Teachings of the Torah
Attractive, but at times flawed, study of the first five books of the Bible
Teachings of the Torah. Weaving Jewish History with the Christian Faith
By Kent Dobson (editor)
Reviewed by Pieter J. Lalleman
I received a beautiful cardboard box, and in it something bound in imitation leather and closed with a strap.My first thought was: this is not a book!
But it is a book, a kind of study bible: the NIV text of the books Genesis to Deuteronomy, with notes at the bottom of the pages. (Torah is the Hebrew designation for Gen. – Deut.)
The five Bible books are introduced and there are additional charts and articles with background information.
The notes are not as special as the packaging and the subtitle of the book lead you to expect; some do draw from Jewish sources such as rabbis, but others from church fathers, while the majority are simply the kind of explanations that you expect in any study bible.
The content of the introductions and notes is carefully balanced, allowing for a large role of Moses in the writing of the books and cautiously advocating the historicity of the events. Yet when things are enigmatic this is admitted, the large numbers of Israelites (Ex 12:37, Nu 1) are not taken literally, and the massacres are not defended.
Dobson's frequent admission that he does not know the meaning of something is rather charming but it can begin to annoy. Some of the notes (esp. on Genesis) ask questions without answering them; thus at the end of Genesis 34 the notes ask with reference to Simeon and Levi: ‘Were these men heroes of villains?’ Most readers would prefer a statement rather than a question here and in other places.
Anyone studying the Scriptures can use this beautiful book with profit. Yet, with due respect for Kent Dobson’s achievement, I have some critical comments:
The many little boxes with ‘word studies’ are shallow.
The printing of the notes is very small; a luxury edition like this could surely have used a more majestic font size!
A glossary would have been helpful; the reader is supposed to know what Mishnah, Talmud etc. are.
Some maps are included, but some also contain towns which did not yet exist at the time.
Overall this is an attractive book, written and produced with obvious love for the word of God. At £17.99 the beautiful volume comes at a price, but you could give a fellow Christian a worse Christmas present.
The Revd Dr Pieter J. Lalleman teaches Bible at Spurgeon's College