In offering this book, the third work in which we have joined in happy collaboration, to Biblical students, whether in the technical or the wider sense, it has been our endeavour to strike a mean between the exhaustive work of Driver and the necessarily restricted volumes, for example, of Gray or McFadyen. Excellent as these two latter are, it is obvious that the authors were not permitted sufficient scope by their respective publishers since the size of the volumes had to conform to that of a Series. While we have, therefore, not gone into the minute details, which characterize Driver's great work, it has been our aim to offer a somewhat fuller account of the Old Testament books‑their contents, structure, etc.‑than that given in most other English Introductions.
Further, we have been at pains to lay stress on some matters that have not always received as much attention as is due to them. Thus, wherever needful, we have dealt as fully as space permitted with the historical background of a book; not that this has been wanting in other Introductions, but we venture to think that the subject demands rather fuller treatment than is usually accorded it. We have also made a point of indicating, though as a rule quite cursorily, the importance of the Septuagint for the study of the Old Testament books.
Our general approach to the problems of the prophetic literature differs from that which is to be found in most standard Introductions. We do not, however, claim any originality here. The line that we have followed is that taken by practically all the best writers on individual prophetic books. Here, we hope, we have been able to fill a gap in the study of the subject. The method has involved our giving more attention than has usually been done in works on Introduction to the metrical structure, e.g., of the different parts of the Book of Isaiah. The general subject of Hebrew metre is dealt with in a special section. We are fully aware of the differences of opinion which exist on this side of Old Testament studies, but it is well, we believe, that the salient facts should be brought to the notice of the student.
Many problems arise in connexion with most of the Old Testament books; we have done our best to touch upon most of these, but it is hardly to be expected that all of them should have been dealt with.
The literature, English and foreign, which is concerned with the Old Testament is enormous. Where there is a plethora of material it is not always easy to decide what should be said and what left aside. It is quite impossible to deal with everything in one volume, perhaps even in half a dozen. In this matter we are fully prepared to meet with criticism; we regret it, but we cannot help it.
In the first instance we are individually responsible for certain books, or parts of books. But in every case we have discussed together the various problems that arise, and in almost every case we have reached agreement. In the one instance in which we have not been able to see eye-to-eye the fact is indicated in a footnote.
With regard to the treatment of the individual books, it will be seen that there is not always uniformity in the headings of the sections. It is hardly necessary to apologize for this because the nature and character of the various books differ greatly, and what is appropriate in the case of some is not so in that of others.
In transcribing Hebrew words, we have deliberately avoided the use of diacritic signs to indicate quantity. For the reader who understands Hebrew these are unnecessary. For the reader who does not understand Hebrew they are meaningless. We have followed the usual method in transcribing Hebrew consonants except that we have retained the spelling ‑ now grown familiar ‑ of Qinah.
We regret that Prof Eissfeldt's "Einleitung in das Alte Testament" did not appear until the printing of our own book was already far advanced. It has been, therefore, impossible to use it in our own work, but we note with satisfaction the extent to which we can concur in his views, especially in his treatment of the prophetic literature.
We take this opportunity of thanking Mr. H. H. Rowley, of University College, Cardiff, for having read through our MS., for having made a number of valuable criticisms, and for having also read the proofs with that meticulous care which characterizes all his work. We are also indebted to Mrs. T. H. Robinson for having read the proofs and for having checked the Biblical references.
W. O. E. OESTERLEY. THEODORE H. ROBINSON. April 30, 1934.