This work aims to restore the Old Testament to the reading list of the general public. The author has selected large samples from most of the canonical and apocryphal books of the Old Testament, amounting to just under a third of the total, chosen for artistic merit and intrinsic interest rather than for representative status or theological value. To make it more approachable, the text is presented with commentary on the same page, in smaller type so that attention is not diverted from the original. The commentary mostly concentrates on literary matters, but provides technical explanations where necessary. In addition, an introduction puts the Hebrew writings in the historical context of the ancient Near East. The book uses extracts from a variety of translations, preferring the most faithful in language, tone and style for each section. Accuracy is a prime concern, but so is poetry. Above all, the selections seek to bring out the inherent dramatic qualities of the verse dialogues and narrative prose.
John Dancy is a classicist by training and a teacher by trade. He has been Master of Marlborough College, Principal of St Luke's College of Education at Exeter and Professor of Education at Exeter University. Among his previous publications are commentaries on 1 Maccabees and on the shorter books of the Apocrypha and an admired biography of Sir Walter Oakeshott (1995). He started learning Hebrew at the age of 33 in order to carry out this project, his life's work.