By Fr. R. C. Fuller
Ancient Israel-Its Life and In
stitutions, by Roland de Vaux. (Darton, Longman & Todd 55s.). THOSE who take up this book expecting a colourful and continuous account of the development of Israel's history will be disappointed.
The scope of the work is in the sub-title and (more emphatically) in the French title-Les Institutions de l'Ancien Testament". "Institutions," as the preface tells us, are the various forms in which the social life of a people find expression. Family customs, marriage, the position of women, death and funeral rites, slavery, the concept of the State, Kingship. law and justice, economic life. military organisation, Israelite sanctuaries, the Temple, the priestly office, sacrifice and ancient feasts.
The book is, in fact, a veritable encyclopaedia on these and many other topics and it is safe to say that never before has a work been produced so complete on its own and with so exact a scholarship.
Perhaps the greatest satisfaction for some readers will be derived from seeing how, after evaluating all the latest evidence, the worldfamous author draws conclusions which are studiously moderate yet highly satisfying.
Thus. for example, his pages on the Tabernacle in the Desert and the Centralization of Cult are a model of common sense and scholarship. One should add a word of commendation of the translator, John McHugh, whose success may be gauged by the fact that t,ne can read a good deal of this book and scarcely be aware that it is a translation.
A small slip: page 411, line 1. For "impossible" read "possible".