A Liturgy of Grief: A Pastoral Commentary on Lamentations, by Leslie C. Allen (Baker, 208 pp., $21.99 paperback). Sensitive to detail and nuance both in the poetry lamenting Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 BCE and in 21st-century hospital corridors, this gracefully written commentary correlates, for instance, tears on Jerusalem’s cheek with a picture of a dew drop on a fallen green leaf signaling stillbirths in a maternity ward. Lamentations is a heart-wrenching book. Allen opens it up, giving us words for the full range of tragic experience.
Women’s Lives in Biblical Times, by Jennie R. Ebeling (T&T Clark, 192 pp., $32.95 paperback). Ebeling employs scripture, archaeology, ancient Near Eastern literature, iconography and ethnography to reconstruct women’s daily lives in early Israel. Each chapter, set in a particular season of the agricultural and festival year, narrates a different stage in the life story of one imagined woman named Orah. Alongside each segment of the narrative, Ebeling details work, family and community rituals, from bread making to childbearing to worship, offering readers a delightfully vivid, thick description of women’s activities and technologies in the early Iron Age.
You Are My People: An Introduction to Prophetic Literature, by Louis Stulman and Hyun Chul Paul Kim (Abingdon, 304 pp., $25.00 paperback). Reflecting the anguish of a fragile, war-torn world, as well as many insights into the prophets since Abraham Heschel wrote on the “pathos of God,” Stulman and Kim offer readings of the prophetic books as a literature of both disaster and survival. This compassionately written overview draws attention to the prophets’ bold visions of God acting in the midst of chaotic and violent empire building, and it highlights the prophets’ articulations of a hope that does not deny but defies the turmoil of their times, times that in many ways parallel our own.
The Bible, Disability, and the Church: A New Vision of the People of God, by Amos Yong (Eerdmans, 176 pp., $20.00 paperback). Yong presents a sensitive and theologically informed rereading of passages from throughout the Bible whose concern with disability has been ignored in traditional interpretation. Though able-bodied himself, he writes with the help of colleagues with disabilities and through the lens of growing up with a brother with Down syndrome. It is an essential read for pastors wishing to draw greater attention to the prevalence and significance of disability both in scripture and in the church.
Psalms (Interpreting Biblical Texts), by William P. Brown (Abingdon, 184 pp., $20.00 paperback). Brown opens the way to a deep contemplation of the Psalms by guiding readers into seven complementary approaches: prosody, metaphor, genres, performance, collections, corpus and theological anthropology. This boxful of tools is especially helpful for pastors who wish to preach more frequently from the one book of scripture that appears in the common lectionary nearly every week.
The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, by Timothy Beal (Mariner Books, 256 pp., $15.95 paperback). Beal artfully interweaves several engaging narratives with his own story of revering, rejecting and returning to the book his parents treasured. First he describes the rise of biblical fundamentalism and, especially recently, biblical commodification, which has led to the strange reality that many more Americans defend the Bible as the literal word of God than know what it says. Then he describes the Bible’s complex origins, showing that it never was the book moderns imagine—information that pastors know but find difficult to convey. Finally, he reintroduces the Bible not as a divine instruction manual but as a profound fund of explorations into the deepest human questions.
Genesis (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible), by Miguel A. De La Torre (Westminster John Knox, 272 pp., $35.00). This is the first Old Testament volume in an ambitious series of commentaries authored by theologians. De La Torre proposes to read Genesis as a liberation story for those on society’s margins. He invites into his conversation theologians from Tertullian to Elsa Tamez and biblical scholars from Ben Sira to Walter Brueggemann, and he engages such timely topics as creationism, animal abuse, racism, sexism, immigration and environmental justice.
Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation: Old Testament Answers, by John Goldingay (Baker, 400 pp., $24.99 paperback). A master exegete unafraid to overturn his own earlier assumptions, Goldingay offers 23 thoughtful essays on some of the most perturbing issues of scriptural interpretation. The questions posed are some of those most frequently asked of pastors concerning the Old Testament. Goldingay’s responses do not retreat into traditional formulations or arcane scholarship, but reflect a lifetime of deep theological engagement with the Hebrew Bible as Christian scripture.
An Introduction to Second Temple Judaism: History and Religion of the Jews in the Time of Nehemiah, the Maccabees, Hillel, and Jesus, by Lester L. Grabbe (T&T Clark, 176 pp., $29.95 paperback). Grabbe has taken time out from a four-volume project to invite nonspecialists into the world-altering but elusive period in which the Hebrew scriptures and Judaism developed—and into which Christianity was born. After a historical overview, he explores four important currents flowing simultaneously, and often paradoxically, in Second Temple Judaism: the priestly and scribal, the messianic, the apocalyptic and the Gnostic. Annotated bibliographies offer further guidance into the vast historical and cultural gap between Ezra and the Gospels.
And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament, by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans, 435 pp., $30.00 paperback). For any preacher who still hesitates to turn from well-trodden Gospel pathways and explore the strange and often baffling landscape of the Hebrew scriptures, Fleming Rutledge’s collection of 60 sermons provides encouragement and inspiration. Her words flash back and forth between ancient and contemporary testimonies of a God who is neither tame nor sentimental, neither locked in the past nor confined to the text, but who rises majestically to pour grace in the midst of overwhelming might.
Patricia K. Tull taught Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and is author of the recently released Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis (Westminster John Knox).