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Eminent biblical scholar Michael D. Coogan offers here a wide-ranging and stimulating exploration of the Old Testament, illuminating its importance as history, literature, and sacred text. Coogan explains the differences between the Bible of Jewish tradition (the "Hebrew Bible") and the Old Testament of Christianity, and also examines the different contents of the Bibles used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Protestants. He looks at the rise of modern biblical scholarship as well as the recovery of ancient Near Eastern literatures and their significance for biblical interpretation. One particularly interesting section examines three principal characters of the Old Testament-Abraham, Deborah, and David-illuminating important themes connected with them, such as Abraham and covenant and David as poet and warrior. Coogan explores the use of invented dialogue and historical fiction in the Old Testament, the presence of mythic elements in apparently historical accounts, and the relationship of ancient Israelite myths to those of their neighbors. The book considers the Old Testament's idea of divine justice, especially in Ecclesiastes and Job, and looks at notions of the afterlife in the ancient Near East and in ancient Israel. Coogan highlights the significance of the history and literature of the Old Testament and describes how non-biblical evidence, such as archaeological data and texts, has placed the Old Testament in a larger and more illuminating context. The book also discusses law and ritual in the Bible as well as the biblical understandings of prophecy. Here then is a marvelous overview of one of the great pillars of Western religion and culture, a book whose significance has endured for thousands of years and which remains vitally important today for Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.