How to Read the Old Testament

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Front Cover for How to Read the Old Testament

How to Read the Old Testament

This book is for those who want to read the Bible but don't know how to go about it. It is a simple, yet ambitous guide to the Old Testament geared toward the adult learner.

Crossroad's "How to Read" and "How to Understand" books have been acclaimed as the best introductory texts for either individual or group study. Ideal for adult Christian formation, each volume engages the adult learner, captures the richness of Christian tradition, and relates learning to everyday living.

Reviews and endorsements

“Beautifully illustrated . . . clearly written and . . . inspired . . . the best Catholic scholarship.”
Our Sunday Visitor

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“A rare combination of scholarly material, presented in a readable, interesting and useful manner for the novice Scripture student.”
St. Anthony Messenger

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“A monument to the author’s familiarity with the best of biblical scholarship and his great ability to communicate. The result of such gifts is that the reader is led gently into the world of the Scriptures . . . and invited to share in an adventure of faith seeking understanding.”
Emmanuel

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“Sound, insightful, and interesting.”
Sewanne Theological Review

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“Combines scholarship, objectivity, and readability in a manner that should be acceptable to all denominations. Highly recommended as Bible study material."
Library Journal

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“First choice for anyone seeking an introductory text.”
—Christian Board of Publications

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"One should not be deceived by the 'how to' in the titles of Charpentier. They call for a serious reading of the Bible, and at the same time provide inspiration and insight for the tyro. In a disarming preface he makes no claim to authorship; he is only the provider of the helpful scholarly insights found in the books. Moreover he is pedagogically sensitive (and just about perfect). He provides enlightening and substantial sections on geography, ancient Hebrew mentality, the broad sweep of Israelite history, and a treatment of certain key texts (Exod. 13-14, to illustrate the various traditions; Gen. 2-3, against the background of ancient creation stories). He makes concrete suggestions on how to read the Old Testament, offering a 'toolbox' designed to prevent sloppy reading."
Roland E. Murphy, B & R Review

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"An extraordinary book, both a simple guide for first readers of the Bible, and a rich introduction to the complexity of history, literature, and movements in the Bible. Many pedagogical devices are used: gray borders for the pages which summarize history (these can be read one after another for an overview); the biblical text is dissected so that one can spot and read independently the various traditions, woven together in a single account (like the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly traditions in Exod 13-14). Religious details like 'original sin' or 'human sacrifice' or literary/historical details like 'former prophets' or 'myth' are boxed for quick, special treatment. Altogether one of the most successful 'how to' books for the Old Testament."
The Bible Today

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"For someone seeking a way to begin studying the Bible, someone who has little or no background, this book could well be the answer. It presupposes nothing in the way of prior study, and it leads the student gently and firmly through the Old Testament, giving a sampling of history, literature, and interpretation to whet the appetite for further work later.

The format of the book is simple but with sound scholarship, and the positions taken are widely accepted among Old Testament researchers, even though some might prefer other solutions to the critical problems.

The final pages list works which should make taking the next step easy. I unreservedly recommend the book."
Living Church

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"How are we to cope with that immense, sprawling, disturbing, and compelling work which is the foundation of our cultural and religious heritage? . . . written by a skilled religious educator who, until his tragic death in 1981, was responsible to the French Catholic bishops for promoting biblical literacy in that country. He has provided the historical information and critical perspectives which are indispensable to understanding the Bible on its own terms and relating it to our own spirituality. Both objectives are legitimate. 

The introduction to the Old Testament might serve as a text for private study, or a semester seminar at the college level, or for a whole year by a Bible study group meeting once a week. There is a general introduction to the OT world, emphasizing the geography of the ancient Near East, the mentality of its people, and the major divisions of Israelite history, followed by eight chapters with the necessary information for an intelligent grasp of the individual books. Best of all, there is a steady insistence on personal effort, the raising of questions, and unremitting contact with the text itself. The 'tool box' on p. 14 should be consulted regularly."
Frederick L. Moriarty, S. J., visiting professor in Biblical Studies at the University of Scranton

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"This book by Charpentier provides an excellent overview of the Old Testament, utilizing structural analysis, historical analysis, and connections with the New Testament and Christian liturgy. Though it is full of basic scholarly information, it always treats scripture as the word of God, bringing out the religious significance—even of passages which do not appear particularly edifying. Charpentier understands the Old Testament at a depth where its relevance to many contemporary issues becomes apparent.

The first chapter provides a basic approach to scripture as a faith document, to methods of biblical study, and to such practical information as how to find a biblical reference. The author is particularly gifted at making contemporary scholarly approaches less threatening by comparing them to everyday experiences . . .

This is an outstanding program for a fairly sophisticated group with some familiarity with the biblical story and a willingness to do serious preparation."
Picking the "Right" Bible Study Program, ACTA Publications

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"The late Father Charpentier certainly possessed the quality praised by the Appalachian folk hymn: 'Tis a gift to be simple . . .' These companion guides for reading and studying the Bible are simple, clear, well illustrated by anecdotes and examples, yet generally accurate and adequate in the information imparted. The guides can be used as easily by individuals as by groups.

In each book an introductory section points out basic information essential for understanding each Testament followed by eight chapters suitable for study over a one-year period. The books contain charts, maps, illustrations, side-by-side text comparisons, and a brief bibliography of basic books which have become modem classics.

Both volumes are intended as 'travel guides' to the history of the Bible's people as well as to the actual text. In the Old Testament volume each chapter contains four sections: a summary of part of Israel's history (bordered in grey and capable of being read alone in sequence for a complete historical overview); an introduction to the writings of each period; specific texts for study; and a wide assortment of enlightening information 'boxed' off from the rest of the text . . .

Charpentier correctly urges that Christian readers begin their study with the Old Testament. It comprises more than half their entire Bible. There is an outstanding chapter on how to read the biblical text in the Old Testament volume. And the challenge of applying ancient texts to contemporary life is handled exceptionally well throughout both books."
Sisters Today Magazine


9780824505400
Paperback / 128 pages
Dimensions: 8 x 9
CROSSROAD, 1982