Stephen Cook's latest work brings together several pieces of the Hebrew Bible in supporting his thesis that the Bible contains throughout two basic worldviews in competition with one another. The first, which Cook favors, he calls the "Sinai tradition," found (perhaps surprisingly)in the 8th century prophetic books of Micah and Hosea, the Deuteronomistic History (Deut-2 Kings) the "E" strand of the Pentateuch, and the "Psalms of Asaph" (Ps 50, 73-81). Cook weaves these seemingly desparate texts together in making a solid case for their comprising together over two centuries of consistent proclamation of a rural, agrarian-based, decentralized, tribal, covenant way of life under the rule of YHWH. Cook argues well that the tradition is carried by the rural Levites.
In opposition to this Sinai tradition is the Zion tradition, which supports the opposite social structure, that of the urban, centralized, hierarchical life of Jerusalem and Samaria. This tradition is carried by the urban priests and royal retainers of the capital cities.
Cook shows clearly how it is the Sinai tradition that the Bible truly favors as YHWH's way for YHWH's people. That this is the case is also clear beyond Cook's book in how the New Testament writers almost unanymously call on the Sinai traditions in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, despite the Davidic and Zion components of popular messianic expectations in the first century.
Cook writes with zest and as the teacher he is, sometimes honoring his students by quoting their papers or other comments. I commend him for recognizing the wisdom of those who have come seeking his wisdom as a scholar, the sign of a truly good teacher.
My only criticisms are relatively minor (I'd like to give the book 4 1/2 stars). He has a penchant, which becomes irritating, for describing topics he likes but doesn't have space to cover as "fascinating." I counted over a dozen uses of the term before I quit counting. Similarly, he seeks too often to bolster his argument by claiming that evidence he has presented is "clear," "convincing," or otherwise unarguable. As a law professor and former judge once taught me, watch out when someone claims that their argument is "unarguable." Cook's evidence is solid and his rhetorical effort to make it seem stronger tends to undermine his case rather than strengthening it.
All in all, though, a fine contribution to the growing understanding of how the Bible contains multiple points of view which reflect the same kind of internal arguments that takes place in Judaism, Christianity and Islam today.