Smyth & Helwys have published Bryan’s book:
God’s Servants, the Prophets covers the Israelite and Judean prophetic literature from the preexilic period. It includes Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Obadiah.
It has the sort of cover which will match well the other books on your shelves so that, even if you never read it, it will be a lovely addition to your collection. 😉
But it’s not the outside that impresses nearly as much as the contents between the covers. Written in a friendly style, neither condescending nor overly complicated, Bibb ‘delivers the goods’ in a way that engages the reader in a conversation of sorts. As a masterful teacher, Bibb covers the very questions which those interested in the prophetic literature are sure to be asking themselves.
He begins in the introduction with a question of his own: Who Were the Prophets? He then answers his own question with the required definitions and historical contextualizations, including a bird’s eye view of Israel and Judah’s history (along with the history of Yehud). Literary and theological issues are also summarized.
Bibb then treats, in chronological order, the following prophetic texts, offering readers what he terms the ‘scholarly consensus’. Insofar as such a thing exists, Bibb is right, in my view, to represent the conclusions which Old Testament scholarship has reached to this point on the books he examines. There’s no point, is there, in introducing beginning students to all of the issues of scholarship. There will be plenty of time for them to become confused later.
So Bibb looks at Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah (and for some reason, Lamentations – but one suspects that was an editorial decision on the part of the publisher rather than a decision Bibb would make, given the fact that Bibb is aware of two things: 1) Lamentations isn’t from the hand of Jeremiah and 2) Lamentations isn’t ‘prophetic’ literature. In the Hebrew canon it isn’t even included in the Nevi’im but rather, in the Kethuvim), and Obadiah. Absent, then, are Ezekiel, Joel, Jonah, Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi. Readers will have to wait for another day when the post-exilic prophets receive their due.
When it comes to the analyses of the biblical texts, Bibb very carefully and with incredible insight outlines the prophetic books and summarizes their content in a quite useful way. Worthy of the price of the volume alone is Bibb’s sensible and sensitive explanation on pp. 85-86 of the famous ‘Emanuel’ passage of Isaiah 7. Even the most conservative of Christian readers will find his explanation un-threatening and reasonable.
But there can be questions raised about the volume as a whole. What is included as belonging to the pre-exilic prophetic corpus has seriously fuzzy lines. For example, since 2nd Isaiah and 3rd Isaiah certainly cannot be considered pre-exilic why do they receive treatment in the present volume? One, again, suspects editorial decision rather than authorial.
The volume concludes with a conclusion(!) wherein Bibb does a very, very fine job of drawing together the issues of theology and history, the Prophets as a part of the entire Old Testament, and the relationship of the Prophets to the New Testament.
Bibb’s work is very good. The book is nicely produced (though future editions may need a bit more technical oversight. On page 143 something of a printer’s blunder has been allowed to pass through. We read “… Jeremiah’s anger and astonishment at -206the wickedness of the people…”). It is ideal for a class introducing the prophetic literature. And it is also ideal for anyone amongst the general population intrigued by a large segment of the Old Testament. Consider it highly recommended.