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July 1976 · Vol. 5 No. 3 · pp. 35–36 

Book Review

The Pentateuch and Its Cultural Environment

G. Herbert Livingston. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1974. 296 pages.

Reviewed by Henry J. Harder

The author, a graduate of Drew Theological Seminary (Ph. D), is currently professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. This book is a product of about twenty years of teaching Old Testament on the seminary level.

Part I, “Time, People, and Communications,” deals with background material. Part II, “Literature, Concepts, and Practices,” focuses on thought {36} patterns of the Pentateuch compared with concepts and practices in ancient non-biblical literature. Part III is entitled, “Functions, Critical Methods, and Theories.” It speaks to the problems of basic import related to manuscripts of the Bible now available.

In an excellent section on dating and chronology, the author rejects Ussher’s closed genealogies and correctly identifies the Egyptian king lists and the Sothic cycle as the two most important contributions to an accurate Near Eastern chronology. He emphasizes correctly the importance of pottery dating which may well establish the beginning of an occupation site within fifty years plus or minus. This is much more accurate than Carbon 14 which, though useful, has some weaknesses.

The author deals with languages of the Near East (includes summary chart), the origin of the Hebrew language, prophetism (Hebrew prophets were not ecstatic but oriented historically to concrete situations), and canonization (he correctly notes that the Old Testament books had authority inherent in them and so were canonical).

Although nowhere in Genesis is Moses listed as the author, Dr. Livingston lists evidence for the Mosaic authorship of Genesis as well as the rest of the Pentateuch.

There is a scriptural index of 600 citations. The author-subject index has over 400 entries. The book includes nine charts and graphs, twelve maps and seventy black and white photographs. There is a repeat line on p. 43.

The book is designed for the serious Old Testament student and the wealth of information is praiseworthy. The reviewer would have appreciated more personal conclusions and views on certain matters, but generally the author’s views are evident in the discussion. This reviewer highly recommends this book.

Henry J. Harder, Pastor
Mennonite Brethren Church
Shafter, California

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