Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Historical Roots of the Old Testament (1200–63 BCE)
Richard D. Nelson
This volume of the Biblical Encyclopedia series investigates the folktales, sayings, songs, etiological narratives, and written sources used by the biblical writers in coordination with evidence from archaeology, place names, inscriptions, archives, and literary texts from Egypt and ancient West Asia. The author charts the beginning of the Iron Age and the emergence of Israel and its literature, including the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the downfall of Israel, Judah in the Assyrian and Babylonian periods, Yehud and Persia, and the Hellenistic period.
Paper $38.95, ISBN 9781628370058
Hardcover $53.95, ISBN 9781628370072
314 pages • Biblical Encyclopedia 13
As driven home by Simon Joseph.
When it comes to Jesus, it is the cumulative weight of the evidence that convinces. This convergence of evidence – Josephus’ references to Jesus, the references in Paul’s letters, the embarrassing political and theological fact of Jesus’ crucifixion, the literary and theological trajectories of the Gospels, and the telling fact that the Mythicist position isnever taken by any of the Jesus movement’s many enemies, whether Jewish, pagan, Roman, or Gnostic, throughtout late antiquity – is compelling. The historical question, therefore, is not whether Jesus existed, but why theological ideas and beliefs were added to the rapidly developing Jesus story. The fact that many theological traditions were added to the story of Jesus over time does not mean that Jesus is a myth. We are better off, therefore, acknowledging that theological accretions have been added to the developing tradition rather than rejecting the tradition altogether, as the Mythicists do. We are better off cleaning up the Baby instead of throwing it out with the bath-water.
Simon and all interested in the topic will surely wish to keep an eye out for Giovanni Garbini’s forthcoming book.
The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha and Fortress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament present a balanced synthesis of current scholarship on the Bible, enabling readers to interpret scripture for a complex and pluralistic world. Introductory articles in each volume discuss the dramatic challenges that have shaped contemporary interpretation of the Bible.
Commentary articles set each book of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocrypha in its historical and cultural context, discuss the themes in each book that have proven most important for the Christian interpretive tradition, and introduce the most pressing questions facing the responsible use of the Bible today. The writers are renowned authorities in the historical interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, sensitive to theological and cultural issues arising in our encounter with the text, richly diverse in social locations and vantage points, representing a broad array of theological commitment—Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and others, and alive to the ethical consequences of interpretation today.
A team of six scholar editors and seventy contributors provides clear and concise commentary on key sense units in each book of the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament. Each unit is explored through the lenses of three levels of commentary based on these critical questions. The result is a commentary that is comprehensive and useful for gaining insights on the texts for preaching, teaching, and research. In addition to the commentary essays on each book, the volumes also contain major essays that introduce each section of Scripture and explore critical questions as well as up-to-date and comprehensive bibliographies for each book and essay.
A review copy of both volumes has been sent along,and my review is here.
Kelly Murphy begins the discussion of Jeremiah with an introduction offering a definition of the prophet’s name and the book’s setting. The composition, structure, and literary elements of the book along with key themes come next before Kelly launches into exposition.
As with the other books of the Bible which this Commentary discusses, each pericope is analyzed in terms of its ancient context, its interpretive tradition, and its contemporary discussion. As with the other majority of the authors in the series, Murphy does an exceptional job explaining the text in brief yet substantive prose.
To this reviewer, the most outstanding feature of the Commentary is its willingness to do a bit of historical criticism and a bit of reception-history and a bit of modern application. In this respect I think it is quite unique and therefore quite important. I am not aware of other commentaries which make this tri-fold exposition central to their approach.
It is, after all, well and good to know what the text meant to ancient readers and medieval expositors but it is equally important to know what the text presently means. Scholarship which has no relevance to persons living today is at best mere antiquarianism. And when it comes to something as important as theology and biblical studies mere antiquarianism is never adequate or sufficient.
Accordingly, the Fortress Commentary on the Bible is a valuable resource to both antiquarians and to faith communities. I shan’t wait to read both volumes thoroughly to commend them to your attention and urge you to make use of them. The ‘soundings’ offered to this point are sufficient, I believe, to recommend it (with the caveat stated at the outset that the exposition of Galatians is deficient on many levels for many reasons). There may, in fact, be other segments too much like the explanation of Galatians to suit me. Each reader will need to decide for herself or himself about each book.
At the end of the day, though, it is important to always have in mind the dictum of Kierkegaard- ‘Critics are like eunuchs: they know what’s supposed to happen- but they can’t manage it themselves’. Readers of commentaries are obliged to be sympathetic to the author unless they can do better or have done better. That sets a high bar for withering critique. And that is as it should be.
Are there issues discussed in the Commentary which I think deserve more attention? Surely. Are there issues which receive too much attention? Surely. But on balance this is a superb work and it is worth more than a merely sympathetic reading: it is worth a full fledged devouring. The editors are to be congratulated for their oversight and the contributors are, for the most part, to be thanked for their good work.