My Favorite Books for Studying the Old Testament
Ever since my freshman year’s seminary teacher taught us a lesson on Deborah (our Deborah wrote a fabulous post about this OT story), I’ve loved the Old Testament. I loved it even more once I got to college and graduate school where I discovered books that made the stories all the more clear and real to me. Here are some of my favorite resources that I use when I study the Old Testament.
Note: These books won’t really help give you answers in Gospel Doctrine class, but they do help with understanding the history, culture, and alternative translations of the Old Testament.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha
Edited by Michael D. Coogan, et al
By far, my favorite and most used resource when studying the scriptures. The footnotes are great. The language is modern without feeling sacrilegious (I’m sure it’s just me, but having grown up with the King James Version, I often have a hard time with bibles that don’t say, “thee” and “ye.”). If you want an alternative bible to our KJV, I highly, highly recommend this one.
Tanakh: a New Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text
By the Jewish Publication Society
My second favorite bible only because it doesn’t have the New Testament and Apocrypha. The footnotes aren’t as exhaustive as the Oxford edition, but they do offer helpful alternative literal translations of tricky words. This version of the Tanakh is also one of the most commonly used by academics.
The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Classic Edition
This book indexes every word in the Bible, which is handy for someone like me who tends to only remember paraphrases of scriptures I want to find. It also provides the Hebrew or Greek definition these words.
Who Wrote the Bible?
By Richard E. Friedman
Essential for understanding the basics of biblical criticism and authorship. I think it’s fascinating to see who wrote or edited parts of the Old Testament (surprise, Moses wasn’t the author of the first five books). It was one of the first books that taught me that even the Bible has biases in its writing.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible
By Bruce M Metzger and Michael D Coogan
Think of it as your Bible Dictionary but more thorough. This book provides nice concise definitions written by scholars (My Biblical Hebrew professor wrote Jezebel’s entry!).
And for a more feminist slant:
Searching the Scriptures: a Feminist Commentary, Volume 2
Edited by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Volume 2 has women analyzing the various texts in the Old and New Testaments. The essays on the passages are enjoyable to read and thoroughly researched. (Volume 1 is more of an overview of the voices of feminism—still worthwhile, but not a direct textual analysis.)
Biblical Women in the Midrash
By Naomi M. Hyman
I don’t know if this book is even still in print, but I love it…it has chapters on women in the Bible, starting out with the story from the Bible, then rabbinic commentary, followed up by modern feminist commentary (in the forms of essays, poems, songs)—very cool.
Jewish Women in Greco-Roman Palestine
by Tal Ilan
Uses primary sources to give a thorough description of women during the biblical (Old and New Testaments) time periods. It can get a little dense, but I found it ultimately worthwhile for painting a good picture of women’s status.
I’d love to hear your favorites, too!