Book Review: SOTS at 100

book review SOTS at 100

Now and again I’ll aqquire a random selection of books, and eventually get around to reading them. This book, ‘SOTS at 100: Centennial Essays of the Society for Old Testament Study’ is one of these. Published in 2017 to mark the centenary, this book could have been a curio, or only for members, but I really rather enjoyed reading it. I’m not an Old Testament specialist, I’ve never been to SOTS, and I am unlikely to ever be qualified to present there, but this book made me feel like I’d be welcome, and that is no mean feat.

Clements provides a helpful and fascinating overview of the formation of SOTS, touching on the reality of history and the changes in theological education. Food for thought in terms of the usage of the Bible in national life. Eryl W. Davies offers a though and very readable account of the SOTS 1917-2017. Pertinent historical quote – “following the meeting in July 1919, the society met regularly, twice a year, until the Outbreak of the Second World War”. This chapter shows the slow flexibility of the Old Testament Guild alongside a genuine and sustained ecumenical desire. Following a presentation of the signatures of presidents of the Society, volume editor Jarick prepares a fine timeline of SOTS first 100 years – nicely laid out.

David Clines  summarizes the data of 100 years of SOTS papers. Fascinating, not least in gender equality (29.5% female, compared to around 24% at SBL in a representative year – this theme is picked up throughout the book), biblical books focused on (Isaiah, Genesis and Psalms in particular, which echoes my understanding of commentary sales!) and the possible effect of the plenary model of paper presentation. Helpful food for thought for publishers as well as commentators on and readers of the Old Testament. Curtis provides a readable and positive survey of the published output of SOTS. Interesting to trace themes, and again note that it wasn’t till 2000 that women were published – in this case Cheryl Exum and Katherine Dell. Dell’s survey of the membership is fascinating – from both a historical and religious perspective.

This book  isn’t for everyone, but if you are interested in the first 100 years of SOTS (The UK’S ‘Society for Old Testament Studies’) then this is a great read. As a publisher/someone interested in but not formally trained at a high level in the OT, it was a fascinating and enjoyable read. A slice of history from 1917-2017.

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