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The New English Bible has benefited not only from advances in the understanding of ancient language and discoveries of new manuscripts and methods, but also from the recent growth in knowledge of the social and political history of the biblical period and the development of new ways of evaluating prehistory. In Understanding the Old Testament the essentials of the background and context of the Old Testament and Apocrypha are set out as concisely as possible to enable the reader to understand the meaning and significance of much that can only be appreciated fully with the help of this background material. The geographical setting, the prehistory, the social and political history, as well as the nature of the ideas which grew in this context are all described. The literary point i=of view is on the Old Testament and Apocrypha presented in the companion volume, The Making of the Old Testament.