Bonfiglio, Ryan P. A Study Companion to Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Second ed. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2014.
Written as a supplementary text to John Collin’s Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (2010), Ryan Bonfiglio’s study companion offers brief, yet also thorough, coverage of issues surrounding the Hebrew Bible. And as an important note, I did not read it primarily as a study companion to Collin’s introduction to the Hebrew Bible; rather, I read the study companion as an independent book. Thus, that is how I will review it.
Each chapter is divided into four major parts: summary, key terms, key personalities, primary readings, and questions. The summary of each chapter is concise and simple. Thus rather than needing to read through a lengthier introduction as found in Collin’s work, the reader, who may have a short attention span or little time to study, is given an ever so brief explanation of the content and scholarship surrounding certain parts of the Hebrew Bible. While the brief nature of the summaries may be inadequate for those seeking to excel in scholarship, they do provide a basic awareness of biblical scholarship.
Following the summaries, Bonfiglio presents the key terms and key personalities. Presentation of the two elements in his succinct manner allow the language of biblical scholarship, ranging from “Hermann Gunkel” to “House of David”, to take shape within the laypersons mind. In effect, the terms often foreign to people become terms with life and permit them to dialogue better in theological and scholarly discussions.
To fully allow the reader to immerse themselves in the study, Bonfiglio includes selections of primary texts from the Bible, pseudepigrapha, and Ancient Near East with notes about each reading. His method is valuable because it never attempts to force the reader to simply accept the information he offers. In fact, previous to each reading, he gives the reader certain ideas and concepts to look for within the readings.
At last, following the primary readings, he poses discussion questions. The discussion question are invaluable because they force the group or person studying, whether Christian or atheist, to take the primary texts seriously. For Bonfiglio, one cannot merely dismiss the text. They must respect the autonomy of the text, which is then encouraged through a medium of discussion questions.
In conclusion, Bonfiglio’s introductory work, though intended to be read with Collin’s more detailed textbook, is useful as a companion to the Hebrew Bible, even without the textbook itself. Although there are certain places where his work may need certain explanations to concepts and terms, the companion is for the most part easy to digest and helpful to the reader, especially in a group setting. It is informative, though not exhaustive, and simple, though not simplistic. Overall, I highly suggest this book to a general audience seeking to learn about scholarship surrounding the Hebrew Bible and the history/context of the Hebrew Bible itself.
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I’d like to express my gratitude to Fortress Press for lending me a review copy of A Study Companion to Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.