Mark Strauss, 40 Questions about Bible Translations

Strauss, Mark L. 40 Questions about Bible Translations. 40 Questions and Answers Series. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2023. 352 pp. Pb; $24.99. Link to Kregel Academic

In 1998, Mark Strauss wrote Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy (IVP; reprinted by Wipf & Stock 2010). Since then, he has co-edited The Challenge of Bible Translation (Zondervan 2003) and co-authored How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (Zondervan 2007).  In addition to numerous articles published in peer-reviewed journals and magazines on Bible translation, Strauss currently serves as the vice-chair of the Committee on Bible Translation, the group of scholars responsible for the New International Version. This new contribution to Kregel’s 40 Question series deals with the theory and practice of Bible translation and the history of the English Bible and contemporary Bible translations.     Bible TranslationsThe first section deals with the necessity for and the goals of Bible translation. Strauss contrasts the two dominant methods used today, formal equivalence with functional. He provides ample illustrations drawn from various Bible translations of both methods and questions 31 and 32 offer examples of modern English translations in each category. Formal equivalence tends to be more literal, and the method aims to reproduce the form of the original Hebrew or Greek text. Functional equivalence (also known as dynamic equivalence) seeks the sense of the text to reproduce the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek. Strauss offers a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of both methods., Although functional is the dominant translation method today, both styles have their place.

The second section deals with preparing to translate. The two main questions are canon (what books to include in the translation) and which manuscripts to use. Both issues are worth exploring further (see, for example, Kregel’s 40 Questions about the Text and Canon of the New Testament).

The third unit is the longest and is divided into several subsections. He discusses how translators deal with words and combinations of words, figurative languages, and idioms. For example, should translators translate the idiomatic expression “opens the womb” (which is what the words are) or “firstborn” (which is what the phrase means)? Compare Exodus 13:2 in the NKJV and the NIV. Translators struggle to reflect the artistry of Hebrew poetry in English. How does a translator reflect irony in the original text? What about sarcasm?

Translators need to deal with cultural issues such as euphemisms. For example, in 1 Kings 18:46, Elijah “girded up his loins” (KJV). Should this be translated as “tucked his cloak into his belt” even though none of those words appear in the Hebrew Bible? Translators must also decide what to do with the weights and measures found in the Old and New Testaments (cubits or feet?) This is especially a problem with money. Should a translator translate a word talent “75 pounds” or even “a sum of money”? For the famous widow’s mite, the word in Mark 12:42 is literally lepton, a Roman coin with very little value. Should this be translated as “two small copper coins” (ESV, NIV, NRSV), which make a “penny” (ESV, NRSV) or “a few cents” (NIV)? Or should the word be translated as a mite (KJV) worth a farthing (KJV)? Maybe the translators should use lepton and explain the coin in a footnote.

One of the most controversial issues that translators must deal with concerns translating gender the Bible with gender-inclusive language. Strauss devotes an entire chapter to the history of NIV revisions. Why is this an issue? Hebrew and Greek nouns have gender, but this is not true in English. In addition, a word like “man” can refer to a male person (John 1:6), but it also can refer to a person (Mark 7:15, “nothing outside a man” means “nothing outside a person,” both male and female). Translators must decide whether to translate man as humanity, fathers as ancestors, brothers as brothers and sisters (when it clearly refers to the entire congregation), and sons as children (when it clearly refers to both genders).  Most modern translations have some level of gender-inclusive language, and Question 20 treats over-inclusive translations.

The fourth section of the book deals with the history of the English Bible up to the King James version. Strauss asks if the King James Version is the most accurate Bible. He suggests it was when it was first translated. However, the presence of archaic language leads to many inaccuracies, and there are problems with the manuscript evidence available to the translators of the King James Version. He reviews the history of revisions of the King James version, which attempted to deal with these shortcomings. This unit also briefly summarizes various Roman Catholic translations and summaries of modern “natural language translations” such as Weymouth, Moffatt, and the popular The Message. Strauss gives examples of Bible translations using formal and functional equivalence. Question 36 discusses “radical recontextualizations.” Some of these are fun, like the Cotton Patch Version (a paraphrase using a Southern dialect). But others may, in fact, be dangerous. Strauss mentions the Passion Translation, which makes so many changes to the original text’s meaning that it was removed from This section could be improved with more critique of the Passion Translation and a note on Bibles like the New World translation, which was made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to support their own doctrine.

Conclusion. 40 Questions about Bible Translations answers many common questions about how scholars translate ancient Hebrew and Greek texts into readable, contemporary language. He also provides ample illustrations drawn from various Bible translations. Strauss’s answers are not overly technical, so most readers will find this a helpful primer on Bible translation methods.

Strauss maintains a website, Engaging God’s Word.

Other books reviewed in this series:

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



Brandon D. Smith, The Biblical Trinity: Encountering the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Scripture

Smith, Brandon D.  The Biblical Trinity: Encountering the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Scripture. Lexham Press, 2023. 180 pp. Hb; $22.99. Link to Lexham Press

Serving as assistant professor of theology and New Testament at Cedarville, Brandon D. Smith is a co-founder of the Center for Baptist Renewal and host of the Church Grammar podcast. He recently published The Trinity in the Book of Revelation: Seeing Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in John’s Apocalypse (IVP Academic, 2023; reviewed here). Over the years, Smith taught hundreds of students Trinity, church history, and hermeneutics. This little book is the fruit of that ministry.Biblical Trinity

Smith’s premise in this book is that the doctrine of the Trinity rises from the fullness of what the whole Bible says about God. To understand this doctrine, we need to follow “the logic and grammar of scripture” (1). He offers basic reading strategies and demonstrates those strategies using select passages. The book provides a canonical, theological reading of scripture. He argues the doctrine of the Trinity is rooted in the canonical biblical story. God does not change into a Trinity in the New Testament, nor is the Trinity absent from the Old Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is received in Christian tradition as a faithful reading of Scripture’s presentation of God.

Smith discusses fifteen New Testament passages that contribute to the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, in the synoptic Gospels, he discusses Matthew 9:1-8 (Jesus forgives sin) and the trinitarian commission in Matthew 28:18-20. There are three chapters on key passages in John (1:1-18; 5:17-28; 8:58). Among several Pauline texts are 1 Corinthians 8:6 (“a New Shema”), Ephesians 1:1-14 (“A Triune Salvation”) and Philippians 2:5-11 (Equality with God). Although he wrote a book on the Trinity in Revelation, he only includes Triune Worship in Revelation 4-5.

The final chapter offers three rules for “reading trinitarianly.” First, Christ is the center of the Canon. Developing Jesus’s claim in Luke 24: 44-45, all Scripture refers to him. Smith sees this as the Christological depth of Scripture. Second, the spirit gives understanding 2 Corinthians 3:4-17. We cannot recognize when the Old Testament speaks about Jesus without the Holy Spirit. Third, the Trinity is the biblical grammar of Scripture. Although Smith wants to read the whole canon of Scripture through the lens of the Doctrine of the Trinity, his chapters focus on New Testament texts. He does look back to the Old Testament in every chapter, but his focus is on New Testament passages that contribute to a biblical doctrine of the Trinity.

The chapters in this book are brief and intentionally written as a devotional reflecting on specific passages. Smith often cites or allusions to early church writers (since the Trinity is developed in early church theological reflection). Occasional endnotes refer to commentaries and other essential studies on early Christian doctrine.

Conclusion: This small book does not pretend to be a detailed scriptural argument for the Trinity, nor a history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in church history. Although it contains those elements, the book is better described as a primer on theological interpretation of Scripture.

The book is an attractive small hardback, 5×7 inches, with a dust jacket. It would be an excellent book for a small group Bible study or personal devotional text.

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


Best Commentaries Sale for Logos Bible Software

Best Commentary Sale

Starting on September 15, Logos has a great sale on individual commentaries and bundles of commentaries. Follow that link, and you will see there are two drop-down menus so you can select an Old Testament or New Testament book you want to study. Then you have a choice of bundles: expositional, exegetical, applicational, and “best.” The bundle is five to seven books in the category. Scroll down a bit; you will see other commentaries on the chosen book. Not all the individual commentaries are on sale, but many are 30% off. Because the bundles are small, they are not extremely expensive, especially if you already own one or two in the bundle.

Don’t forget that you can get William S. Lamb, Scripture: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2014) for free during September 2023. Lamb is Vice-Principal and Tutor in New Testament Studies, Westcott House, Cambridge. T&T Clark’s Guide for the Perplexed series features excellent primers on complicated topics. In this volume, Lamb discusses “the questions posed by biblical criticism to the enterprise of Christian theology and the place of scripture in the life of the contemporary church.” Logos has several recent ICC volumes on sale this month, such as C. K. Barrett on 2 Corinthians. There is a nice mix of biblical, theological, and historical studies on offer here.  So head over to the Free Book of the Month page and buy as many as you like.

The Logos September Sale has got some great deals. Maybe too many. This is a rare time when you can save 25% on BDAG, the best Greek Lexicon available. It is still pricey but well worth the money. I glanced through the list. There are quite a few expensive bundles and some individual volumes, which are great deals. Poke around the sale and see what you can find.

If you do not already own Logos, check out my first-look review of Logos 10. Starting September 15, you can save 20% off Logos 10 Silver (and up). Current users have various upgrade paths, from “Not expensive at all” to “Who needs food?” and everything in between. 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 and Mac.

All the links are Logos Affiliate links. If you are planning on buying Logos books, use this link and out Reading Acts.

These deals go away on September 30. So shop early, and shop often.


Gerald R. McDermott, ed. Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity

McDermott, Gerald R., ed. Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Essays on the Relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology. Lexham Press, 2021. xv+271 pp. Pb; $29.99. Link to Lexham Press

Gerald McDermott previously edited a collection of essays, The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (InterVarsity Press, 2016), and published a popular presentation of his ideas as Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land (Brazos, 2017, reviewed here). This contribution to Lexham’s Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology collects essays on the Jewish roots of Christianity.Jewish Roots of Christianity

After McDermott’s short introductory essay, Mark S. Gignilliat asks, “How Did the New Testament Authors Use Tanak?”  He surveys the current state of research in broad brush strokes. To give but one of his examples, the logic of the parables is based on Isaiah’s portrayal of deafness and hearing as metaphors for judgment and redemption (9). Does the New Testament exist without the Old Testament? Like the two natures of Christ, he suggests that scripture has a two-testament character. Gignilliat concludes Christians must expel any latent Marcionism from the church.

Matthew Thiessen answers, “Did Jesus Plan to Start a New Religion?” The obvious answer to this somewhat click-bait title is “No.” Thiessen argues that Jesus, his earliest followers, and Paul all stayed well within Judaism. All we know about Jesus comes through the synoptic gospels, so it is anachronistic to talk about Christianity as a religion in this context. Jesus did not reject Judaism and become a Christian (a sentence so anachronistic I find it difficult to write). He examines Jesus’s view of the temple, ritual purity, and sacred time to demonstrate his point. He shows that Jesus is consistent with the Judaism of his time.

David Rudolph addresses a similar question in the fourth essay, “Was Paul Championing a New Freedom from—or End to—Jewish Law?” Did Paul argue that something (specifically, Christ) superseded the law? What is the law made superfluous by Christ? Or was Paul indifferent toward the Jewish law? Rudolph suggests Paul thought of Jewish identity and law observance as “a matter of calling and covenant fidelity” (50). Paul remained a Torah-observant Jew, faithful to Israel’s law and customs. He interacts with Acts 15:22-29, 21:17-26 (Paul’s claim to Torah faithfulness), and 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Paul’s rule on circumcision). The key assumption of this essay is that Paul’s view of the Jewish law observance was for the Jewish people, not Gentiles.

In the fifth essay, David M. Moffitt discusses “Jesus’ Sacrifice and the Mosaic Logic of Hebrews’ New-Covenant Theology.” Some argue that the idea of the New Covenant in the book of Hebrews represents a decisive break with the Jewish roots of early Christianity. Moffitt says no, these interpretations fail to understand the covenantal framework of the writer of Hebrews and the analogies between Jesus’s work and the new covenant. Hebrews is informed by the Mosaic covenant, and the book never repudiates it (52). To demonstrate this, he shows that the author of Hebrews sees Jesus’s death as a sacrifice that inaugurates the new covenant, but his ascension maintains the new covenant.

Matthew S. C. Olver examines the “Missed and Misunderstood Jewish Roots of Christian Worship” in the sixth essay. What Jewish worship practices really influenced early Christian worship? He suggests sacrifice is “the most overlooked and important legacy that Christian cultic practice received from Judaism” (72).  He begins by examining four common influences which he determines are false. For example, it is sometimes suggested that the synagogue was a place of worship like a church building. Olver points out that synagogues were not always physical buildings, and not every community had one. Additionally, the influence of the synagogue increased after 8070. He offers three important Jewish influences on Christian worship, participation in temple worship and daily prayers (which may have influenced Jewish daily prayers). But he suggests that “sacrifice is the thread that binds Christianity to Judaism” (82). To support this assertion, he examines the book of Hebrews, which argues that Jesus is the great high priest and brought an end to sacrifice: so how can this be? He surveys sacrificial language in the New Testament and in the early church documents such as Didache, Polycarp Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus. He concludes that the earliest form of the Eucharist was understood as a form of sacrifice (102). He concludes with a citation of John Chrysostom, “Do we not offer sacrifices daily?”

Isaac W. Oliver discusses the so-called “parting of the ways” by asking, “When and How Did the Ekklēsia Split from the Synagogue?” He begins by defining what he means by ekklēsia and synagogue. He argues there were no differences for the earliest followers of Jesus. So when did they “split” into two different things? As long as Jesus’s followers remained within Judaism, “it is misguided to speak of a split” (110). There were Torah-observant followers of Jesus well into the 2nd century, even after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Although he recognizes that this is a convenient date, it is not as if there was a definitive time when the synagogues split from the ekklēsia. For Jews, Jesus’s followers were a radical sect who preached A controversial message, specifically that Jesus was the crucified Messiah. This was also a politically dangerous claim in the Roman world. Jewish Christians were eventually excluded from the ecclesia as much as they were excluded from the synagogue. With the resurgence of messianic Judaism, he concludes his essay by observing whether the ways ever really part?

In the eighth essay, Eugene Korn surveys the relationship of the church and Judaism from Constantine to the Holocaust. He begins with the observation that there were certainly theological issues, but there were many empirical realities of how each treated the other from a political, social, and moral perspective. This article contributes valuable insights from rabbinic and Jewish thinkers on Christianity and concludes with the theological potential to move forward in the future. He traces anti-Judaism and overt anti-Semitism through church history. He often illustrates this with photographs of Christian art, which depicts synagogues as blind, in contrast to the church. But rabbinic attitudes towards Christians were also dismissive. Christians were idolaters and not pure monotheists at all. Some later Jewish writers, however, were more positive. In recent years, Messianic Judaism and Christian Zionism (to use McDermott’s term) have given hope for bringing Jews and Christians closer.

Jennifer M. Rosner’s essay on “Post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian Relations” suggests that the post-Holocaust era has seen many official Christian statements charting a new way for Jewish-Christian relations. She focuses on Karl Barth and his doctrine of Israel and the church. Barth’s theology “left no room for a de-Judaized savior nor a supersessionist church” (153). But Barth did not adequately deal with the implications of a Jewish Jesus. For a Jewish perspective, she examines Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. She argues that he saw neither Judaism nor Christianity as fully possessing the whole truth, although the idea of a Jewish Messiah remains a problem. But other more recent writers have extended the trajectory away from Judaism to Christianity as mutually exclusive terms (167).

In the tenth essay, Sarah Lebhar Hall surveys “the (Largely) Untold Story” of Anglican support for Jewish communities beginning with The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews (LSJ), founded in 1809. She praises the Anglican community for recontextualizing the gospel through “thoughtful use of language, worship style, and architectural space” and empowering Jewish believers through outreach into Jewish communities. This includes early English missionaries to Jewish communities that built long-lasting relationships.

Mark S. Kinzer shows how Messianic Judaism and recovering the Jewish character of the Ekklēsia. He begins his essay by observing that there are really three parties in discussions on the parting of the ways: the Jewish community, the emerging gentile church, and the Jewish members of the ekklēsia (190). It was not as though there were only Jewish Jews in the synagogue and gentile Christians in churches. As this essay points out, there are still Jews who believed in Jesus, like the modern messianic Jewish community. These messianic Jews are not found just among evangelicals but also in Catholic and Orthodox traditions. He suggests that the early rupture between Christians and Jews was not inevitable. He cites Daniel Boyarin, calling the parting of the ways a “partitioning of territory” one shared without border lines.

Archbishop of the Anglican church in North America and General Secretary of the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference Foley Beach answers the question, “What Difference Does the Jewishness of Jesus Make?” The article summarizes much of the evidence for a Jewish Jesus born into a Jewish world, raised by Jewish parents, and lived out his life as a Jewish man. All of this is very clear and obvious, but so what? Beach suggests first that there should be no anti-Semitism among followers of Jesus. Second, modern followers of Jesus ought to desire to understand the Hebrew roots of their faith. Third, they ought to value the Jewish Bible, and fourth, they ought to seek to understand Jesus in the light of his Hebrew background. 5th, Christians ought to seek to share Jesus with their Jewish friends. Lastly, they must realize the debt Christians owe to the Jewish people.

In his concluding essay, McDermott asks what difference an understanding of the Jewish roots of Christianity makes for Christian theology.  After summarizing the preceding essays, he makes several key points. First, the word Christ ought to be replaced with the word Messiah. In the New Testament, and especially in John’s gospel, the word Jew ought to be understood as “the Judean leaders of the temple establishment.” This avoids anti-Semitic readings of the gospel of John, which paint all Jews as enemies of Christians (which was never the case). Christians need to understand the law as the apostle Paul did, and finally, they need to understand the Kingdom of God as the Second Temple period century Jews did.

Conclusion. This collection of essays demonstrates the importance of reading Jesus, Paul, and the early church in its Jewish context. This is not anything new for scholars working in the areas of Historical Jesus or Pauline theology. But for many Bible readers, it may be surprising to learn just how Jewish the earliest church was. More importantly, these essays trace out several theological and practical implications of the Jewish roots of Christianity. Certainly, they could have gone further. For example, some recent contributions to “Paul with Judaism” might suggest that Paul was not even a Christian. Matthew Thiessen comes the closest in this collection.


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



James D. Nogalski, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah (NICOT)

Nogalski, James D. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2023. xxxv+434 pp. Hb; $54.00   Link to Eerdmans

This new volume of the NICOT series on Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah replaces Leslie Allen’s 1976 volume in the NICOT series (now an Eerdmans Classic Commentary). Nogalski is writing a separate commentary on Micah (scheduled for April 2024). James Nogalski is the W. Marshall & Lulie Craig Professor of Old Testament at Baylor University. He has written extensively on the Minor Prophets, including two Smyth & Helwys Commentaries on the Minor Prophets and two important monographs on the formation of the Book of the Twelve, Literary Precursors to the Book of the Twelve (BZAW 217), Redactional Processes in the Book of the Twelve (BZAW 218), both De Gruyter, 1993. In 2017, SBL Press published The Book of the Twelve and Beyond:  Collected Essays of James D. Nogalski.

Joel, Obadiah, Jonah

Nogalski begins his commentary by briefly introducing his views on how the Book of the Twelve was formed (p. 1-13). “The twelve writings have been edited in various ways in the light of their position and literary function within this larger corpus” (3). You’re used throughout the commentary that the Book of the Twelve was deliberately edited and arranged to be a “canonical entity.” Much of this evidence will appear in the introductions to each of the three Minor Prophets he discusses in this commentary. In this brief introduction, he surveys the scholarship on the Twelve, including his own 1993 monographs in the BZAW series, and responds to some skepticism to his views. He argues that there are important theological implications of the formation of the Book of the Twelve. The sum of the whole is greater than the parts (9). The structure of the Book of the Twelve moves the reader from the eighth century BCE to the Persian period (when the Book of the Twelve reached its final form). Michael Shepherd uses Nogalski’s work for his commentary on the Book of the Twelve in the KEL series (Kregel 2018). See my review here.

This commentary focuses on the final form of each book and how they reached that final form. However, there is no reception history. The commentary focuses on what the speech looked like when it was initially delivered. Was it delivered orally, or was it a written composition? Several times in the body of the commentary, Nogalski refers to the author as a “scribal prophet,” implying that the author gathered material from existing sources and edited them into the book as we have it today. For example, Jonah is set in the eighth century BCE but concerns the post-exilic community.

In the introduction to Joel, Nogalski observes that the background of this book is notoriously difficult to pin down because of the lack of historical context, the lack of specific kings in the first verses, and an awareness of other prophets. He suggests a date in the Persian period, written by a prophet working out of the temple. He surveys models of unity and diversity and observes a strong sense of cohesion even with significant disjunctures (27). Joel was compiled by a “scribal prophet.” Its position in the Book of the Twelve causes it to function as an early voice for understanding the whole scroll. The occasion for Joel is the economic struggles caused by harsh weather conditions in the Persian period. Nothing can be tied to a specific known event.

Joel has a “cause-and-effect” theology of judgment and mercy. Graphic images of locust plagues, drought, and military attacks are drawn from the curse language found in Deuteronomy, especially in Joel 2:1-11. Yet Yahweh promises to remove the curse, the enemy from the north, and the economic devastation. Once again, there will be bountiful harvests (38). By Joel 3, grander changes will occur “in the latter days” when God will pour out his spirit on all flesh. All people will act as prophets, and there will be a complete restoration of Judah and a judgment on the nations.

The day of the Lord can have three senses in the Book of the Twelve. First, it sometimes refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Second, it may refer to Yahweh’s punishment of the nations who have harmed Judah. And third, it may refer to a distant future when Jerusalem will serve as a place of refuge “on that day.”

A significant issue in any commentary on Joel is the writer’s use of other biblical texts. Nogalski offers a short overview of exodus typology, wilderness allusions, and his use of Amos, Zephaniah, Malachi, Obadiah, Hosea, and Isaiah. He argues that a scribal prophet combined speeches into an extended treatise on the day of Yahweh so that the book of Joel dovetails with the Book of the Twelve. He traces connections between Joel and Hosea, Joel and Amos, and other Day of the Lord texts in the Book of the Twelve. Joel, therefore, invites contemplation on God’s character, the nature of judgment and hope, and God’s relationship with his people.

Nogalski’s introduction to Obadiah begins with a sketch of Edom’s history and its role in the aftermath of Jerusalem’s destruction. Despite its brevity, Obadiah may be a collection of prophetic sayings. The book includes verses from Jeremiah 49, and Nogalski examines the structural and rhetorical markers connecting Obadiah 1-5 with Amos 9:1-4. The commentary takes seriously the final form of the text. Although the book may contain material from more than one hand, a scribal prophet combined and edited this material into a unit that thematically parallels Amos 9 (204).

The identity of this scribal prophet is unknown, and the book does not include a king or hometown in verse one. Concerning date, the book could be written as early as the 6th century. Obadiah is an eyewitness of the fall of Edom, so this could extend into the Hellenistic. He argues for a fifth-century BCE date based on the use of Jeremiah. He detects evidence of an advanced stage of Jeremiah’s composition in the sixth century (211). Over there is a prophetic and theological reflection on the fate of Edom 215. By placing Obadiah next to Amos 9, the editor of Book of the Twelve invites attention to the similarities between Israel’s fate and Edom’s.

“The message of Obadiah is not for the faint of heart” (286). The book discusses the judgment of Edom and the violent character of God in the Old Testament. In this, it is much like an imprecatory Psalm. But God’s judgment is followed by restoration. Israel, Edom, and the nations will be restored. But Obadiah’s vision does not come to pass in a literal sense (286). Persia, Greece, and then Rome controlled the region. Although Jerusalem grew during those years, its territory never reached the size described in Obadiah 19-21.

Nogalski begins his introduction to Jonah by observing that this book is much different because it tells a story rather than collects and edits speeches and sayings. The prophet Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25, but most consider the story a fiction using the prophet to represent a theological position from the writer’s time. “The story is told with humor and panache,” and the “audience who heard or read this tale would have chuckled” (291). Throughout his commentary, he argues the story has a satirical edge.

For Nogalski, the author lived in the Persian or Hellenistic period and was answering (or ridiculing) theological exclusivity. Could a foreign nation repent? At the time the book was written, foreign nations ruled over Judah. How could Judah’s leaders work under foreign rule? The writer is poking fun at religious leaders who cannot accept divine grace for others even while demanding it for themselves” (293).

A major problem most commentaries on Jonah address is the genre of the book. He surveys several suggestions and points out these suggested genres usually miss the book’s humor (301). If one fails to reckon with the humorous elements of Jonah, then one sees disjunctions as signs of sloppy editing rather than the core elements of the comedic presentation of an author with a keen sense of humor (298).

As with the other prophets in this commentary, Nogalski argues Jonah has been placed in the Book of the Twelve intentionally. Jonah 4:2 is the key verse of the book. He argues that this verse takes up Joel’s citation of Exodus 34:6 (380). He argues the details in an excursus (382-85).

As with other NICOT volumes, Nogalski works through the text of each prophet based on the Hebrew test, although all Hebrew is transliterated, so readers without Hebrew can follow the commentary. His comments are generally on the English text with details in the footnotes. Each unit begins with a new translation with textual notes coveting syntactical elements and textual problems. He then works through a section verse-by-verse. Footnotes interact with secondary literature.

Conclusion. Like other recent new volumes in the NICOT series, Nogalski’s commentary on these three books is a worthy successor to Leslie Allen’s earlier volume. Although thoroughly researched and full of the details one expects in a major commentary, the prose is enjoyable to read and will serve students and scholars well as they study these three Minor Prophets. Whether one is convinced of Nogalski’s view on the overall formation of the Book of the Twelve, this commentary is well worth consulting.


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

Other Commentaries in the NICOT Series: