My Rating – Must Read
Level – Moderate difficulty (good knowledge of OT and history, but written for popular audience), medium length (about 300 pages)
The content of the book is straight from the title, reviewing controversial passages from the Old Testament. Longman is an Old Testament scholar, so there is much of his own research and writing on his view, but he interacts with at least 2-3 opposing views/books on each subject.
The lay out of the book is the introduction (un-paginated, but y’all need to read it) then the four controversies (Creation & Evolution, History, Divine Violence, Sexuality) and then an epilogue (he titles ‘Final Word’). Each chapter is broken into three or four subsections with a conclusion at the end and an excurses or two along the way. The other chapters are probably clear, but ‘History’ refers to the Exodus and the Conquests.
The only real critique I have is probably an issue for the publisher, the subtitle list Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence which neither matches the order of the chapters, nor is it in alphabetical order. Not sure why they chose they order they did, and maybe it doesn’t bother anyone else, but here we are.
I think books like this will only become more important as we move further in our post-Christian world (at least in the West). The subtitle of Enns’ The Bible Tells Me So… really explains our situation: ‘Why defending Scripture has left us unable to read it’. This was the way I learned about the Bible in high school, and I hear much of this way of thinking form people today. This is especially true for the first two chapters (Creation & Evolution, and History). People want to rush to defend it in a modern way against modern critiques and ignore what the point was (and still is) from a theological perspective when it was written thousands of years ago. I should note if you like Enns, Longman was his professor at one point and interacts with his book in this book.
I believe strongly that everyone should have this book for the first two chapters alone. I fear one reason we argue the way we do about Genesis and early books is it is just simpler. We don’t want to reason, or read, or understand something beyond the basics, most ‘literal’ understanding. This book would do well to challenge both people ‘for & against’ some of the readings of the early books of the Bible.
The Divine Violence section was maybe the weakest, but I think it is still an important one. Some of the most basic attacks from New Atheists are based on things like the so called genocide and cosmic child abuse. While this isn’t as strong as other sections, it is well worth interacting with, if for no other reason than learning more of the other side. Similarly, there probably isn’t much new for most people about Sexuality. The Bible is pretty clear, and most arguments against this perspective come down to personal preference (E.g. I think it is fine if they love each other, who cares?, etc.) However, this section does give some good verses as well as the whole picture throughout the Bible. Maybe more interesting than that, it also puts the spotlight back on us and challenge the fact of polygamy in the Bible, which was fairly challenging.
As I mentioned above, this really is a must read for anyone who wants to take the Bible seriously. If we care about the Bible and want to understand it (and views against it), we need to interact more with controversies and other hard aspects that challenge our understanding or reading of the Bible.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.