Commentary Sale

The Commentary is on sale for the Thanksgiving Day Weekend (because everyone has sales around this time, don’t they) for a lowly $65.  That’s right- get the only complete commentary on the Bible written by a single person in the last 100 years or more for $10 off and feed your soul and your mind.

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

Sale ends midnight on November 28.

Israel’s Past: Studies on History and Religion in Ancient Israel and Judah

This collection of essays gives an insight into the problems that we encounter when we try to (re)construct events from Israel’s past. On the one hand, the Hebrew Bible is a biased source, on the other hand, the data provided by archaeology and extra-biblical texts are constrained and sometimes contradictory. Discussing a set of examples, the author applies fundamental insight from the philosophy of history to clarify Israel’s past.

Bob Becking is the author.  The contents are viewable above.  All of the essays have appeared previously except the last one, which examines the contribution of Philip Davies to the question of ‘histories of Israel’.  And it is a worthy piece indeed.  After looking at Philip’s notion of the three sorts of histories of Israel, Becking shows how scholars reacted to his notions, both positively and negatively.  He then offers a brief ‘third way’ which harkens back to Weippert’s approach and ends up with a hybrid approach adapting elements of Davies to Weippert’s.

The remaining essays have, as I said, appeared before and have been duly examined by researchers in those various manifestations.  Yet, they are worthy of reexamination by scholars in the present volume as, taken as a whole, they advance the field.  Especially noteworthy are the chapter which examines Zephaniah 1:9, and the essay discussing the return of the deity from exile.  Becking has done some really remarkable work here.

The essays are naturally well written although in a number of instances they would have benefitted from a closer editorial look.  The word ‘bread’ is used where the author means ‘breed’ at one point and the word YHWH appears on several occasions in reverse direction, as though there was meant to be found the word in Hebrew font but the font wasn’t applied and one is left with the curious ‘hwhy’.  Additionally, ‘movemnet’ stands in the place of ‘movement’; ‘coul’ instead of ‘could’; ‘twbxm’ which should be in Hebrew font (right to left); ‘observebal’ instead of ‘observable’; ‘expresse’ for ‘expresses’; and, as the last instance to be mentioned, ‘disappaered’ for ‘disappeared’.

None of us are immune to typos.  Heaven knows I’ve blundered aplenty.  I mention them simply in hopes that if a second edition is published the editorial team will take a close look at the text as it stands and correct especially the Hebrew font issues.

The very extensive bibliography at the end of the volume is also extremely beneficial.

There are few scholars occupying the rarified air of the likes of Philp Davies and Gerhard von Rad and Julius Wellhausen and Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas Thompson and Manfred Weippert and Robert Carroll.  Scholars who make epochs, who forward the discipline, who make a difference.  Bob Becking is among them and as a consequence his work is must reading.  This volume is must reading.  Or, for those who have read these essays (save one) elsewhere, then this volume is must re-reading.

Read it.

The Pharisees

For centuries, Pharisees have been well known but little understood—due at least in part to their outsized role in the Christian imagination arising from select negative stereotypes based in part on the Gospels. Yet historians see Pharisees as respected teachers and forward-thinking innovators who helped make the Jewish tradition more adaptable to changing circumstances and more egalitarian in practice. Seeking to bridge this gap, the contributors to this volume provide a multidisciplinary appraisal of who the Pharisees actually were, what they believed and taught, and how they have been depicted throughout history.

The table of contents is amazing.  A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

Spirituality According to John: Abiding in Christ in the Johannine Writings

The Gospel of John, the epistle of 1 John, and the Apocalypse all begin in the same way: by pointing to the importance of knowing the Word, both written and incarnate. Using an artistic, storytelling approach to spirituality, John relies heavily on readers’ imaginations to help them see what it takes to become disciples by abiding in Jesus.

Rodney Reeves combines exegesis with spiritual reflection to explore how the only biblical writer to employ three different genres presents a consistent vision of Christian spirituality. Rather than focusing on detailed instructions, John uses evocative metaphors and illustrations so that readers can envision how to follow Jesus—as disciples, in community, and even at the end of the world.

Filled with stories and implications for today’s readers, Spirituality According to John provides an accessible introduction to the rich spiritual world of the Johannine literature that makes up much of the New Testament. In John’s era and now, anyone who has ears to hear can learn to truly abide in Christ.

Blech.  I did not like this book at all, and it’s not this book’s fault.  And it’s not because of the unending ‘stream of consciousness’ reading of the Gospel or John, his letters, and Revelation, nor is it the ‘aimed to encourage’ personal anecdotes that festoon every page.  To be sure, those are minor sources of discomfort (and if I’m honest, annoyance).

No, the reason in chief that I did not like this book is because it’s mysticism by another name: ‘spirituality’.  But not the sort of spirituality one encounters in the books of Tozer, for example.  This spirituality, this mysticism is pedestrian, contrived, forced, too sweet, too sugary, too haughty.

In Part One Reeves leads his hapless victims on a sugar coated excursion through bits and pieces of the Gospel of John.  The theme, as he sees it, is ‘Following the Word Home’ and one is to do this by hearing the Word, confessing the Word, Incarnating the Word (!) and abiding in the Word.

Part Two focuses on John’s letters, which he conceives as leading believers to ‘communing with the Word together’.   Part three attempts (and fails) to help readers ‘remain in the Word till the end of the world’ through a fairly woeful reading of Revelation.

There’s a final word and a brief and virtually insubstantial bibliography and an index.

In each and every part there are what can only be described as pure exaggerations.  Take, for instance, this gem from page 199:

Because of John, all of us are seers.

No. We aren’t.  Or this one from page 102:

Because they see, others come to Jesus.  That’s why we will abide together until he comes.

Blerg.  Mysticism.  Blerg.

Mysticism is bothersome because it isn’t based in theology or exegesis, it’s based in feelings.  It is the exaltation of one’s feelings to the level, in many instances, of revelation itself.  Yet your feelings are not divine revelation and they do not equal in power the words of Scripture.  But mysticism pretends that they do.

And in some places Reeves is just simply historically wrong.  For example, on page 121:

Biblical literacy fosters communion.

Really?  Then where did communion come from in the early church, where loads of people were neither biblically literate nor literate at all.  It’s true that biblical literacy is important in our context; but it is false to presume that it fosters communion.  Indeed, lots of folks who are biblically literate share nothing in common and certainly they do not share fellowship.

Personally, I find the act of exegesis far more spiritually satisfying and meaningful than reading anecdotes loosely connected to decontextualized and cherry picked scriptural passages.  Spirituality according to John as the exegesis of John’s own words is a spirituality I can happily embrace.  Mysticism, not so much.

If mysticism is your kind of thing you’ll enjoy this book.  And you should read it.  Because you’ll like it.  I read it.  I didn’t like it.  I could never like it.  Because I prefer scripture as scripture, not as springboard for the feeling of my feels and your feels and our feels in a great orgy of emotional feeliness.

Blech.  It’s just so repulsive.

Nehemiah: A Commentary

By my long time fried Liz Fried

Lisbeth Fried’s commentary on Nehemiah is the second instalment of her two-volume commentary on Ezra–Nehemiah. The first instalment, Ezra, was published by Sheffield Phoenix in 2015. Like her commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah too takes full advantage of recent results in archaeology and numismatics, as well as in the mechanisms of Persian and Hellenistic rule, and in the influence of the Hellenistic and Maccabean Wars on Jewish writings.

Like her Ezra, the present volume includes a new translation of the book of Nehemiah, plus text-critical notes on each verse which compare and contrast the Greek, Latin and Syriac versions. The Introduction and extensive chapter commentaries provide a discussion of the larger historical and literary issues.

Although not finalized until the Maccabean period, the book of Nehemiah contains a temple foundation document from the time of Darius I, a story of rebuilding and dedicating a city wall around Jerusalem in the mid-fifth century, and a memoir from a fifth-century governor of Judah. Numerous additions and lists that date from the Hellenistic and Maccabean periods complete the book.

Fried concludes that the book of Nehemiah contains two separate first-person reports—one by the wall-builder, wine steward of Artaxerxes I, whose name we do not know, and one by Yeho’ezer, a fifth-century governor of Judah. We know his name from seals found at the governor’s mansion at Ramat Raḥel. Nehemiah, whose full name was actually Nehemiah Attiršata ben Ḥacaliah, neither built the wall around Jerusalem nor served as a fifth-century governor of Judah, Fried argues. Rather, he was a Persian Jew who had charge of the temple priesthood under Zerubbabel in the days of Darius I.

Fried’s commentary promises to revolutionize how we read the book of Nehemiah.

Family and Identity in the Book of Judges

Bruno J. Clifton examines Israel’s family dynamics and identity politics in the dramatic narratives of Judges in an interdisciplinary study that brings socio-anthropological research into dialogue with the history and culture of ancient Israel. This monograph discusses the social experiences and interactions through which people in Israel might have viewed their place in the world. Institutions such as hospitality, marriage and community leadership are examined and the ethnicity, culture, social landscape, family life, and literature of ancient Israel are explored with a view to determining what impact the understanding of identity has on the interpretation of the stories in the Book of Judges.

Konrad Schmid’s “The Making of the Bible: From the First Fragments to Sacred Scripture” Is Now Available

It’s the English rendering of Schmid’sDie Entstehung der Bibel: Von den ersten Texten zu den heiligen Schriften“.  They even kept the cover the same!

The translation of this volume was lightning fast!  I hope it’s good.  The German edition (which I acquired when it appeared) was really excellent.

If John Barton calls it superb, you can take that to the bank.

Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek and Latin

Pastors, students, and scholars not in the midst of language coursework often find it difficult to maintain their knowledge of biblical languages like Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. For those looking to do so in a meaningful but manageable way, this devotional offers 365 short daily readings, pairing an Old Testament passage in Hebrew and Greek with a corresponding New Testament passage in Greek and Latin. Lexical notes in English are included as a way of facilitating a comfortable reading experience that will build one’s confidence and ability in reading the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, and the Latin Vulgate.

A review copy has been sent by the publisher.  Let’s see if we like this.  More anon.

Get Your Loved One a Commentary on the Entire Bible

Which one?  Well I’m glad you asked.  You can get the PDF edition of the entire series for a shockingly low  $75.  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.  It’s a very good series if I do say so.  Aimed at layfolk and general readers, it is the only modern commentary on the entire Bible by a single author.

***

Endorsement

This commentary set is written and designed exactly for the average person. The person who hasn’t spent years in book learning and writing papers. Rather, it’s for a person who feels a yearning to know a bit more so they can grow spiritually and intellectually in the faith. The average person might not know where to start on the journey. This set does it beautifully. – Doug Iverson

The Latest Edition of ‘The Bible in the Arts’ is Online

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

we are pleased to inform you that the fifth volume of the free online journal “Die Bibel in der Kunst (BiKu) / Bible in the Arts (BiA)” has just been published:

http://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/die-bibel-in-der-kunst/.

We kindly invite you to take a look at the new volume. We also invite you to write an article for the journal. We look forward to receive your contribution on a topic dealing with the reception and impact of the Bible in the Arts.

With kind regards

Brad Anderson,
Régis Burnet,
Susanne Gillmayr-Bucher,
Klaus Koenen,
Martin O’Kane,
Caroline Vander Stichele
(Editors)

Corpus Christologicum: Texts and Translations for the Study of Jewish Messianism and Early Christology

In recent decades, the study of Jewish messianic ideas and how they influenced early Christology has become an incredibly active field within biblical studies. Numerous books and articles have engaged with the ancient sources to trace various themes, including “Messiah” language itself, exalted patriarchs, angel mediators, “wisdom” and “word,” eschatology, and much more. But anyone who attempts to study the Jewish roots of early Christianity faces a challenge: the primary sources are wide-ranging, involve ancient languages, and are often very difficult to track down. Books are littered with citations and a host of other sometimes obscure writings, and it can be difficult to sort them all out.

This book makes a much-needed contribution by bringing together the most important primary texts for the study of Jewish messianism and early Christology—nearly three hundred in total—and presenting the reader with essential information to study them: the critical text itself (with apparatus), a fresh translation, a current bibliography, and thematic tags that allow the reader to trace themes across the corpus. This volume aims to be the starting point for all future work on the primary sources that are relevant to messianology and Christology.

Greg Lanier has here assembled an extraordinarily comprehensive set of primary source materials which the interested reader will be astonished by.

Lanier begins with an introduction and then he brings to readers a very carefully constructed and clearly written overview of the presentation of texts which comprise the volume.  Or to put it another way, he describes how the book works.

To wit, he discusses the selection of sources, the commentary attendant on each text, the translation of the base text and its text critical apparatus, the references to which the text relates, and something he calls ‘thematic tags’.

I realize that all sounds rather odd, so here’s a photo of the overview:

Instantly potential users are given a map to each entry.  This resource is not merely a collection of texts which students of early Christology can mine.  It is a deeply useful and profoundly important guidebook to texts and their contents, contexts, and interpretations.  Each entry is a mini-course in textual history and interpretation.

Once Lanier explains how the book works, he provides indices for epithets, hypostases, figures, metaphors, and attributes.  A table of abbreviations and a key to terms is also offered.

Then, finally, the meat of the volume is provided: the Hebrew Bible and the versions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Philo and Josephus, and other Jewish and early Christian texts are assembled.

The volume concludes with a list of references (primary and secondary sources).

Again, rather than simply describing the materials, here’s a sample from the Pseudepigrapha:

The original language text occupies one column.  An English translation occupies the other.  The key words are underlined and textual notes and annotations are given.  And a short commentary gives readers a sense of the wider context.

This is an utterly remarkable resource and it reflects what would for most be a lifetime of work.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of this work and it is also impossible to overstate the value it has for biblical scholarship.

Even if readers are not particularly interested in Jewish Messianism, this work is a treasure-trove of primary source materials.  I find myself agreeing with my old friend Chris Tilling, who opines of the work that it ‘… offers something quite unique’.  Indeed it does!  I similarly must agree with John Collins who notes that Lanier has ‘… assembled a magnificent sourcebook…’

I am very keen to see to it that scholars and students make every effort to lay hold of this gem.  It is certainly my hope that they will.  Because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if they do, they will also be enchanted, and grateful.

Thank you, Greg, for a volume worth owning in a day when so many volumes are neither worth owning nor even reading.  And thank you too, Hendrickson Publishers, for having the good sense to publish a work that matters.  Your reputation for solid scholarship is strengthened thereby.

The English Edition of Strack-Billerbeck Has Arrived (Partially…)

To be precise, Volume 3 has arrived.   The three volumes in English are considerably less than I paid for the 6 German volumes (which I love, love, love, love).  To be honest, I’m not sure why Volume 3 is out and the others aren’t.  Why not start with 1?

I don’t understand you people….  At all.  Now I’m going to be all annoyed until 1 and 2 come out because I have 3 but not 1 and 2.  Have you people no compassion??????

Anyway, let’s see if the translation is any good.

Israel Finkelstein’s Rejoinder to Erez Ben-Yosef

Professor Ben-Yosef’s ideas have been mentioned earlier today and in the meanwhile I’ve asked Israel Finkelstein for his take on the topic (because he’s my go to expert on archaeology).  He directed me, kindly, to an exchange between himself and Ben-Yosef in ANTIGUO ORIENTE, vol 18 (2020):

The Arabah Copper Polity and the Rise of Iron Age Edom: A Bias in Biblical Archaeology?
ISRAEL FINKELSTEIN

And the response

And Yet, a Nomadic Error: A Reply to Israel Finkelstein, EREZ BEN-YOSEF

So now I’ve got more to look into.  Israel’s essay is summarized thusly:

Summary: The Arabah Copper Polity and The Rise of Iron Age Edom: A Bias in Biblical Archaeology?  In a recent article, Erez Ben-Yosef describes an ostensible bias in biblical archaeology— the emphasis on societies that left behind stone-built remains and a disregard for pastoral nomadic-based territorial polity. Ben-Yosef identifies the Iron I-IIA finds from the copper centers at Faynan and Timna as representing an early Edomite, nonsedentary kingdom. Here I deal with three issues: I begin by showing that most of Ben-Yosef’s premises have already been suggested by scholars decades ago. I then turn to what I consider as major shortcomings in his theory. Finally, I present an alternative model for an Iron I-IIA territorial entity in the Arabah and neighboring areas as well as for the rise of the kingdom of Edom.

So now to read the whole.

 

The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew

I guess for those of you for whom my simply saying ‘do it’ is insufficient, here are other people saying DO IT!

Why study biblical languages? The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew: Discovering the Richness of the Bible in Its Original Languages is written to convince you that it’s worth it! Professors Catherine L. McDowell and Philip H. Towner have spent years opening the eyes of students to the riches that await those who study Hebrew and Greek, and they invite you to listen in. This book is designed for people who have never studied the biblical languages—everything is in English or English script, and everything is clearly explained.

The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew contains a number of case studies—some from the Hebrew Bible and some from the New Testament—that demonstrate the kind of accuracy and insight that await those who study the biblical languages. Each case study is accompanied by a testimonial from a student whose understanding of the Bible has been enriched by studying Greek or Hebrew.

With encouragements from Christian scholars and pastors sprinkled throughout, The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew gives you a taste of what awaits the student of biblical languages and encourages you to take the plunge.

DO IT!!!!!!!!

See, my reason is much more compact.