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bbr1The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is really a Journal.  For the month of January, you can add the first issue of the Bulletin for Biblical Research, published by the Institute for Biblical Research in 1991. According to the then editor of the journal Bruce Chilton, “the Institute for Biblical Research has launched the Bulletin for Biblical Research as an instrument for understanding the religious senses of scripture. The aim is to publish articles which are both fully critical and generally accessible to the scholarly community.”

The articles include in this issue are:

  • Robert L. Hubbard, “The Go’el in Ancient Israel: Theological Reflections on an Israelite Institution”
  • Richard S. Hess, “Lamech in the Genealogies of Genesis”
  • Ellen F. Davis, “Self-Consciousness and Conversation: Reading Genesis 22”
  • H. G. M. Williamson, “Ezra and Nehemiah in the Light of the Texts from Persepolis”
  • Jacob Neusner, “Uncleanness: A Moral or an Ontological Category in the Early Centuries A.D.?”
  • Marianne Meye Thompson, “Signs and Faith in the Fourth Gospel”
  • Darrell L. Bock, “The Son of Man in Luke 5:24”
  • E. Earle Ellis, “‘The End of the Earth’ (Acts 1:8)”

The are all substantial articles from recognized scholars. Be sure to add this volume to your Logos library. In fact, if you are interested in serious biblical research, you should consider adding all twenty-four BBR volumes!

hemer-actsFor only $1.99, you can purchase Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. This book was originally published in 1989 in the WUNT series, this electronic version is the third printing from Eisenbrauns (2008).  The book retails for $40 and is well worth that price, let alone the mere $2 for the Logos version in January.

The contents include:

  • Chapter 1:  Acts and Historicity
  • Chapter 2, Preliminary Questions including the Unity and Genre of Luke-Acts, The Meaning of Historicity
  • Chapter 3: Ancient Historiography, inclduing a section on Luke and Josephus
  • Chapter 4: Types of Knowledge Displayed in Acts
  • Chapter 5: Evidence from Historical Details in Acts
  • Chapter 6: Acts and Epistles, including the ‘Theological Disparity’ between Paul and Luke
  • Chapter 7: Galatia and the Galatians
  • Chapter 8: The Authorship and Sources of Acts
  • Chapter 9: The Date of Acts
  • Appendix 1: Speeches and Miracles in Acts
  • Appendix 2: The ‘God-fearers’

Thanks to Eisenbrauns and Logos for making these resources available. Be sure to get the books before January 31, 2017!

 

longman-proverbsThe Logos Free Book of the Month offer for December is How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman III (IVP, 2002). Longman is a well-know Old Testament scholar who has contributed a commentary on Proverbs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series (2012) and Psalms in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (IVP, 2014). For only $1.99 you can add Longman’s companion volume, How to Read Psalms (IVP, 1988).  I have used both of these small volumes on the book of Proverbs as a textbook in an undergraduate Wisdom Literature class.

The book is divided into three parts. First, Longman deals with the genre of Proverbs by defining and clarifying what proverbs are and “how they work.” For example, most readers of the book of Proverbs wonder if proverbial sayings are “always true” since we all know someone who “raised up their child in the way they should go” and the child certainly departed from that part.

In the second part of the book, Reading Proverbs in Context, Longman places the book of Proverbs in the context of the Ancient Near East. Most books on Proverbs deal with potential overlaps with international Wisdom (did Solomon use Egyptian Wisdom?) Longman also deals with the conversation between Proverbs and two other Wisdom books which have a slightly different view, Job and Ecclesiastes. This section also deals with theological aspects of this rather secular of biblical books in a brief chapter entitled “Where is God in Proverbs? Christ, the Treasure of God’s Wisdom.”

The third section traces three themes in the book of Proverbs, money, women, and words. These three chapters demonstrate how to create a thematic biblical theology within the book of Proverbs. I used this model for several assignments the last time I taught wisdom literature.

Logos also has a free book available through their Verbum site. For the month of December they are offering The Sermons of St. Bernard on Advent & Christmas is a collection of 19 sermons, originally given in Latin and translated by John Cuthbert Hedley, the bishop of Newport from 1881–1915. For 99 cents you can add The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ, or, The Mysteries of Faith by St. Alphonsus Liguori. This book contains over 70 discourses and meditations on celebrating the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

Zondervan is offering the 42 volumes of the NIV Application commentary for $4.99 each for a limited time. Starting on November 7, you can purchase any volume of this series in an eBook format for only $4.99.

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This series features the work of many world-class scholars who have contributed major commentaries on a book. For example, Douglas Moo, who wrote a major commentary in the NICNT series, contributes the NIVAC volume on Romans. It is possible many busy pastors and teachers who do not have the time to wade through all of the exegetical intricacies of Moo’s 1000+ page commentary on Romans will find his comments on Romans in this series more accessible.Image result for NIVAC genesis

Each section of the commentary begins with as section entitled “original meaning.” Here the author provides a narrative commentary on the text. In most cases the commentary reflects the author’s work in the original although there is little reference to Hebrew or Greek. I would characterize this as an exposition of the text rather than exegesis.

After the exposition, the commentary has a short section entitled “bridging contexts.” Since the world of the Bible is different than our world, the authors attempt to set scripture in context of the first century and then provide some analogy to a modern situation. In Scot McKnight’s commentary on Galatians, for example, he describes the challenge of the Judaizers to Paul’s ministry, then draws an analogy the challenge faced of strict fundamentalists today.

Image result for NIVAC galatiansFollowing this section, the author’s offer some application of the text to contemporary Christian life or church practice. This “contemporary significance” is often very personal, McKnight’s comments on fundamentalism are draw from his own experience. These sections will help a pastor or teacher apply the text, but will also be encouraging to general readers.

In fact, the NIV Application series is designed to be an accessible commentary for general readers. Any volume of the series would make a good companion volume to supplement a layperson’s reading of a biblical book. There are footnotes pointing to other literature for readers who want to read the technical, scholarly details and the bibliography will point readers to other more extensive commentaries.

Each commentary is only $4.99 in an eBook format (Amazon/Kindle, Barnes & Noble/Nook; CBD/eBooks; iTunes/iBooks). There are several bundles collecting several NIVAC volumes, starting at $17.99 (Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, Gospels and Acts, Pauline Epistles, General Epistles and Revelation).

The sale ends on November 13, 2016 (Sunday) at 11:59pm ET.

PrintLogos Bible Software is offering Craig Keener’s Cascade Commentary on Romans for free during the month of October. This is one of the best resources Logos has offered in a while. I already have both books in my Logos library (and Fee as a physical book).

Unlike some of Keener’s other commentaries, this book is a rather slender 211 pages plus indices. But do not let the size of the book fool you, Keener’s commentary is an excellent exegetical commentary which is extremely useful for preaching and teaching the book of Romans. As he says in the introduction, Keener has included “only a fraction of my research documentation in the notes for interested readers to follow up” (xi).

I overlooked this short commentary when I offered my Top Five Romans Commentaries several years ago, but have read most of it while preparing for my Romans course this fall and would certainly consider this a highly recommended commentary for pastors or laymen interested in the important exegetical discussions for key passages in Romans. For more in depth work on Romans, I recommend Douglas Moo (NICNT) and Richard Longenecker (NIGTC).

Fee RevelationFor only $1.99 you can add Gordon Fee’s Cascade Commentary on Revelation. I reviewed this commentary when it was first published, you can read the details here, but I said at that time “Fee’s commentary is an exegetical commentary and his goal is to read the text in order to determine the author’s original intent. . . Fee’s commentary is useful and can be used by pastor and layman alike, although the specialist will find it lacking in the sorts of details we have come to expect from the mammoth exegetical commentaries of Aune or Beale.”

As always Logos is giving away the other four published Cascade Commentaries in the Logos library. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

Logos-Free-Book-of-the-monthAs they do every month, Logos Bible Software is offering a free book for your Logos library. This month Logos partners with 9Marks to offer you a free copy of Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What Is a Healthy Church Member?   Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and a contributor at The Gospel Coalition. And he tweets, @ThabitiAnyabwil.

From the Logos description of the series,

“This remarkable series is a must-read for Christians of all levels. Those who are young in the faith will be propelled forward in their spiritual growth with these accessible guides to important topics and significant doctrines. Mature Christians, students, and pastors will reach new depths in their understanding of Scripture and the Christian life with these succinct, yet profound volumes. This series organically weds theory and practice through clear explanation of key theological themes coupled with practical application in the church and from the pulpit.”

Logos-Free-BookFor $1.99 you can add What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever. Dever is the senior pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and the president of 9Marks. He has published many books on both theology and church practice as well as articles for Ligonier and Tabletalk Magazine.

Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

As always Logos is giving away a set of books related to the free book. This month they are giving an eleven book set from 9Marks, including:

  • Am I Really a Christian?
  • Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry
  • Church Planting Is for Wimps
  • Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons
  • It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement
  • The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love
  • The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
  • What Does God Want of Us Anyway?: A Quick Overview of the Whole Book
  • What Is a Healthy Church Member?
  • What Is a Healthy Church?
  • What Is the Gospel?

There are several ways to enter the contest, so visit the Logos Free Book of the Month site and enter the contest early and often.

Miller-ecclesiastesLogos Bible Software is offering a volume of the Believers Church Bible Commentary for free in August 2016. During this month you can add Ecclesiastes by Douglas B. Miller to your Logos library for free, and for $1.99 you can add Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld’s commentary on Ephesians (2002) in the same series.

According to Herald Press website, the Believers Church Bible Commentary  is a “cooperative project of Brethren in Christ Church, Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren Church, and Mennonite Church.”

Each volume illuminates the Scriptures; provides historical and cultural background; shares necessary theological, sociological, and ethical meanings; and, in general, makes “the rough places plain.” Critical issues are not avoided, but neither are they moved into the foreground as debates among scholars. The series aids in the interpretive process, but it does not attempt to supersede the authority of the Word and Spirit as discerned in the gathered church.

Douglas Miller is the Old Testament editor for the series and professor at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas. He has published many articles on Ecclesiastes as well as a monograph, Symbol and Rhetoric in Ecclesiastes: The Place of hebel in Qohelet’s Work (Atlanta: SBL, 2002). Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld is Professor Emeritus at  Conrad Grebel University and wrote Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2011).

Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

As always Logos is giving away a set of 26 volumes of the Believers Church Bible Commentary,  a $432.99 value. Enter early and often.

You can also get Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude as the Verbum Free book of the Month and Merton’s The Ascent to Truth: A Study of St. John of the Cross for 99 cents. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is still the Noet Free book of the Month

Pentacostalism-a-guide-for-the-perlexedOnce again Faithlife is offering a Free “Book of the Month” for your Logos library. For the month of July you can download a copy of Pentecostalism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), by Wolfgang Vondey from T&T Clark. If you are not aware of the Guide for the Perplexed series, you should be. These are handy little volumes which cover the essential issues of an issue, along the lines of the Oxford “Very Short Introduction” series. This is not a “for dummies” series: the volumes I have used are serious introductions to cmplex topics. Vondey is a “German-born Pentecostal theologian who currently serves as Reader in Contemporary Christianity and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, where he also directs the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies” (at least according to Wikipedia, he is.)

For a $1.99 more, you can supersize this free book and download a copy of T&T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology by David M. Whitford. Whitford is professor in the Religion department at Baylor University and contributed the A Guide for the Perplexed on Luther for T&T Clark. He contributes the first chapter in the volume, “Studying and Writing about the Reformation.” The rest of the chapters cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 2: Human Nature, the Fall, and the Will – Robert Kolb
  • Chapter 3: Revelation and Scripture – Ward Holder
  • Chapter 4: Justification – Carl Trueman
  • Chapter 5: Law and Gospel – Lubomir Batka & Anna Johnson
  • Chapter 6: Election – Chad Can Dixhoorn
  • Chapter 7: Sanctification, Works, and Social Justice – Carter Lindberg
  • Chapter 8: The Sacraments – Bryan Spinks
  • Chapter 9: The Church – Paul Avis
  • Chapter 10: Preaching and Worship – Anne Thayer
  • Chapter 11: Women, Marriage & Family – Karen Spierling
  • Chapter 12: Catechisms & Confessions of Faith – Karin Maag
  • Chapter 13: Church Discipline, Abuse, Corruption – Raymond Mentzer
  • Chapter 14: Eschatology, Antichrist, and Apocalypticism – Robin Bruce Barnes
  • Chapter 15: Political Theology – Volker Leppin
  • Chapter 16: Superstition, Magic & Witchcraft – Peter Maxwell-Stuart
  • Chapter 17: Radical Theology – Geoffrey Dipple
  • Chapter 18: Images and Iconography – Randall Zachman
  • Chapter 19: Martyrdom and Religious Violence – Haruko Ward

Part two of the book is entitled, “A Reformation ABC,” a mini-dictionary of important events and people for Reformation studies. I noticed the T&T Clark website has Whitford’s chapter as part one, the chapters as part 2 and the ABS as part three, Logos has only two parts (essays and ABCs). The content appears to be the same. At 471 pages, this is a great deal for $2.

As always, you can enter to win the three other volumes in addition to the free/almost free books in Logos’s T&T Clark Studies in Theological Systems (5 vols., $99 value). Enter early and often. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

 

 Ross. Allen P. A Commentary on the Psalms. Volume 3 (90-150). Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2016. 1040 pp. Hb; $49.99. Link to Kregel.

Allen Ross’s third volume of his Psalms commentary brings to completion this major contribution to the study of the Psalms. Considering all three volumes, Ross has written nearly 3000 pages on the Psalms. But as Ross himself says in his preface, no commentary on the Psalms is every quite complete. Since this commentary is written to assist pastors and teachers study the Psalms for sermons and Bible studies, there is much left to the side. Rarely does he comment on form critical issues nor does he devote space to historical interpretations of the Psalms like Waltke’s recent work on the Psalms. Ross does not attempt to write an overall theology of the Psalms nor is there much awareness of canonical interpretation of the Psalms. He is true to his goal to write a solid exegetical commentary on the Hebrew text to meet the needs of pastors and teachers.

ross-psalmsThere is no additional introduction to the commentary beyond a short preface. Like the previous volumes in the series, Ross begins his commentary on individual psalms by “paying attention to the text.” He provides his own translation of the psalm with copious notes on textual variations, emendations, and lexical issues. Ross weighs evidence from the versions (Greek, Syriac, etc.) and does not shy away from the syntactic difficulties one encounters reading Hebrew poetry. There are notes on textual variants in the Masoretic text and alternative translations based on Hebrew syntax.

Following his translation, Ross comments on the composition and context of the Psalm. He begins by taking the Psalm header seriously if present. One example is the first Psalm in the commentary. The header for Psalm 90 identifies it as a “Song of Moses, a man of God.” Virtually all commentaries consider Psalm 90 to be post-exilic since it appears to be a communal lament and has been influenced by wisdom literature. Usually the header is understood to mean the Psalm was written in the style of Moses, as if Moses the Man of God was commenting on the present state of Israel in the post-exilic world. Ross considers this plausible, yet “unnecessarily contrived” (27) and ultimately “unconvincing” (25). Since there are Psalms attributed to David in the last section of the Psalter, it is plausible a song of Moses, composed in the late wilderness period. It was intentionally placed here in the Psalter as an introduction to the final section of the Psalter.

After the context is set Ross provides an exegetical outline for the psalm, beginning with a short summary of the Psalm (usually a single sentence). This outline is based on the English text but takes into account exegetical decisions made in the translation. There is nothing unusual about these outlines, In fact, they are excellent resources for pastoral use since they could be adapted into an exegetical sermon very easily.

The extensive explanation of the translation of the Hebrew text of each psalm is a strength of this commentary. In the main body of the commentary Hebrew appears in parenthesis without transliteration. The method is more or less verse-by-verse, although he occasionally groups verses under a single header. He interacts with a broad spectrum of scholarship in the notes, although there is preference for more conservative writers. There is no separate bibliography for each Psalm (as in the WBC or NICOT).  Most of the commentary focuses on the vocabulary of the Psalm, with special attention to the main point of the metaphors chosen. When a Psalm refers to some historical even in the life of Israel, the commentary attempts to use the allusion to understand the text of the Psalm.

Each chapter ends with a short “message and application” of the Psalm. It is here Ross attempts to bridge the gap between ancient Hebrew poetry and contemporary Christian worship with a short application. Pastors will find these conclusions very helpful as they draw on this commentary for sermons. Since Ross began by “paying attention to the text” and done his exegetical work, the “message” of the Psalm is tied directly to the text. Usually there is a single line in italics that functions as a kind of one-sentence application for the psalm.

If there is any messianic element in the Psalm, it appears in this “message and application” section. For example, Psalm 118:22-24 is explicitly messianic in the New Testament (Matt 21:42-44). Ross considered this Psalm a typology of Jesus; the builders are the Pharisees and the kings are the Romans (454). The interpretation of the Psalm, Ross says, but function at two levels because “the Lord Jesus Christ clearly appropriated it to himself” (457). Likewise, Psalm 110 is a “prophecy of the coming victory of the Messiah over the world” (358).

One significant feature of this commentary is a 136 page commentary on Psalm 119. As Ross explains, Psalm 119 has not received the kind of attention it deserves (459). By way of comparison, the excellent NICOT commentary on Psalms devotes only sixteen pages to Psalm 119, but nearly ten of those pages are a translation of the whole Psalm and more than two pages are concerned with the acrostic form and repeated vocabulary. So too Samuel Terrien’s EEC commentary; of the nineteen pages devoted to Psalm 119, twelve are a translation and one is bibliography. Geoff Grogan’s Two Horizons commentary on the Psalms has about six pages on the Psalm. To be fair, Ross has about three times the pages than the NICOT, but a 136 page unit only on Psalm 119 is perhaps the longest attempted study of this psalm is modern biblical studies.

Ross observes that a quick reading of Psalm 119 may result in the conclusion that it is a “repetitious and random collection of meditations on the Word of God” (462). Yet careful study will show each stanza is a careful meditation with certain themes, and each stanza builds toward a message which must be read from beginning to end. To demonstrate this, Ross offers a short exposition of each stanza as if were a separate Psalm. He includes an exegetical outline and expositional notes along with a “message and application” for each eight verse unit.

Conclusion. Like the other two volumes, Ross’s commentary on Psalms 90-150 is a model for how to read any section of Scripture. Ross’s method is clear and yields fruit that will enhance any sermon or lecture on the Psalms. This commentary would make an excellent addition to any pastor’s library.

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

Lim, Bo H. and Daniel Castelo. Hosea. Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015. 260 pp. Pb; $25.   Link to Eerdmans

Unlike other commentaries in the Two Horizons series, Lim and Castelo place their theological essays in the context of the commentary itself. Other contributions to the Two Horizons Commentary followed the commentary section with a series of essays on the theology of the book. In this commentary, Bo Lim writes an introduction to theological exegesis (chapter 2) as well as the commentary on text of Hosea. Daniel Castelo contributes an introduction to theological interpretation of Hosea and four essays on theological topics emerging from the book.

lim-hoseaCastelo’s opening chapter to the book is a primer on Theological Interpretation especially as it pertains to Hosea. He observes that defining what is meant by “theological interpretation” is difficult. How is interpretation theological? From the older systematic vs. biblical theology perspective, the answer might have been “interpretation is not theological.” For example, Castelo argues it is legitimate to search the Hebrew Bible for the Trinity, even though the idea of a Trinity is a later theological construct built on the New Testament. Theological interpretation is a kind of “search for Christ” in the Hebrew Bible requiring a “spiritual reading” which employs “allegory, typology, figuration, and the like” (17), but a spiritual reading which is guided by the Holy Spirit (19). Castelo suggests a three-fold structure for Hosea which recognizes the context of Hosea but points to larger, canonical, salvation history issues. His “rebellion, judgment, return/hope” triad is common in the prophets, as is Hosea’s emphasis on the collective sin of Israel (23).

Although I continue to be suspicious of theological interpretation, Bo Lim’s introduction to theological exegesis provides some relief. The Hebrew Bible is indeed canonical scripture for the church (27) and Hosea is part of the story of salvation history played out over the whole canon. Canonical placement is important, Hosea is to be read and re-read intertextually as part of the book of the Twelve. For Lim, the collection of twelve books was intended to be read as a theodicy responding to the fall of Samarian and Jerusalem. The book reached its final form in the postexilic period and now serves as an introduction to the Book of the Twelve (34).

With respect to theological exegesis, Lim follows Michael Bakhtin’s suggestion that texts operate on a dialogical level. Rather than breaking Hosea into monological units (which he observes results in an incoherent book), Lim wants to read the final form of Hosea in dialogue with the rest of the canon of Scripture as well as its reception by God’s people (36). It is a mistake to read Hosea’s ethical and theological vision solely in the context of the eighth century B.C. Lim therefore calls attention to the way Hosea has been read as anticipating the “Day of the Lord” after the Babylonian exile and in the New Testament (citing Acts 3:18 and 1 Peter 1:10-12). In addition to the clear parallels between Hosea and Amos, Hosea’s theme of return to the land is found throughout the Book of the Twelve and his marriage metaphor frames the collection (Mal 3:1).

The body of the commentary is broken into ten units, all written by Lim. He moves through larger sections, commenting on key vocabulary but does not attempt to comment on every phrase. He interacts with secondary literature throughout the commentary, although Lim is more concerned with interpretation than some of the more difficult problems of Hosea’s text. Hebrew occasionally appears in the body of the commentary accompanied by transliteration. Lim’s discussion of the marriage metaphor the first three chapters of the book is excellent, balancing parallel material from Assyria with modern accusations of misogyny and violence.

For the most part, Lim’s theological exegesis is identical to a typical commentary, although he occasionally begins a paragraph with “at the canonical level…” His comments on Hosea 6:1-6 demonstrates his dialogical method. By reading 6:4-6 as the Lord’s response to 6:1-3, the Lord’s displeasure with sacrifice evokes the lack of both knowledge and loyalty in Israel (134). He then draw the implication to confessional orthodoxy: sincerity is not enough, sola orthodoxa, sola veritas will not do (135). This looks like good exegesis which takes into account both literary and cultural context and draws significant application to contemporary issues.

With respect to Hosea’s children, Lim observes sees the “not my people” becoming “my people” as an anticipation of the inclusion of the Gentiles (citing Rom 9:25-27 and Eph 2:12). This is an example of interpreting a text across the canon and (perhaps) taking into consideration how Hosea was received by later Christian interpreters. However, that God’s people would be expanded to include the Gentiles is not at all the point of the eighth century B.C. prophet. Neither a canonical reading of Hosea within the Book of the Twelve nor Jewish reception of this text during the exile or in the post-exilic period would interpret the Gentiles as the “not my people” in Hosea.

In “Marriage, Sexuality, and Covenant Faithfulness in Hosea,” Castelo discusses the problem of the marriage metaphor in Hosea. It is the dominant metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel, but there is something disturbing in the books description of Israel as an unfaithful wife and prostitute. One problem according to Castelo is contemporary images of marriage and unfaithfulness. Attempting to draw out theological and practical implications, Castelo suggests Hosea’s sexual imagery “beckons readers to become re-enchanted with sexuality as something holy, interpersonal and mysterious” (193). By drawing analogies to contemporary marriage therapy, Castelo misses the important point the text of Hosea actually makes: Israel has been unfaithful and will go into exile for a period, yet me restored to her original virginity in the future when God woos her back from the wilderness (2:14-15). That textual meaning can be read across the canon by observing Jesus’ own use of the marriage metaphor in the Synoptic Gospels (see my own Jesus the Bridegroom). The marriage metaphor in Hosea could have been a solid example if intertextual canonical theological interpretation, but this is not exploited in this essay.

One criticism of these theological essays. They occasionally seem to stray far from the context of Hosea. In his comments on “Knowing and Speaking of YHWH in the Dynamic the Covenant Bond,” Castelo discusses the interrelationship between Christian metaphysics and Christian speech. Over ten pages he discusses theism, the nature of the Creator, and how that Creator communicates. He concludes the section by comparing Psalm 88 and John Donne’s “Batter My Heart.” But there is nothing in these pages connecting these (interesting) theological musings to the text of Hosea. Perhaps this is a result of my biblical-theology mind trying to read systematic theology, but this sort of thing is too common in the practice of “theological interpretation of Scripture.”

Conclusion. As Castelo observes, Hosea is a difficult book because “many of its features do not fit easily alongside contemporary sensibilities and though forms” (227). This discomfort finds its way into the commentary at several points, especially in the theological essays. These essays are oriented toward the marriage metaphor than anything. Lim’s commentary on the text of Hosea is excellent and draws on cultural and canonical context to interpret and apply the text judiciously. Castelo’s theological essays are challenging, although less connected to the text than expected. Nevertheless this Two Horizons commentary is a useful contribution to the study of a difficult prophetic book.

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

Merrill, Eugene H. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2015. 637 pp. Hb; $39.99. Link to Kregel.

Commentaries on 1 & 2 Chronicles are often painful to read. Since the books begin with nine chapters of genealogy there is little for most pastors to preach or teach and a great deal of textual work to be done in a serious commentary which is frankly dry reading (For example, Gary Knoppers’s excellent commentary on 1 Chronicles 1-9 will not win any awards for spiritual formation!) Merrill’s new commentary on both 1 & 2 Chronicles in an exegetical commentary yet he attempts to keep his eye on important theological issues in which pastors and teachers are interested.

A fifty page introduction begins with the historical and cultural setting of Chronicles. Merrill traces the return from exile and the political re-establishment of the Jewish people in Yehud. Here is focuses on data from Ezra and Nehemiah as well as the post-exilic prophets describing social and religious reforms. This includes the rebuilding of the Temple as well as a refinement of Temple worship. This post-exilic community is the world in which the books of Chronicles were written. Merrill is content to simply call the author “The Chronicler” rather than try to argue for Ezra or one of the post-exilic prophets.

Merrill, ChroniclesChronicles offers a rare opportunity in Old Testament studies since the book has made use of earlier canonical material and in many instances written the history to give a more favorable impression of some events or persons than the earlier Deuteronomic History (Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings). For Merrill, the Old Testament writers thought of themselves as conveying divine revelation, so the Chronicler thought carefully about any departure from his sources (51). Yet the Jewish world in the post-exilic period was much different than that of the Deuteronomic Historian.

Merrill suggests the Chronicler was influenced by the eschatological hopes of Ezra-Nehemiah so that he attempted to answer the despair of the post-exilic community by re-writing history to point forward to an eschatological hope in a restored house of David (60). It is well known that Chronicles minimizes David’s sin, for Merrill the motivation for this positive spin is to set the stage for a succession of Davidic kings fulfilling God’s promise. David is the anticipated ruler of early canonical promises (62) and the focus of prophetic hopes for a future, eschatological kingdom (65). In fact, these hopes take the shape of a new temple as a symbol of God’s reconstituted people (68).

The introduction is supplemented by twelve excurses which conclude many of the major units of the commentary. These are brief additional comments on a historical or theological issue in the unit for example, at the end of the commentary on 1 Chron 15:1-21:30 (the exploits of David), Merrill offers a page on the Angel of YHWH, two pages on David and Royal Sonship, and a about five pages on the Theological Ethic of Holy War.

Each of the nine units of the commentary covers a section of the history. Merrill breaks the units into subsections, usually covering about a chapter each. The commentary provides the NIV translation for each subsection followed by brief textual critical notes. The text provided appears to be the 1984 text (compare 1 Chron 7:23 in the 1984 and 2011 versions).  There is nothing in the preface or introduction explaining this decision, although there are less differences in Chronicles than other portions of the Bible. A second observation is that not all textual notes are in the textual notes section, occasionally they appear in the footnotes.

After the translation and notes, Merrill offers “exegesis and exposition” of the section, usually covering several verses in each section. Given the constraints of the commentary, a phrase-bu-phrase commentary is impossible so he focuses on particular problems in the text which need explanation. He comments on differences between the Deuteronomic Historian (DH) and the Chronicler, especially where the Chronicler omits something from the DH. Where there are clear parallels he provides reference to the text in the DH. Hebrew is included in the main text, although most technical details are placed in the footnotes. Even though the Hebrew text is not transliterated most readers without Hebrew will have no problem following Merrill’s comments. The footnotes interact with major commentaries and secondary literature on Chronicles.

After the commentary proper, there is a brief theological reflection on the section of Chronicles. These conveniently indexed at the beginning of the volume. In the section on the “Exploits of David,” Merrill comments that the Chronicler describes David as an “almost impeccable super-hero who does little wrong and is triumphant in nearly every undertaking to which he puts his hands” (251). From this observation, he briefly points to various Second Temple texts which express similar messianic expectations about David, including the New Testament.

Conclusion. Merrill has contributed a solid evangelical commentary on the often ignored books of 1 & 2 Chronicles which will help pastors and teachers work through the books as they present them to God’s church. His emphasis on eschatological hopes is important since these continue to develop throughout the Second Temple period and are foundation for understanding the Gospels. This is my main criticism of the volume, the theology sections are less robust than I hoped given the introduction to the commentary. This intra-canonical reading has become popular in recent years and Chronicles is a worthy place to use the methods of canonical criticism. Nevertheless, this was not the goal of the commentary so it is unfair to consider this a shortcoming. Merrill’s commentary is a worthy contribution to the Kregel Exegetical Commentary 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.

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