Cover image for The divine drama : the Old Testament as literature
The divine drama : the Old Testament as literature
Dancy, John (John C.)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge : Lutterworth Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
798 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BS1171.2 .D27 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The Bible, as is often said, is the world's least-read bestseller. That is particularly true of the Old Testament. People are often put off by the sheer bulk of the material and its frequently undistinguished quality. John Dancy has selected large samples from most of the canonical and apocryphal books, amounting to just under a third of the total, chosen for artistic merit and intrinsic interest rather than for representative status or theological value. Literature of this stature, he says, should not be restricted to academics and believers. To make it more approachable, the text is presented with commentary on the same page, in smaller type so that attention is never diverted from the original. The commentary mostly concentrates on literary matters but provides technical explanations where necessary. In addition a sensitive and sound introduction also puts the Hebrew writings in the historical context of the ancient Near East. Extracts are used from a variety of translations, preferring the most faithful in language, tone and style for each section. Accuracy is a prime concern, but so is poetry. Above all, the selections bring out the inherent dramatic qualities of the verse dialogues and narrative prose. Nothing quite like this has yet been made available. The Divine Drama will be a welcome addition to the library of any thoughtful reader who cares for good stories.

Author Notes

John Dancy is a classicist by training and a teacher by trade. He has been Headmaster of Lancing College, Master of Marlborough College, Principal of St Luke's College of Education at Exeter and Professor of Education at Exeter University. Among his previous publications are commentaries on 1 Maccabees and on the shorter books of the Apocrypha and an admired biography of Sir Walter Oakeshott (1995). He started learning Hebrew at the age of 33 in order to carry out this project, his life's work

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Classicist and teacher Dancy (education, Exeter Univ.; Walter Oakeshott) has written a quick, handy reference of the Old Testament for the lay reader. He utilizes a tandem arrangement in which sections of the Old Testament are placed in windows, surrounded by text that provides both historical and literary explanations and personal insights. The hit-or-miss quality of the expository text ranges from fairly detailed theological exegesis to superficial retelling of biblical passages. A plus is the comprehensiveness of the book: the author comments on nearly every major section of the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha. A definite minus is the skimpy, vastly underdetailed general index, and the lack of footnotes or a detailed bibliography disqualifies this book as a reference tool. It is definitely not for professionals, serious scholars, or students. However, for those who do not want to tackle the heavier, more professional works of Old Testament scholarship, this is an accessible, first-peek source. Marginally recommended for public libraries. Glenn Masuchika, Rockwell Collins Information Ctr., Cedar Rapids, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

References and Abbreviationsp. 8
Acknowledgementsp. 9
Prefacep. 10
Purpose, Plan and Principlesp. 11
The Hebrew Languagep. 14
Hebrew Story-telling
1. Kinds of Storyp. 17
2. Larger Compositionsp. 19
Hebrew Poetry
1. Poetry and Prosep. 21
2. Parallelismp. 21
3. The Poem as a Unitp. 24
4. Imageryp. 25
5. Myth and Imagep. 27
Archaeology and the Old Testament
1. The Early History of Israelp. 29
2. Religion and Nationhoodp. 32
Names of God and of Men
1. Names and Titles of Godp. 34
2. Names of Men and Womenp. 35
Text and Commentary
The Old Testament
Introduction to the Pentateuchp. 37
Genesisp. 41
Exodusp. 109
Leviticusp. 146
Numbersp. 154
Deuteronomyp. 166
Introduction to the Books Joshua--2 Kingsp. 184
Joshuap. 185
Judgesp. 192
Ruthp. 214
First Book of Samuelp. 222
Second Book of Samuelp. 254
First Book of Kingsp. 292
Second Book of Kingsp. 324
Exile and Returnp. 344
Ezrap. 345
Nehemiahp. 346
Introduction to the Historical Romancesp. 349
Estherp. 350
Introduction to the Wisdom Literaturep. 364
Jobp. 365
Introduction to the Psalmsp. 409
1. David and the Canon
2. Temple Rituals
3. Kinds of Psalms
4. Social Context of Psalms
5. Some Difficulties with Psalms
6. Hymns and Prayers in ANE Literature
7. English Translations of Psalms
The Psalterp. 416
Proverbsp. 467
Ecclesiastesp. 487
Song of Songsp. 501
Introduction to the Prophetsp. 517
1. The Nature of Prophecy
2. The Prophetic Oracles
The Book of Isaiah
Isaiah Chs 1-39p. 522
Isaiah Chs 40-66p. 548
Jeremiahp. 577
Ezekielp. 609
Danielp. 625
Hoseap. 647
Joelp. 656
Amosp. 662
Jonahp. 674
Micahp. 680
Nahump. 684
Zechariahp. 689
The Old Testament Apocrypha
First Book of Esdrasp. 691
Second Book of Esdrasp. 695
Tobitp. 703
Judithp. 716
Wisdom of Solomonp. 727
Ecclesiasticusp. 737
Susannap. 752
The Books of the Maccabeesp. 756
First Book of Maccabeesp. 757
Second Book of Maccabeesp. 765
A Hebrew Literature in its ANE Contextp. 770
1. ANE Literature by Countries
2. ANE Literature by Kinds
B Hebrew and Greek Literature: Contacts and Comparisonsp. 777
1. The Tradition
2. The Distinctive Ideas of the OT
3. The Range of OT Literature
4. Realism and Sublimity
C Some Objections Answeredp. 784
Glossaryp. 787
Date Chartp. 791
1. The Fertile Crescentp. 792
2. The Holy Landp. 793
3. Jerusalem down to 586 BCp. 794
Books for Further Readingp. 795
Indicesp. 796