Are There Any Good Introductions to the Writings?

I was reading a bit from Collins’ Introduction to the Hebrew Bible today.  And, I realized once again how much I prefer to read short books over long ones.  Collins is about 700 pages.  Don’t get me wrong, I like long books as reference works.  And, I’ll read them from time to time.  But, I don’t really like to read them straight through from start to finish.  I’d rather read three shorter books that equal or even surpass a bit the length of one long book.

So, I got to thinking about how I might work out teaching an introductory class on the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible (if ever asked to do so) without using a long textbook.  I’m pretty sure I would use Ska for the Pentateuch (300 pages) and maybe Blenkinsopp for the Prophets (291 pages).  But, I don’t what I would use for the Writings.  Are there any good introductions to the Writings?  I haven’t really found any, but it is also hard to search for “the Writings” because a lot of unrelated stuff pops up.

I realize this way you might have the problem of different methodologies, etc.  But then again, you might also get the benefit of having students read more from specialists in particular areas.  And, it might help students who are like me and prefer to sense of accomplishment from finishing books.  Sounds better to say I read three books as opposed to one!

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  • I’m the same way. Anything much over 300 pages and I start thinking about which portions are worth reading. There are just too many other things worth reading in the world to have the patience for a 700 book unless I really need to read it.

    • Ken: Good to see I’m not alone. I think the last “long book” I really, really enjoyed was the Harry Potter finale.

      Q: If I was going to go Wisdom, I would probably use Crenshaw. But, I would be looking for something on the Writings from the Tanakh.

  • That’s a toughie. I did a basic search from an online bookseller, and I can’t find a volume that covered all of the Writings in the Tanakh. Here’s what I was able to find:

    Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Psalms & Wisdom Literature (ISBN: 0830825533)
    Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms (080103888X)
    Mercer Commentary on the Bible: (Wisdom) Writings (0865545081)
    An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books (0802441572)

  • an oldie but an excellent-y, gerhard von rad’s ‘wisdom in israel’ –

    or r.b.y. scott’s ‘the way of wisdom’

    you wont do any better than these two, i assure you.

  • A quick browse through the Library of Congress ( for BS1309 doesn’t look promising either. (Take a look for yourself.)

    Gladstone has a new book out (only 486 pages and $130, which would make it a great textbook ;-).

    Webb’s “Five Festal Garments” (2000) might be interesting in part, but it’s heavily loaded on biblical theology, so depending on your context and purposes…

    Let me know when you find one.

    • Jim: Do those cover all of the Writings? Or, just wisdom?

      Ben: I may have to check out Webb and see what it’s like. Ska and Blenkinsopp are pretty heavy historical-critical, but it might would be a nice change of pace. I don’t know if I would ever have to use this set up anyway. Just something I was thinking about.

  • I imagine if you actually assigned three 300+ page books to a group of OT 101 students, they would probably riot.

    • Ken,
      One thing you’re mistaking here is that I would care in any way whatsoever about student feelings 😉