to understand these patterns and how he would have used them. David Dorsey helps us see this in this wonderful book.
If you are a serious student of the Hebrew text.. then I encourage to get this book. You will be enlightened by it.
I personally keep 5-10 copies of this book to give to those who I know would appreciate it.
Many thanks to Dr. Dorsey for his time and effort.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very fine book and a practical resource for understanding of structural patterns in the Old Testament (OT). It provides a brief but nice overview of structural analysis, which is then followed by Dorsey's analysis and commentary of every OT book.

Dorsey begins with the premise that while most OT books may appear to us to be hopelessly disorganized, their authors indeed followed structural and organizational pattern which are however very different from our own. Hence, unless we are familiar with these structural patterns we simply fail to detect them. This implies that proper deciphering of the structure of an OT books leads to proper understanding of its meaning. The other very important premise is that much of the OT material was intended to be heard or listened to, rather than to be read. Thus authors of these text employed oral markers rather than written or textual typesetting as we know it in our printed materials.

The introductory unit reviews basic principles of structural analysis and provides some elementary tools for the reader to use in his or her own study. Dorsey first provides basic overview of the fields with its historical roots and evolution of structural analysis up to our day. The next four chapters deal with the following topics; definition of literary units, arrangement of units, understanding the structure and meaning and finally discussing value of structural analysis. These chapters are detailed enough for one to be able to pick up some new tools and skills, yet not too esoteric for a casual reader. Further, Dorsey provides enough references for the interested reader to pursue any given topic in more detail.
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