Susan Ackerman, Gods, Goddesses, and the Women Who Serve Them

Ackerman, Susan. Gods, Goddesses, and the Women Who Serve Them. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2022. xiii+296 pp. Hb; $59.99  Link to Eerdmans

Susan Ackerman is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Dartmouth. This new book collects ten essays Ackerman has written over the course of her career. Rather than simply reprint the essays, Ackerman has occasionally polished the writing, refined her arguments, and added some additional bibliography. In addition, for most chapters, Ackerman introduces the essay by giving a context for the article and reflecting on the article some years after it was originally published. These introductions are extremely valuable. I wish more authors would add these kinds of updates and personal recollections of the origin of previously published essays.

Ackerman GoddessesPart one collects three essays on goddesses.  First, in “And the Women Knead Dough” Ackerman discusses the worship of the Queen of Heaven in sixth century BCE Judah (Jeremiah 7:16-20; 44:15-19, 25). She stands by her original conclusion that the queen of heaven combines the East Semitic goddess Ishtar and the West Semitic Astarte (16). She returns to this issue in chapters 9 and 10. This cult prospered in sixth century Judah and gave women religious and political power. “Asherah, the West Semitic Goddess of Spinning and Weaving?” deals with an intriguing phrase in 2 Kings 23:7, Josiah tore down the quarters in the Temple “where women did weaving for Asherah.” Ackerman argues Asherah was a patron goddess for spinning and weaving. Women weaving in the temple is found in other cults in near eastern gods, although not for Asherah in particular. Ackerman focusing on Tiamat in “The Women of the Bible and of Ancient Near Eastern Myth.” Since Tiamat is not the sort of god anyone would typically worship, Ackerman argues Tiamat is a type that represents an object lesson regarding proper gender behavior (58). The stories of Tiamat’s conflict with Marduk have an unhappy ending because Tiamat defied gender norms in the Ancient Near East (70).

Part two comprises three articles on priests and prophets in the ancient Near East. First, chapter 4 is an update to her 2002 JBL article, “Why Is Miriam Also among the Prophets? (And Is Zipporah among the Priests?)” As she explains in the introduction, questions that were raised while she was writing her 1998 book on women in the book of Judges. There are four “anomalous women” who are counted as prophets rather than priests (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Noadiah [Neh 6:14]). Ackerman suggests male-authored depictions of liminality and gender conventions restricted Miriam from religious authority (priesthood) but not the prophetic office. So, what about Zipporah? Since she occupies a priestlike role, “the Bible admits the possibility women could assume the role of prophet within Israelite society” (109). Zipporah implies women could take on priestlike functions.

In “The Mother of Eshmunazor, Priest of Astarte” (ch. 5) and “Priestesses, Purity, and Parturition” (ch. 6), Ackerman observes a curious thing about Israelite religion: there is very little evidence for priestesses although there is plenty of evidence “right next door” in Phoenicia. In these two chapters, Ackerman lays out the evidence for priestesses in Phoenicia and suggests the reason there are no priestesses in Israel is Leviticus 15:19-30. Women are unclean for seven days following menstruation, and there are other texts that cut women out of cultic settings during their reproductive years. Therefore, only pre-puberty and post-menstrual women may have had a cultic function. She draws attention to Psalm 68:25-26 [ET 24-25], “the young women playing the timbrels” in a sacred procession. “Young woman” (עַלְמָה) may refer to a sacred function for prepubescent women.

Part three comprises Ackerman’s two essays on queen mothers, the first on the Queen Mother and the Cult in Ancient Israel (ch. 7) and the second more broadly in the Queen Mother and the Cult in the Ancient Near East (ch. 8). 1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chronicles 15:16 mention Ma’acah as “queen mother” (גְּבִירָה). The text describes Ma’acah as placing Asherah images. Ackerman suggests this was part of her duties as the Queen Mother. “It is artificial to seek to divorce the political role of the Judean Queen Mother from a cultic function” (169). In her survey of queen mothers in the ancient Near East, Ackerman observes Bathsheba was a Queen Mother, citing Canticles 3:11 as evidence for Bathsheba’s powerful role in crowning her son as king. The article ranges into the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew understood Mary as a Queen Mother! Or better, the article hints, there is evidence in Matthew for the emerging cult of Mary in the apocryphal infancy gospels.

Finally, part four deals with women and worship. Chapter 9, “At Home with the Goddess” brings evidence from the other essays in this collection together to ask how the queen of heaven relates to the practical worship in the home. She examines places like Bethel and Dan, and how women like Ma’acah used her position as a Queen Mother to devote herself to Asherah. Part of this essay addresses how Asherah may have been worshipped in homes in the ancient near east through libations, offering cakes, etc. She concludes: at some points in Israel’s history, a significant cross section of the population was “at home” with the goddess. Finally, in “Women and the Worship of Yahweh in Ancient Israel,” Ackerman suggests later prophetic texts deem women as apostates (Hosea’s Gomer, for example). But texts outside the prophetic books have a more positive view of women worship gods other than Yahweh. Ma’acah worships Asherah. Some take part in the cult of heaven (Jer 7:16-20), others weep for Tammuz in the temple’s courtyard (Ezek 8:14).

Conclusion. Collecting and updating these essays makes them conveniently available to scholars and students working on religion in the ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible. Ackerman’s introductions are extremely helpful. This should be standard practice for career-spanning essay collections like this. Although these essays overlap, Gods, Goddesses, and the Women Who Serve Them is a valuable collection for those interested in the development of Israelite religion and the role of women in worship in the Hebrew Bible.

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Sue Edwards and Kelley Mathews, 40 Questions Women in Ministry

Edwards, Sue, and Kelley Mathews, 40 Questions Women in Ministry. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2022. Pb. 332 pp. $24.99.  Link to Kregel

Sue Edwards is associate professor of educational ministry and leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary and has extensive experience teaching, pastoring, and directing women’s ministries. Kelley Mathews is a freelance writer and editor and former women’s ministry leader. She has a blog at Patheos, although it has been dormant since June 2021.

40 Questions about Women in MinistryAs with other volumes in Kregel Academic’s 40 Question series, this book is a collection of short essays grouped into four categories. Like most of these kinds of books, Edwards and Mathews do not solve these difficult problems. In fact, that is not their goal. “Gifted and godly scholars disagree on whether women can lead the church (291). Since not everything is solved, they encourage the reader to keep on wrestling with these issues” (292).

Readers can often tell something about a book by the list of abbreviations. In this case, four books appear so often in the forty chapters than they merit inclusion on abbreviations page: Phillip Payne, Man and Woman: One in Christ (Zondervan 2009), Discovering Biblical Equality (IVP Academic 2021), Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Crossway 2012) and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (ed. By Grudem and Piper, Crossway, 2021). These represent two important works on each side of the evangelical debate on women in ministry. And that is exactly what this collection of essays is, a thoroughly evangelical discussion of a raging debate over a woman’s role in ministry. However, the authors do not grind on either of the discussion. In the introduction, they are quite clear under the heading “our hesitation to align with warring factions.” Both sides of this debate have a high view of scripture and use the tools of scholarship in a way that respects the message of the Bible. For the authors of this collection, “women in ministry” is not an essential issue that merits the description “heretic” if you disagree with the other side (29).

The first two questions and answers deal with terminology. Edwards and Mathews reject the usual terminology of egalitarian and complementarian as “misleading and reductionistic.” These terms do not reflect their real distinct differences between the sides in this debate. Instead of complementarian, they prefer the term “hierarchy” because this position believes that the church functions better if men make the decisions. Men ought to lead in the home, so men should lead the church. This position believes this because that is the Bible’s teaching. Instead of egalitarian, they prefer the term “Heterarchy.” In this view, God has not ordained permanent roles. God gives gifts to both men and women and the Bible does not teach there is a divine order for men to lead the home. If a reader is familiar with common terminology in this debate, it will be important to read these first two chapters because they use the language of hierarchy and heterarchy throughout the book. (Mea culpa: I skipped ahead to the controversial chapters and did not know what they were talking about until I  returned to the introductory chapters!)

There are eight questions and answers dealing with Old Testament issues, including the image of God and the role of women in the genesis creation story. Perhaps the key here is understanding the Hebrew idea of a “helper” in the creation account. These chapters also deal with what we can learn from women leaders in the Old Testament and a discussion of the “Proverbs 31 woman.”

The next series of questions and answers concern the role of women in Jesus’s ministry, and in the Book of Acts. Important here is the role of Priscilla in correcting Apollos’s theology. Is Priscilla a coworker of her husband? Is she teaching in private? Or is she a co-teacher in a local church?

The most controversial texts on women in ministry come from the epistles, so this collection devotes ten chapters to Paul and one to Peter. One chapter discusses the women in Romans 16. The big debate in church history has always been whether Junia is a male or a female, and if she is a female, is she an apostle? They do an excellent job covering this issue, but I think the role of Phoebe’s as a patron and likely deliverer of the Book of Romans is just as key to this discussion.

The most controversial texts in Paul merit several chapters. There are two chapters on the meaning of head and what does it mean for a woman to “cover her head.” They debate three chapters to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, including one the troublesome question of what it means for a woman to be saved during childbearing. One chapter covers Paul’s command for women to submit to their husbands Ephesians 5: 21 and another on 1 Peter 3:7 which describes women as the “weaker vessel.”

The question on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in important, although frustratingly brief. Evangelical interprets share many of the same assumptions about the authority of Scripture and use virtually the same hermeneutics but have a wide range of opinions on the meaning of the Greek authentein, to exercise authority. The problem, of course, is that this word only appears in this one passage in the New Testament and there are entire books written on the meaning of this word. Edwards and Mathews provide an excellent summary of the two sides in this debate and provide a list of issues that need to be examined. Of primary importance is the importance of the background of 1 Timothy. Is Paul referring to a specific issue in emphasis at the time? Often, heterarchists (the position formerly known as egalitarians) will point to the activity of the cult of Artemis as an important factor in understanding Paul’s prohibition for women to exercise authority over men. Women coming to faith from the Artemis cult were exercising leadership before they were fully discipled in sound doctrine. Hierarchists (the position formerly known as complementarians) understand the background differently, pointing out that the leadership of the Artemis cult was male.

The final section of the book covers several practical issues: Should women serve as Deacons? Elders? Priests? Pastors? To a certain extent, the answer depends on the faith community. It is hard to imagine a traditional Roman Catholic asking if a woman can serve as a priest, but some evangelical denominations allow women to serve as deacons and elders. One of the last questions has been a discussion in my church. Should women working in church ministry be called “pastors” or “directors”? Finally, Misty Hendrick responds to the question, “What can be done to make church and other ministries is safer for women?”

Chapters are brief but well-documented. Footnotes provide resources for readers who want to go deeper than the format of the book permits (and point students writing papers on these topics to key scholarship). Each chapter ends with a few reflection questions. The book concludes with a select bibliography of key studies on women in ministry.

Conclusion. In 40 Questions about Women in Ministry, Edwards and Mathews attempt to open dialog between two very different approaches to these issues. The book does not claim to definitively answer these questions but points the way to what should be peaceful and profitable discussions of how women can serve in ministry in the local church. As they conclude, “for too long, many conservative churches have focused on what women can’t do in the church and home instead of considering what they can do. One consequence is that women, especially young women, are the largest demographic exiting churches today” (278).

 

Reviews of other books in this series:

NB: Thanks to Kregel Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Logos Free Book for November 2022 – Luke (Preachers Commentary)

 

Logos Black Friday

From November 15-24, Logos is offering a wide range of Commentary Mini-Bundles. Rather than invest in whole commentary sets, you can get more affordable sections of a series. For example, get just the 17-volumes of the Anchor Bible Historical books, or the Gospels. They have similar bundles for the New American Commentary series, the Preaching the Word Commentary series, and the Tyndale Old and New Testament Commentary series. There are quite a few individual commentaries on sale as well. This is a great time to stock up on commentaries for your Logos Library.

For the whole month, there are three publishers in this month’s Spotlight: Crossway, Moody and WKJ. For example, you can pick up the 34-Volume MacArthur New Testament Commentary set for 40% off or the 26-volume Crossway Classic Commentary set for 40% off.

Logos Free Book

Logos is giving away two resources for pastors as part of their Logos Free Book of the Month promotion in November 2022. Until the end of the month, you can add  both Get The Preacher’s Commentary: Luke and Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: New Testament for free to your Logos Library. Edited by Lloyd Ogilve, the Preachers Commentary Series combines rich resources of historical setting and textual interpretation with spiritual insights and contemporary illustrations specifically designed for communicators. The result is a resource by preachers/teachers for preachers/teachers. It is complete with outlines, section by section expositions, illustrations, and applications. Jon Courson is the founding pastor of Applegate Christian Fellowship and writes with a very readable and comfortable expositional style. This one-volume New Testament commentary published by Thomas Nelson  is 1800+ pages and gets great reviews on Amazon.

Along with the Logos Free Book, there is a wide range of discounted books this month. I will admit, the list looks weak early on, but by the middle , there are some great deals of good commentaries from Zondervan. The NIVAC volumes are certainly worth getting, as are the Story of God commentaries. I am currently using Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount commentary as a textbook in my Gospels class, and I have used Longenecker and Still, Thinking through Paul: An Introduction to His Life, Letters, and Theology for several years (priced at $9.99, that is a great deal!) There are a few older Word Commentaries, but the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series are very good. Well worth the price.

  • J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Vol. 56: The Epistles, 99 cents
  • Did You Know? More Than 6,000 Bible Questions and Answers, 99 cents
  • MacArthur’s Quick Reference Guide to the Bible, $1.99
  • Boa and Lorenzen, Visual Survey of the Bible, $1.99
  • Jon MacArthur, God in the Manger, $2.99
  • Herbert Lockyer, All the Parables of the Bible, $2.99
  • KJV Parallel Bible Commentary, $3.99
  • David Hubbard, Proverbs (The Preacher’s Commentary), $3.99
  • Scot McKnight, 1 Peter (NIV Application Commentary), $4.99
  • Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount (Story of God Bible Commentary), $4.99
  • John Byron, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Story of God Bible Commentary), $5.99
  • Douglas and Tenney, eds., New International Bible Dictionary, $5.99
  • Roland Murphy, Ecclesiastes (Word Biblical Commentary), $6.99
  • Packer and Tenney, eds., Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, $6.99
  • Joel Barker, Joel (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament), $7.99
  • William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, $7.99
  • Mark L. Strauss, Mark (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), $8.99
  • Ajith Fernando, Acts (NIV Application Commentary), , $8.99
  • George R. Beasley-Murray, John, 2nd ed. (Word Biblical Commentary), $9.99
  • Longenecker and Still, Thinking through Paul: An Introduction to His Life, Letters, and Theology, $9.99
  • Pre-Order and Save: Leviticus: A Discourse Analysis of the Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament), $34.99

You do not have to buy them all, but head to the Free Book site and grab as many as you want. Something to consider is “dynamic pricing.”  This means if you buy a book and it later appears in a larger collection you purchase, you will not be charged a second time. I have picked up quite a few of the NIVAC series from these discounted lists, so if I were to buy the whole NIVAC my price would be discounted accordingly.

On October 10 Logos released their new version, Logos 10. Here is my first look review. As expected, there are various upgrade paths for current users, from “not expensive at all” to “I need a second mortgage on the house” and everything in between. I have been using the new version for a while now on a Mac with the M1 and the speed improvement is quite noticeable. You millage may vary, but even if you are an older system, the changes to the way Logos handles files and indexing will speed things up considerably.If you are an iOS user, Logos upgraded the iPad and iPhone apps with some very cool features and a modern look and feel.

You can still get Logos Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages and take advantage of the free Logos Book of the Month promotion. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free / cheap packages. All it takes is a Faithlife account, and you can read your books using the iOS or Android app, the Logos web app, or the (much more powerful) desktop version for both Windows or Mac.

All the links are Logos Affiliate links, so buy a few books and help out Reading Acts. The deals go away on November 30, so be sure to check out all the Logos deals right away!

 

 

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 200 for October 2022

This month the Biblical Studies Carnival hits a milestone, Jim West hosts the 200th Carnival. These Biblical Studies carnivals had changed and mutated so many times the resemble some apocalyptic beast, the the goal remains the same. Jim describes his Carnival as “divided into sections so that you can quickly locate your field of interest and then move on to the other parts. Links are ‘curated’ (people love that word these days don’t they. Even sandwiches are curated now…) with appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate) commentary by your host.” As always Jim invites constructive criticism and comments and he promises to treat each with the tender compassion he is well-known for.

Biblical Studies Carnival

I hate to be too negative about this, but it has become increasingly difficult to get hosts for the carnivals. Jim West can I can keep doing them forever, but I am not sure if there is a great deal of interest from others to volunteer. (Some of you have faithfully volunteered many times and I really do appreciate it). Bloggers come and go, and sadly most of them have gone. At least the traditional blogger. Over the years blogs have given way to twitter-threads, podcasts or YouTube videos, even (God help us all) TikTok. Notice the trend is away from reading content and toward hearing (or seeing) the content. I do not listen to many podcasts mostly because I cannot listen and work at the same time, and I really don’t exercise so I am not going to listen while I “work out” (whatever that means).

So it is time for people who do listen to academic podcasts to step up and include them as part of a Biblical Studies Carnival. Let us all know who we should be listening to, maybe even (God help us), what TikTok biblical studies are worth our time.  If you have thought about hosting, now is the time! “And who knows but that you have come to your social media position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, The Message, probably)

Contact me via email, plong42@gmail.com or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a summer Biblical Studies carnival. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition. And, to quote Jim West, ” if you do one, it makes it unlikely that I will!”

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about hosting a Carnival this summer (or fall). Check out the Biblical Studies Carnival Master List at the top of this page to visit past carnivals.

 

 

 

 

 

John Goldingay, The Book of Jeremiah (NICOT)

Goldingay, John. The Book of Jeremiah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021. xxix+1033 pp. Hb; $75.00   Link to Eerdmans

John Goldingay’s 2021 Jeremiah commentary in the NICOT series replaces J. A. Thompson’s 1995 commentary (now an Eerdmans Classic Commentary). Besides his major commentary, Goldingay also recently published a short The Theology of Jeremiah (IVP Academic, 2021, reviewed here) and the NICOT volume on Lamentations (Eerdmans, 2022, reviewed here).

The sixty-six-page introduction argues the Jeremiah Scroll (as Goldingay calls the book) is a compilation of messages from Yahweh, stories about Jeremiah, and exchanges between Yahweh and Jeremiah. Goldingay outlines a plausible “three horizons” for the composition of the book. First, the particular context when Jeremiah delivered a message (for example, Jer 3:6, 21:1, 25:1). The second horizon is Jeremiah’s dictation to Baruch in 604 BC and writing in 594 BC (Jer 51:59-64). The third horizon is the production of an expanded scroll after 587 BC, with the final form of the book some time before 562 BC (based on 52:31-34). This final horizon is the work of “curators and storytellers” (9). Curators conserve things. They look after traditions, selecting and arranging them. Storytellers use narrative and drama. People can appreciate and respond to stories (both factual and fictional). Both types of stories can be just as authentic, although whether any story came from Jeremiah directly is unclear. So, Goldingay does not pay much attention to determining the dates for Jeremiah’s messages.

Goldingay, JeremiahGoldingay uses the analogy of the formation of the gospels to help explain the formation of the book of Jeremiah. In fact, both Jeremiah and the gospels have a similar time span between the words of Jesus/Jeremiah and the writing of the Gospels/the book of Jeremiah period. There are even multiple versions of Jeremiah (the Masoretic text and the Septuagint are quite different). Similar to Mark versus Matthew/Luke in the New Testament, getting behind Jeremiah to trace composition is at least as complicated as the gospels. Goldingay suggests that focusing on “getting behind Jeremiah” to work on composition is like the pursuit of Q for the study of the Gospels: it risks ceasing to pay attention to the actual scroll (14).

Nevertheless, the introduction discusses the composition of the book. Goldingay’s reconstruction uses the word possible on nearly every line. In 6626-604, Yahweh gave a series of messages to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2-6) critiquing Judah. At this point, Jeremiah is trying to reform Judah. By 604, he writes up the messages to present to king Jehoiakim, who destroys the scroll. More messages are added through 587, including the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. In either Mizpah or Egypt, Jeremiah has Baruch right down these messages. Storytellers in Mizpah or Egypt wrote the stories about Jeremiah (chapters 26-45). In his Lamentations commentary, Goldingay suggests Lamentations was formed in Judahite communities mourning and fasting at places like Bethel or Mizpah (based on Zechariah 8:18-19). Finally, the curators compiled these complex messages by the 550s, creating the form of the book in the Masoretic tradition we have today.

Goldingay admits this is the minority opinion: most scholars agree the book reached its final form during the Persian period. He offers a series of critiques of this “fourth horizon.” If the scroll of Jeremiah was finished in the Persian period, there are there is a lack of redactional connections with Ezra-Nehemiah. In addition, Jeremiah makes no references to the Persian period, as we know it from Ezra-Nehemiah. He also points out that Jeremiah has more threats and warnings than a hope for restoration, as one would expect if the book reached its final form in the Persian.

But there is a possible fifth horizon. For some scholars, the disunity of the book shows the book of Jeremiah did not reach its final form until well into the Second Temple Period. Goldingay suggests that if the curators of Jeremiah scroll lived in the Second Temple Period, “they avoided drawing attention to themselves” and “invited the readers to read the scroll in the context of the period from Josiah to the aftermath of 587… I have accepted that invitation” (22).

He therefore points out that the book fits well into the historical events in Judah of the late Assyrian and Babylonian. Is Jeremiah a creative fiction which accurately portrays this period in Judah’s history? He draws the analogy to Ecclesiastes, which uses the known history of Solomon to present (later) theology. However, he concludes however that there was a historical Jeremiah. This is true even if the actual authors were the “curators and storytellers” working in 550s and 540s. “Their aim was to transmit the message of the real author, the prophet Jeremiah—poet, preacher, crusader, persuader” (27).

Why are there two versions of Jeremiah? It is possible to study the Hebrew and Greek versions separately or top compare the two, highlighting the special features of each. A key component of Goldingay’s theory of composition is the community at Mizpah (Jer 41:1-43:13). Jeremiah and Baruch stayed in for a time before moving to Egypt with a refugee community. Did these two locations generate two different forms the book? Possibly. Goldingay observes the larger Jewish population was in Babylon, so it is possible that the community compiled the final form of the book. But Babylonian theories are complicated (see Duane Garrett’s recent Jeremiah commentary, for example). Mizpah and Egypt are the simplest. He concludes, “such possibilities are simply possibilities” (38). The commentary uses the Masoretic text as it appears in BHS, although Goldingay’s translation notes regularly refer to differences between the MT, LXX and occasionally the Vulgate.

With respect to the theology of Jeremiah, Goldingay says, “the theology of [Jeremiah] as we have it fits into that of the First Testament as a whole and particularly in the Latter Prophets” (55). He develops three themes in the introduction: The God of Israel, the Israel of God, and the nations. In Jeremiah, God is powerful and faithful, but he is also a God of wrath and rage. God calls Israel “my people,” but they are not acting like his people. Jeremiah probably did not prophesy to the nations, but he has quite a bit to say about them. All the nations serve Yahweh, even Nebuchadnezzar is God’s servant!

Since prophets “do much of their thinking in imagery” (57), Goldingay lists several metaphors Jeremiah uses for God. God is a king, a guide, a master, a build, a shepherd, a father, etc. Citing Walter Bruggeman, Yahweh is “an abandoned bridegroom, a water fountain, a betrayed father, a lion, a wolf, a leopard, a potter” (57).  This robust and diverse portrait of God leads to a series of both/and theological statements in Jeremiah. For example, Is God chiefly characterized by anger or love? Both are true in Jeremiah. Is the catastrophe of 586 inevitable, or can Judah repent and return to Yahweh? Again, in Jeremiah, both are true.

Although the book only uses the phrase in 46:10, the prophet’s vision of the future focuses on the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is the time with God will restore Israel. But this is not a far-off eschatological event at the end of history. The day of judgment is the (soon) destruction of Jerusalem and the restoration is the end of the exile (three generations in the future for Jeremiah).

Each section in the body of the commentary begins with a new translation of the pericope with a series of footnotes on lexical and textual issues. Here is where Goldingay compares the Masoretic text with the Septuagint and occasionally the Vulgate and other ancient versions. Readers who are not interested in this can easily pass over these notes. After a brief introductory paragraph setting the context and literary structure, Goldingay moves through the section verse-by-verse in a clear, readable style. All Hebrew is transliterated, and syntactical comments are minimal. Goldingay is interested in explaining what the text says and does not become distracted by “what other commentaries say.” Nevertheless, he often refers to both contemporary and classic commentaries on Jeremiah in the footnotes.

Conclusion. John Goldingay’s Jeremiah commentary will serve the next generation of biblical scholars, pastors, and teachers as they study this important book of the First Testament (to use Goldingay’s preferred title for the Old Testament). Goldingay’s commentaries are always a pleasure to read and often challenging. His style is uncomplicated and understandable for both experts and laypersons alike. He is committed to explaining the meaning of the text in the clearest terms possible.

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.