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Getting the Old Testament: What It Meant to Them, What It Means for Us

Format: Digital
ISBN: 9780801045745


As readers of texts written in antiquity we frequently find ourselves in the position of one who overhears a conversation without the benefit of context. The likelihood of humorous (or tragic) misunderstanding is palpable. In Getting the Old Testament: What It Meant to Them, What It Means for Us, Steven Bridge examines a number of important texts and genres found in the Old Testament. By bringing what is known of their original historical and literary context to light, he clearly demonstrates how important it is to know the cultural background of those to whom a text was originally addressed. Bridge helps us as modern readers to grasp the intended significance of these ancient texts.

Using modern illustrations from Bart Simpson to fortune cookies, and discussing texts from Genesis to Jonah to Ecclesiastes, Bridge succeeds in making difficult texts come alive for the reader and shows how they practically apply to modern life. Each chapter begins with a story, event, or illustration that draws the reader into Bridge’s point with regard to the clearest understanding of a particular text or given group of texts. The most poignant of these illustrations is found at the beginning of his chapter on the book of Job, in which he begins with the story of Lou Gehrig and the disease that took his life, ALS (known more commonly as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and ends with his own father’s death from ALS.

An annotated list of suggested readings as well as subject and Scripture indexes make this a practical book for college classes.

The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.

Key Features

  • Intends to help readers to “get” the Old Testament and what it can mean to them
  • Reads in a conversational tone with modern references and language
  • Includes various illustrations, tables, and pictures to help enforce points


  • Part I—The Law (Torah)
    • The First Creation Story—Is It True?
    • The Second Creation Story—Internal Contradictions?
    • The Great Flood—Revising History
    • The Abraham Narratives—Middle East Implications
    • The Torah—Beyond the Ten Commandments
  • Part II—The Prophets (Nevi’im)
    • The Prophets—God’s Spokespersons
    • The Book of Jonah—Prophecy Parodied
    • The Book of Daniel—Prophecy of the End
  • Part III—The Writings (Kethuvim)
    • The Book of Proverbs—Conventional Wisdom
    • The Book of Ecclesiastes—Unconventional Wisdom I
    • The Book of Job—Unconventional Wisdom II
  • Appendix A—Narrative Timeline 1 (Creation to the United Monarchy)
  • Appendix B—Ancient Near Eastern Laws and the Torah
  • Appendix C—Comparative Canons of Scripture
  • Appendix D—Narrative Timeline 2 (United Monarchy to Greek Rule)
  • Appendix E—The Writing Prophets
  • Appendix F—The Prophetic Notion of Justice
  • Appendix G—Equidistant Letter Sequencing Explained
  • Appendix H—Proverbs’ Two Ways (Behaviors)
  • Appendix I—Proverbs’ Two Ways (Consequences)
  • Appendix J—Wisdom 2:1–3:11

Praise for the Print Edition

Steve Bridge’s Getting the Old Testament is a fun and easy way to get a good overview of how modern biblical studies have opened up our understanding of the Old Testament. He combines contemporary examples, light but scholarly descriptions, and many charts to craft a very readable understanding of the development and purpose of the Hebrew Scriptures.

—Lawrence Boadt, emeritus professor of Scripture studies, Washington Theological Union

A genuinely fresh approach to teaching Scripture, this book eloquently speaks to both the academy and the religious community.

Jacob Neusner, Distinguished Service Professor of the History and Theology of Judaism and Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Theology, Bard College

Professor Bridge combines a deep and accurate appreciation for traditional literary and historical scholarship with an intense desire to identify and communicate a message to Gen Next students. Appropriately in the contemporary mode, he confronts our twenty-first-century readerly responses to the Hebrew Bible and uses those connections to build appropriate meanings. This is a marvelous volume for drawing us into the text, probing it, and probing ourselves.

—Barry Bandstra, Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink Professor, Hope College

In the quest for the ultimate undergraduate textbook, Bridge’s Getting the Old Testament has got a significant place. . . . There is much to recommend this book. The scope is ambitious and the format compelling: to give an introduction to the Hebrew Bible is no mean task.

Expository Times

Steven Bridge finds God in the countless contradictions of the Old Testament—the places that make most Christians squirm. . . . Many fundamentalists gloss over these contradictions or try to explain them away. For Bridge, it is the contradictions themselves that hold the greatest depth and teachings about God. . . . Every now and then it is healthy for Christians to read such books as Getting the Old Testament, because they drag us away from the temptation to become influenced by the forcefully argued and emotionally-charged renderings of the Bible by Christian fundamentalists. Bridge shows that it is these fundamentalists who are missing out on the Bible’s true riches, by refusing to enter into the dangerous crevices and strange, seemingly senseless juxtapositions and irrationalities of the Old Testament.

Catholic Herald

Overall, there is much to commend in this book. Bridge effectively grips his audience with numerous poignant and engaging illustrations from personal experience and from popular culture (e.g. The Simpsons, The Bible Code, Alan Jackson’s ‘Where Were You,’ and more). His clear writing style is full of humor and is accessible to the introductory student, and his charts, tables, and appendices superbly parallel his prose.

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Overall, Bridge’s concern for traditional and literary critical scholarship has been effectively combined with his desire to communicate those approaches [to] a contemporary audience. This book would be a useful supplement to any Old Testament Introduction class or to any professor looking for ways to communicate with GenNext students.

Review of Biblical Literature

Product Details

  • Title: Getting the Old Testament: What it Meant to Them, What it Means for Us
  • Author: Steven L. Bridge
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 248

About Steven L. Bridge

Steven L. Bridge is a professor of theology and the chair of the department at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. He has taught biblical studies at parishes, high schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States for over a decade.