A New Low Price for The Commentary

I’ve gotten a good bit of email from Sunday School teachers, Pastors, and interested lay folk who have expressed an interest in obtaining the Commentary on the Bible which I’ve written in PDF format but who have been unable to afford the $199 price tag.

So I’ve made a decision:  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to make the collection more affordable.  Accordingly, as of today, the set will run $75.  I would lower it more but I feel that all the work put into it over the course of many years falls under the ‘the laborer is worthy of his hire’ category.  Still, I feel that the set aids layfolk to understand the Bible better, so I’m very keen to make it accessible.

At $75 it’s less than any other commentary on the entire Bible, so a bargain indeed.

So if you or someone you know has wanted to get a copy of the collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.

Here’s what a couple of folk have thought of it:

***

I have already read the Pastoral Epistles portion entirely.  I read the same way as I eat; first portions I just worry about satiating my hunger; then the following portions I really savor the food, and slowly digest it taking the most of its nutritious benefits. Right now, reading Jim’s commentary, I am at the second phase of “my eating habits”. I am loving the new information, not the run-of-the mill type of commentary, not the customary supporting material, but every point is perfectly didactically placed and scholarly supported.

As one of the demonstrations of God’s sense of humor and “uncommon management” skills, He made me a pastor (now temporarily in modern terms, without a flock, other than only a few people who seek me for guidance) and I think Jim’s commentary will be most valuable as I take this interval as a unique opportunity for further preparation for when God places me back in full pastoral ministry.   – Milton Almeida, Oklahoma, USA.

***

Jim West is a man of very decided opinions. However, and this is much to his credit, in the Commentary I’ve read he does not advocate his opinions about Scripture. What he does is explain and simplify, working from the original language, without being simplistic. And this is to be commended. – Athalya Brenner

A Proposed Reading of a New Aramaic Fragment

Via Richard Steiner-

Here is a preliminary attempt to read two lines of the papyrus as Aramaic with Hebrew admixture:

[kz]hr h$[m]$ ywm ‘l ywm pqy hzhry — like the shining/brilliance of the sun every day come out (fem.) and shine (fem.)

The oldest parallel is וְהַמַּשְׂכִּלִים יַזְהִרוּ כְּזֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ (Dan 12:3). The closest Jewish parallel I found in a quick search is in a commentary on Pirqe Avot: זיו פניהם כזהר השמש מאירים ומזהירים.

He is responding to this news report-

A papyrus puzzle: an unidentified fragment from 4th century Oxyrhynchus

The Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project team has just started working on five papyrus fragments, which are some of the earliest Hebrew texts we have at the British Library. The fragments are a fascinating mystery, one that we hope you can help us solve.

In 1922, the almost 70-year old Egyptologist Flinders Petrie discovered some papyrus fragments written in Hebrew script during an excavation in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. These fragments were acquired by the British Museum that year, and are now held in the Oriental Collection of the British Library under the shelfmarks Or 9180A, B, C, D, and E.

As you can see here, the papyrus fragments are housed all together in one glass frame. Papyrus documents have been traditionally housed in glass since the late 19th century, when people first started to think about how to study them without handling them directly. It is still considered the most suitable storage method for papyri as glass is inert – papyrus requires a highly stable chemical environment due to its high salt content. Static is also problematic as papyrus is very fibrous, and the rigid nature of glass frames means that they can be handled without disrupting the material. The imaging team at the British Library were able to produce incredibly high quality images of the fragments through the glass, which has enabled us to research them fully without risking damaging them.

We are not able to precisely date these fragments, but the current consensus is that they are from the fourth century CE. Three of them (A, B and E) are poems, all written in Hebrew language and script. Fragment D is a Greek contract, with Hebrew text in the margins, which is probably also of a legal nature. Fragment C is written in Hebrew characters however the language – except the last three lines –is yet unidentified. This is where our mystery lies – and perhaps it is about to be uncovered by one of you.

As you can see here fragment C actually contains two pieces: a small piece on the left and a larger one on the right. Photographs of the Or 9180 fragments have been published in various articles over the years, in 1923, 1971 and 1985, and we have been able to use these to ascertain that the position of the two pieces of C have changed over time. In all of these publications, the smaller piece was attached to the lower left side of the larger piece. Today however, the smaller piece is situated at the upper left side of the larger one.

If you have a closer look at the arrangement above, you can see the matching strands of the fibres within the papyrus, and that the three lines of text on the smaller fragment are perfect continuation of the last three lines of text in the larger piece. This shows that the earlier arrangement of the fragment was correct, and that what might have happened is that the left part of the fragment had broken off from the larger piece when the fragment was rehoused at some point after 1985. Thanks to the digitisation project, we were able to prove this theory by virtually reconstructing fragment C without risking damaging the original fragment.

In its reconstructed form, the last three lines of the papyrus, first deciphered by Hartwig Hirschfeld in 1923, become once again legible: The so-called colophon – the last three lines of Or 9180C. These lines were written in Aramaic and have been identified as a colophon[1]:

אנה שא[ול] בי לעזר כת[ב]ת אלין כת[בי]ן שלום על ישראל אמן ואמן סלה

I, Saul son of [E]leazar have written these wri[tings]. Peace be upon Israel. Amen and amen, selah

The 14 lines above the colophon are a real mystery though, both in terms of language as well as content. It seems that this fragment was originally a list of words in two columns, but now only the right column has remained more or less intact, with just small traces of the left column visible. For us, the real challenge is to identify the content of this fragment. Over the years various suggestions have been made, such as: a kind of Latin and Greek vocabulary; a list of gnostic charms; magical incantations; an inventory of articles; and a list of Latin names.[2]

Although Fragment C contains Hebrew characters, unlike the other fragments in Or 9180, the language is not easily identifiable. It was not uncommon for Jews to use Hebrew script when writing in a language other than Hebrew. Among the most widely used are Judeo-languages are Judeo-Arabic, Yiddish and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). Ancient Jewish Greek literature however was almost always written in Greek script.

Our initial approach to deciphering this fragment was by looking into what languages the Jews of Egypt spoke in the Late Antique period:

Four languages are of value: loaz (‘foreign language’, i.e. Greek) for song, romi (i.e. Latin) for war, sursi (Aramaic/Syriac) for dirges, and Hebrew for speaking (Palestinian Talmud, Sotah 7)

We can see here in this quote from the Palestinian Talmud, compiled in the 4th century CE, that the Jews of the period were multilingual. Evidence shows that the Jewish population would have been exposed to Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, although they may not have been equally fluent in all of them. Greek became one of the main languages if not the main language of Egyptian Jewish communities of the time. They used the Greek translation of the Pentateuch, the Septuagint, which was mostly compiled by Alexandrian Jewish scholars in the 3rd century BCE -2nd century CE.

The language of this fragment was discussed further at a workshop organized by Platinum(specialists researching Latin papyrus fragments) at the University of Naples Federico II in May 2017. The participants there concluded that the language could not be straightforwardly identified as Aramaic, Greek or Latin. There were some reservations though. Rabbinic literature of the Hellenistic period is rich in Latin and Greek loanwords, but they are often very different from their original forms. For example: a word may not have simply been transliterated, but would have gone through some phonetic and accentual changes. They can preserve lower register (colloquial or slang) words of spoken Greek or Latin that are unattested in literary sources, and were not recorded in dictionaries. Consequently, the fragment we are dealing with could contain such low register Greek or Latin words written in Hebrew script. On the same basis, it could also have been written, perhaps, in a local Aramaic dialect. A further possibility, which as far as we know has not yet been looked into is that the text of the fragment could be the local Egyptian language (Coptic) in Hebrew script.

As well as the mystery of the language, another question to consider is why this text would have a colophon with a blessing at the end? It would seem unnecessary at the end of a list of articles, or a list of names. This might be more plausible if the text was of a magical or mystical nature.

Such a small fragment and so many questions. Our aim with this blog post is to draw attention to this fascinating and mysterious text. Perhaps one of you can solve the puzzle? If you think you have a solution, or further questions, please get in touch with us on Twitter @BL_HebrewMSS. We look forward to hearing from you!

Zsofi Buda and Miriam Lewis, BL Hebrew Project

Shadowy Characters and Fragmentary Evidence: The Search for Early Christian Groups and Movements

This one looks interesting, doesn’t it-

The present volume contains the proceedings of an international colloquium that dealt with heavily fragmented texts and hypothetical sources, and the “shadowy” characters and movements they feature. These two aspects are combined and studied to ascertain how they have been handled in the history of research, to find out what they reveal about the community or the group expressing itself through (or hiding behind) them, and to establish the role these documents and figures or groups should be given in reconstructing an overall picture of developments in the theology and religious life of early Christianity. As can be imagined, such documents and sources have sometimes been taken as an open invitation to come up with all sorts of highly creative exegesis, adventurous reconstructions of texts and movements, and quite daring suggestions about identifying particular groups or presumed literary influences between documents. The essays contribute to the writing of a critical history of researching these types of documents and movements.

Go to the link for the contents.

The Only Commentary Your Parents or Children Will Ever Read

The ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk in modern history.

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

The books are all available from yours truly for a paltry $199 by clicking my PayPal Link.  It’s a good commentary. But don’t take my word for it:

Saint Paul knew more than I can ever imagine about Christians living in tension with the Gospel and with each other, and his several letters to the Church in Corinth are pivotal to the entire New Testament. Which is why I am so pleased to mention here some recent commentaries by a friend of mine, Jim West, on I and II Corinthians.

Subtitled ‘for the Person in the Pew’, and published by Quartz Hill Publishing House of Quartz Hill School of Theology, California, these two commentaries are in fact part of a much larger project by West to write similar commentaries on every book of the Bible, and to make them available in print and electronically for everyone to read. That project is now nearly completed and the results are tremendous.

I think there are three main reasons why these commentaries are so successful. First, West is a first-class Biblical scholar, one who makes the intelligent critical study of the text central to his theological interpretation. That commitment is rarer than one might imagine and to have it realized across the entire Bible is an astonishing feat that gives us now a unique resource.

Second, and delightfully, Jim West is a great writer: his pages fizz with sharp words and phrases and he appears incapable of saying anything boring about these texts. This ability keeps us reading along with him and, more importantly, reading along with Saint Paul. I have rarely come across any Christian writing project, aimed at ‘the person in the pew’, that has succeeded so brilliantly in bringing alive its subject matter.

Third, West couldn’t dodge an issue if his life depended on it, which can be an uncomfortable position for a Christian theologian. Corinth, as with most churches in most places, had some strange people believing and practising some odd things. The knack, as West points out, is to engage them endlessly with love and grace rather than self-righteous anger, but to engage them: ‘Paul lived with a purpose. And he urges the Corinthians to do the same. As we all who name the name of Christ must’ (West on I Cor. 9:27, p.60).

I am going to be talking to Jim about making these commentaries available through Ming Hua’s website, but inspect them for yourselves if you have the time: you will find them a superb companion to your own reading of the Bible and, as importantly, a great reminder of just how much the early Church struggled with some of the same problems we face now.

Gareth Jones, Principal
Ming Hua Theological College
Hong Kong

A Classic From the Vault: Helmut Koester on Hector Avalos

This nifty piece ran a few years back and since it has been a slow news day I thought I would do what others have done and post a ‘classic’. And this one is.  That’s for sure.

BAR Most Loved and Most Reviled

koesterPerhaps I should not be surprised that a scholar who has advocated a Biblical nihilism and has recommended that Biblical studies should be “tasked with eliminating completely the influence of the Bible in the modern world” would launch an attack on the discipline of Biblical archaeology and on a magazine that is Biblical archaeology’s most important outlet.

In the May/June “First Person” column by Professor Hector Avalos, as well as his book from which this column is taken, Professor Avalos criticizes not only the policies of *BAR* and its editor, he also questions the legitimate existence of the entire complex of Jewish and Christian religion in the United States, its Biblical base and its relationship to the academic discipline of Biblical studies, to wit, the Society of Biblical Literature—a formidable task indeed! What would be required for such an endeavor, however, is knowledge of the realities of American religious life and Biblical scholarship in general, as well as of the details of controversial issues in present debates. Unfortunately, Professor Avalos reveals a deep ignorance in both respects.

The reality is that both Judaism and Christianity depend upon the Bible. The Bible is their book of law and morality, their source of inspiration and worship, of consolation in sorrow and of festive celebration. The suggestion that the modern world does not need this book at the same time recommends the complete elimination of these Bible-based religions. This is not only preposterous, but it reveals a complete lack of understanding of what Professor Avalos calls “the modern world.” His “modern world” is a fiction in his mind that has no relationship to reality.

As for *BAR *, Professor Avalos off-handedly characterizes it as a journal that “has served Biblical education well in some cases and badly in others” creates the impression that about half of its content belongs to the latter category. He then proceeds to draw a caricature of some of its articles as if this were the kind of thing to which *BAR* was mostly committed. This is far from the truth.

Most of its articles are well-reasoned and well-documented presentations of good scholarship. To be sure, some are controversial—scholars disagree on interpretations of archaeological as well as literary materials—but that is the normal business of scholarship. Does Professor Avalos, claiming to be a scholar, not know that?

In fact the more controversial articles and opinions have served a very important purpose. The albeit-illegal publication of unpublished material from the Dead Sea Scrolls broke a deadlock that many had unsuccessfully tried to do for many years.

It was during the year of my presidency of the Society of Biblical Literature that the society accepted a free-access policy, which had successfully been applied in the process of the publication of the Nag Hammadi Codices (first: publication of a facsimile; second: publication of a preliminary translation; third: critical editions of all documents). But we were never been able to convince scholars involved in the publication of the scrolls to follow the same procedure. Thanks to *BAR*’s bold move to publish some unpublished texts, the deadlock was finally broken. Professor Avalos recognizes this; but is this part of *BAR*’s scandalous behavior?

Then there is the accusation that *BAR* is biased because it calls Professor Frank Cross a friend of Israel and the late Professor John Strugnell an anti-Semite, both Harvard colleagues of mine. This is not bias; it is a statement of a fact. I have known for decades that John Strugnell believed in Christian supersessionism.

Moreover, *BAR *’s seemingly offensive comments about Elisha Qimron are justified in many ways.  That Hershel Shanks has been found guilty by an Israeli court of violating Qimron’s copyright in the translation does not make him a criminal but rather a saint—if there is something like that in Judaism! Qimron has never revealed that the translation of the controversial Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT  was primarily the work of John Strugnell, who never got due recognition for his work.

Professor Avalos also cites as  *BAR *’s “competitive nature” Hershel Shanks’s criticism of the National Geographic’s publication of the Gospel of Judas.  On the contrary, he should have congratulated *BAR* for this critique! The publication of this document by the National Geographic was a scandal. The scholar entrusted with the translation, Marvin Meyer, violated the free-access statement of the scholarly society [the Society of Biblical Literature], of which he is a member. To his detriment, numerous major mistakes in his translation have now been discovered.

This could have been avoided if Marvin Meyer or whoever would be entrusted with its publication had allowed fellow scholars in the field of Coptic studies to discuss this Coptic text before the appearance of the first English translation. What Hershel Shanks wrote, calling attention to the scandal of National Geographic’s publication of this text, was exactly right and has been confirmed by subsequent scholarly investigations.

I shall refrain from setting the record straight on other examples of Professor Avalos’s caricature of *BAR *. More important is a consideration of the fundamental and important role that *BAR * has been playing in the concert of Bible and archaeology. There was once another popular journal, /Biblical Archaeologist/, founded by my former Harvard colleague and prominent archaeologist G. Ernest Wright. In its first years, *BAR * competed with this journal. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), under whose auspices it was published, however, decided to change the name of this publication to /Near Eastern Archaeologist/, since it seemed to the leaders of this society that the name “Biblical” was odious (Professor Avalos evidently agrees with that judgment!). This was done by ASOR after the vast majority of the subscribers rejected such a change of the title. The result was that subscribers interested in the Bible (including me) discontinued their subscription. This makes *BAR * and Hershel Shanks’s Biblical Archaeology Society the only player in the field. Courageously this magazine alone holds up the torch of a scholarly outlet in this important area, although the very name “Biblical” combined with the world of a scholarly discipline—including archaeology—seems to be deplorable for Professor Avalos as well as the leaders of ASOR, who have largely abandoned their responsibility of a publication with an appeal to the general public in this field of study.

It is exactly here that Professor Avalos’s lack of understanding of the realities of Biblical scholarship is most evident. He apparently is unable to see this reality: The relationship of American religious life, Bible and scholarship is a vital and undeniable factor in our society—especially in the United States—however controversial.

Helmut Koester
Former SBL President
Professor Emeritus
Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Luther, 1545 and Zurich, 2008: Which Translation is Better?

  • εἰδότι οὖν καλὸν ποιεῖν καὶ μὴ ποιοῦντι, ἁμαρτία αὐτῷ ἐστιν. (Jas. 4:17)
  • Denn wer da weiß, Gutes zu tun, und tut’s nicht, dem ist’s Sünde. (Luther, 1545)
  • Zu wissen nun, was es Gutes zu tun gäbe, und es doch nicht zu tun – das ist Sünde. (Zurich, 2008)

Luther’s reading is simplified and the Zurich Bible more accurate.  If you’re looking for a German Bible, the Zurich Bible is the best choice.

 

New Year’s Day Commentary Sale

From now through midnight Eastern Time on 1 January you can get the Commentary for $75.

The ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk in modern history.

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

The books are in PDF format from yours truly for the just, again, $75.  Acquire them by clicking my PayPal Link.  It’s a good commentary.  Here’s what Athalya Brenner thinks of it-

Jim West is a man of very decided opinions. However, and this is much to his credit, in the Commentary I’ve read he does not advocate his opinions about Scripture. What he does is explain and simplify, working from the original language, without being simplistic. And this is to be commended. – Athalya Brenner

The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis

This book contributes to the discussion on the development of the biblical canon by presenting clearly the early Christian lists of canonical books. Scholarly and popular literature frequently mentions the views of early Christians on the biblical canon, and frequently the information is wrong or insufficiently nuanced. This book clearly presents the early canon lists, with notes to guide the interpretation of the lists, and will clear up some confusion on the state of the Bible in early Christianity. The lists certainly do not solve every problem about the development of the Bible, and close study of their contents will in some ways add to the complexities of the subject. But in the belief that scholarship advances most soundly by constant interaction with the ancient sources that it seeks to interpret, ready access to a collection of canon lists in the original language with translation and notes should serve as a boon to biblical scholars and patristic scholars alike.

We shall see…  More anon…

Commentary ‘Super Sale’ for Christmas- $75 for the Entire Bible Commentary

Available till Christmas Day at a special price- you can get the PDF edition of the entire series for a shockingly low $75.  Normally it’s $199.  The books are all available by clicking my PayPal Link.  When you send your payment include your email address please and the books will be sent along quite quickly.

***

I have already read the Pastoral Epistles portion entirely.  I read the same way as I eat; first portions I just worry about satiating my hunger; then the following portions I really savor the food, and slowly digest it taking the most of its nutritious benefits. Right now, reading Jim’s commentary, I am at the second phase of “my eating habits”. I am loving the new information, not the run-of-the mill type of commentary, not the customary supporting material, but every point is perfectly didactically placed and scholarly supported.

As one of the demonstrations of God’s sense of humor and “uncommon management” skills, He made me a pastor (now temporarily in modern terms, without a flock, other than only a few people who seek me for guidance) and I think Jim’s commentary will be most valuable as I take this interval as a unique opportunity for further preparation for when God places me back in full pastoral ministry. 

– Milton Almeida, Oklahoma, USA.

 

Kritiker und Exegeten: Porträtskizzen zu vier Jahrhunderten alttestamentlicher Wissenschaft

No one does this kind of work like Rudolf Smend.  He is, hands down, bar none, the BEST biographer of Old Testament theologians who has yet lived.  Truly, no one knows more about OT scholars than he does.

Die Hebräische Bibel der Juden, das Alte Testament der Christen ist seit dem Beinn der Neuzeit Gegenstand vielfältiger historisch-kritischer Bemühung gewesen, an der sich eine große Zahl bedeutender Gelehrter aus verschiedenen Nationen und Konfessionen beteiligt hat.

Das Buch von Rudolf Smend, Ergebnis jahrzehntelanger Forschung, führt 54 von ihnen vor, darunter J. Buxtorf, B. Spinoza, J. Astruc, R Lowth, J. D. Michaelis, J. G. Herder, E. W. Hengstenberg, A. Kuenen, J. Wellhausen, B. Duhm, R. Kittel, H. Gunkel, M. Buber, A. Alt, W. Vischer, G. v. Rad, M. Noth, I. L. Seeligmann, W. Zimmerli, H. W. Wolff.

Rudolf Smend ist der Meinung, dass jeder von ihnen zu seinem Teil, auf seine Weise und natürlich auch in seinen Grenzen das Ganze dieser Wissenschaft repräsentiert und dass sich von jedem noch heute etwas lernen lässt. Besonderer Wert wird darauf gelegt, sie auch mit ihren eigenen Worten zu charakterisieren. In der Begegnung mit ihnen begegnet man auch dem großen Gegenstand, dem sie alle gedient haben.

V&R have sent a review copy via their distributor here in North America, ISD.  More anon, after I read through the glorious behemoth.

Fantastic News from the German Bible Society

Die Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft hat den Bibelgesellschaften in Litauen, Polen, Russland, der Slowakei und Tschechien kostenfrei wissenschaftliche Ausgaben klassischer Bibelübersetzungen in den Volkssprachen zur Verfügung gestellt. Bei den Bänden aus der Reihe „Biblia Slavica“ handelt es sich um aufwändig gestaltete Faksimile dieser alten und historisch bedeutsamen Ausgaben aus dem 14. bis 18. Jahrhundert.

Read more here.

Keep Up Your Greek, Hebrew And Aramaic

 

We all know a lot of people who, if they took the biblical languages at all, soon let them go through indifference and failure to keep up by reading.  This is a great tool to correct that failure.  Hendrickson has sent each for review.

First, the volumes are really lovely aesthetically.  The binding is neither soft cover nor hardback but a kind of padded (if I can use that word) sort.  The books, as you grasp them, have a soft but firm feel to them.  Immediately upon opening them the user encounters not a plain white paper stuck to the boards but a lovely patterned print, unique to each volume.  The font used in each is clear and sharp and they all sport two cloth ribbon bookmarks sewn into the binding itself (in the style of the old Bibles which had those lovely ribbon bookmarks as standard equipment).

As to the contents themselves, they are an arrangement of daily readings intended to build vocabulary through usage (the way we actually learn words rather than simply repeating words from flash cards).  Each volume (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) are comprised of an English rendering of a verse (with key Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek words in parentheses) followed by a couple of vocabulary words (in descending order of usage in the Bible [so that vols 1 of the Hebrew and Greek works start with the 365 most used words and vols 2 of the Hebrew and Greek works start with the 366th most used word and continue in descending usage for the remaining 364 words]), which are defined.

This is followed by the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek verse (depending of course on which volume the reader is using).  And finally, there is a phrase by phrase breakdown of the verse, with the original on the left and the English on the right.

At the very top of the page there is a ‘Day’ ‘week’ and ‘Date’ provided so if, for instance, one wishes to read the page for December 19, one locates that page and finds week 51 and day 353.  This arrangement allows users to follow the calendar or their own system of days or weeks.

The benefit of such a tool can’t be exaggerated.  It is simply ideal for the busy student who has already acquired a year or so of the Languages but who doesn’t have an hour each day to devote to translating.  It will enable such a student to keep up with what they’ve learned and expand upon it.  It is also ideal for the Pastor who took the Languages but who has let them ‘lapse’.  Reading will achieve regaining.

If the works have a weakness I haven’t been able to discover it yet.  They are just simply brilliant and so I can heartily commend them to students and Pastors.  That said, they should not become an end in themselves but must achieve their real goal- of provoking Pastors and students to further reading of the Biblical texts in their original languages.  This tool is a means to an end: reading the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

Used correctly, after a year or two of spending a couple of minutes a day in the Bible, users of these volumes should find a student or Pastor to give them to as a gift and take in hand the Bible itself.

Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

Through Old Testament Eyes is a new kind of commentary series that opens the New Testament writings in greater depth to anyone committed to understanding or teaching Scripture. In this inaugural volume, the richness of Old Testament allusions and background in Mark clarifies puzzling passages and explains others in fresh ways.

The exodus motif structures Mark. Mark also presents Jesus as the true temple of God in contrast to the existing temple, which has been corrupted. These important themes are hidden to modern eyes without the insight of an Old Testament perspective, and this commentary builds on that insight to emphasize how the gospel applies to the daily lives of Christians today. 

Kregel was kind enough to send a review copy.  I’ve always loved the ‘Old Testament in the New Testament’ aspect of biblical studies and indeed, my ThM thesis was on the use of Isaiah in the Gospel of John.  So this is, as they say, right up my alley.

The bulk of the volume is made up of verse by verse commentary on the Gospel of Mark but it also includes an Introduction and a list of abbreviations and a select bibliography, end notes, and Scripture index.

The introduction covers some unusual topics (for a commentary) such as a few paragraphs explaining the New Testament writers’ familiarity with the Old Testament, the treatment of obscure references, and then the more normal topic of the structure of Mark, who Mark was, and his use of the Old Testament.  It’s a quite helpful guide to what the author is aiming to achieve here.

The Commentary proper is then immediately turned to.  Phrase by phrase and sometimes word by word, Le Peau guides readers not only through the Marcan text but through the Old Testament subtext.  For instance, of 1:4, he writes

In the wilderness.  Allusions to the exodus of Israel in the wilderness that began in 1:2-3 continue here.

And then of course he goes into further detail for another full page on this verse alone.

One of the things readers can expect to find fairly regularly is the phrase ‘See comment at ______________’ (where the blank indicates the passage location where the issue is previously discussed).  Cf, for instance, at Mark 3:1.

Throughout the volume there are ‘blocks’ of material that in other volumes would be excurses or extensive footnotes.  These are set off from the body of the text by use of greyed boxes.  They range in length from fairly short to very long, depending on our author’s perception that a particular issue needs more or less extensive discussion.

The author does not include the long ending of Mark in his exegesis and instead relegates it (rightly, since it is not authentic) to one of his many greyed-box excurses.

Overall, then, this volume does the job it was intended to do.  It explains the text of the Gospel of Mark by paying particular attention to the points of contact Mark contains in connection to the Old Testament.  It is simple and at places simplistic, utilizing fairly standard tropes like ‘the number seven is the number of perfection’ and that sort of thing as well as taking the reconstructed history of Israel based on a simple straightforward reading of the Old Testament as a given.  Readers will enjoy it so long as they don’t expect too much of it.  It doesn’t address textual or historical issues (relating to the Gospel itself) and there are not what one might consider a lot of endnotes (just about 6 pages for 310 page book).

It is not an academic volume, and does not wish to be.  What it wishes to be is a study guide for small groups or churches and in that respect, with that aim in mind, it achieves its goal magnificently.