The idea of writing an introductory guide to the first five books of the Bible arose following a brief period of teaching Asian theological students in Singapore in 1990. My experience there confirmed what had been evident to me in Ireland: most students of theology and religious studies have at best a very limited understanding of the basic contents of the Pentateuch. While they are vaguely familiar with the better-known stories of Genesis and Exodus, few could claim to have a clear understanding of the Pentateuch as a whole. What was lacking was a good guide to the text, a book that was suited to the needs of such students. To this end, what now appears as Part 2 of this edition was published in 1995 under the title From Paradise to the Promised Land.
Because this former volume focused deliberately on the contents of Genesis to Deuteronomy, it provided no detailed discussion of contemporary academic approaches to the Pentateuch. To address this shortcoming, Part 1 has now been added. This book, therefore, seeks to (a) guide the reader through the maze of modern approaches to the Pentateuch, and (b) focus on the main themes of the Pentateuch, viewed as a unified literary work, by drawing on the best insights of recent research into Hebrew narrative techniques.
T.D. Alexander is director of Christian training, Union Theological College, Belfast, and former lecturer in Semitic studies at The Queen's University in Belfast.
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