Subject: Old Testament

I Dare You Not to Bore Me with The Bible

Why Do We Recommend This Book? 

I Dare You Not to Bore Me with The Bible is one of the best books I recently read. Do you also sometimes come across passages in the Bible that you think are just too obscure, too odd, too perplexing, maybe even too frightening? What would you do about those passages? Ignore them, skip them? Michael S. Heiser describes his experience as a teacher at a Bible college, where his students were all grown up in church and all came to class with that outlook on their faces that scream: ‘I dare you not to bore me with the Bible.’ For people that have grown up with God’s Word, the Bible can simply be too familiar. You have heard all those stories so many times since childhood, can they really spark anything in you anymore? The answer is an absolute: ‘Yes!’ and this book gives evidence of it.

The book is divided into two main sections: the first section deals with the Old Testament. Each chapter offers a short discussion of a curious detail from the Scriptures. And the author does not shy away from the difficult bits and pieces. You will read about the bloody event in which God wanted to kill Moses because his son was not circumcised. You will learn why the word ‘scapegoat’ is not the best translation in the context of the Day of Atonement ritual as described in Leviticus 16:8-10. The author discusses a range of topics, from the love potion from Numbers 5, through the relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the most horrific story in the Bible (Judges 19-20).

The second part of the book contains chapters on the New Testament. Have you ever considered that the rock in Matthew 16:18 is not Peter, nor his confession, but the foot of Mount Hermon which is the demonic headquarters of the Old Testament and the Greek world? They were standing right besides the ‘gates of hell’ and hell will be buried under the church. I bet this does not sound boring, does it? Does the New Testament authors make mistakes when they quote from the Old Testament? When did Satan fall like lightning? Why does Paul tell the Corinthians to deliver one of their people to Satan? These and similar questions as well as the author’s answers to them guarantee that you will not be bored a moment while reading this book about the Bible.

Heiser is very familiar with the ancient cultural background of the Bible and this knowledge often helps him better understand difficult passages that we often find just too obscure to be relevant.

The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters

Why Do We Recommend This Book? 

The Septuagint: What It Is and Why It Matters is one of the best introductions to the Septuagint that I have seen. The main reason for this qualification is that in 216 pages the authors are able not only to introduce the readers to the Septuagint in a very accessible way, but also to argue for its relevance for today’s study of the Bible. The introduction is clear enough to serve as a first encounter with the Septuagint, while the 255 footnotes throughout the book provide sufficient food for further study for those who want more.

The book has two main sections, which the title already suggests: 1) What is the Septuagint? and 2) Why does the Septuagint matter? The first part consists of four chapters that are devoted to describing the Septuagint from different angles:

  • the first two chapters deal with the origin of the Septuagint and how people came to speak about the Septuagint, while they also explain that there is no such thing as the Septuagint;
  • the third chapter gives an overview of the characteristics of the Greek Old Testament by discussing the underlying translation philosophy and methods as well as its style and register;
  • the fourth chapter describes how the Septuagint developed through revisions and recensions.

Many readers will find the second section the most interesting part of the book: why does the Septuagint matter? Does the Septuagint still have any significance for today? And only for scholars or also for pastors and laypeople? Therefore the authors discuss three topics in this section:

  • chapter five discusses the relevance of the Septuagint for Old Testament Studies. One aspect is the fact that the Septuagint contains more texts than the Hebrew Old Testament, while from another perspective the Septuagint can be seen as an early interpretation of the Hebrew Old Testament;
  • chapter six deals with the same question for the New Testament. The Septuagint has undeniably influenced the New Testament in many ways, but should it be considered as ‘the Old Testament Bible’ for New Testament authors and the early church?
  • chapter seven finally answers the question what kind of authority the Septuagint has. In order to do so, the authors make a helpful distinction between 1) normative authority, 2) derivative authority, and 3) interpretative authority.

The book is interspersed with interesting examples that show the relevance of the study of the Septuagint for today. For laypeople I especially like the Appendix with ‘Ten Key Questions about the Septuagint’ which serves as a concise summary (8 pages) of the most important aspects of the Septuagint and study thereof. This section also provides a small bibliography (13 titles) of recommended resources for further exploring the topics which are discussed in the book.

The only aspect that I find missing in this introduction is a discussion about how the source text of the Septuagint compares to the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Old Testament, also in comparison to what we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Did the Septuagint translators have access to a much older Hebrew text than the MT? This question significantly impacts how people assess the authority of the Septuagint.