The first five books of the Old Testament lay the foundation on which the rest of Scripture stands. Its great themes, epochal events and towering figures set the stage on which the biblical story is played out. The very shape of the rest of the Old Testament would collapse were the Pentateuch to be removed. The structure of New Testament thought would be barely intelligible without it. Here we meet the great ancestral figures of Israel—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and the towering figure of Moses, whose presence dominates four of these five books. The creative act of God, the paradisal garden, the exile of Adam and Eve, the judgment of the great flood, the call of Abraham from among the nations, the covenant of Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the law at Sinai, the plan of the tabernacle, the varied experiences of Israel in the wilderness, and the announcement of the covenant blessings and curses—all of these and more contribute to a work of world-formative power. This dictionary explores the major themes and contours of the Pentateuch.
The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is the first in a four-volume series covering the text of the Old Testament. This encyclopedic work is characterized by its close attention to the text of the Old Testament and the ongoing conversation of contemporary scholarship. In exploring the major themes and issues of the Pentateuch, editors T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, with an international and expert group of scholars, inform and challenge through authoritative overviews, detailed examinations, and new insights from the world of the ancient Near East.
Your first stop in the study and research of the Pentateuch!
Behind and beneath the grandeur of the Pentateuch are issues of historicity which have both puzzled and beckoned. But whereas in the mid-twentieth century many English-speaking scholars were confident of archaeological support for the patriarchal accounts, the climate has now changed. In the most extreme cases, some contemporary scholars have radically challenged the antiquity of the ancestral stories, arguing for their final composition even as late as the Hellenistic era. This dictionary examines and weighs the historical issues and poses possible solutions.
The documentary hypothesis—the former reigning critical consensus—is now widely rumored to be on life support with no heir apparent. Meanwhile, conservative scholars reconsider what indeed a claim to Mosaic authorship should entail. This dictionary offers an assessment of the array of questions surrounding these issues and considers some possible ways forward for evangelical scholarship.
At the same time, there has been a fruitful turning to the nature, message, and art of the received text of the Pentateuch. Literary studies of brief episodes, sprawling sagas, complex narrative, and even the fivefold composition of the Pentateuch itself have delivered promising and exciting results. This dictionary offers both appreciative panoramas and close-up assessments of these developments and their methods.
The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch is designed to be your first stop in the study and research of the Pentateuch, on which the rest of the Bible is built.
“The full significance of the imago Dei must, it seems, be drawn from both these notions. Humankind is in the image of God but also serves as the image. Humans have resemblance to God, even if limited, but stand in God’s place in the administration of God’s creation.” (Page 444)
“it is a solemn commitment guaranteeing promises or obligations undertaken by one or both covenanting parties” (Page 139)
“Ancient traditions do not typically begin with nothing. Instead, they start with a condition devoid of order, function or purpose. Creation then takes place by giving things order, function and purpose, which is synonymous with giving them existence.” (Page 156)
“While the Pentateuch was not written as a historical document but as a theological one, its theology is nevertheless historically based, and impugning its historicity has theological outcomes.” (Page 802)
“Sacrifices and offerings are the means for the Israelites to approach God and thus have fellowship with him.” (Page 525)
T. Desmond Alexander is director of Christian training at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. From 1980 to 1999, he was lecturer in Semitic studies at the Queen’s University of Belfast. His main field of research is the Pentateuch, about which he has written extensively in academic journals and books. Alexander also has a special interest in the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. He is the author of From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Main Themes of the Pentateuch and Abraham in the Negev, and he is a coeditor (with Brian S. Rosner) of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP, 2000), available from Logos.
David W. Baker is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. He serves as editor for the Evangelical Theological Society Dissertation and Evangelical Theological Society Studies series as well as for Sources for Biblical and Theological Studies (Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake). He is coauthor (with Bill T. Arnold) of The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches. In addition, he has written many articles, essays and commentaries.