Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. and Tiberius Rata, Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. and Tiberius Rata.  Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019. 633 pp.; Hb.  $49.99; Logos Digital edition $34.99  Link to Lexham Press

Longtime Professor of Old Testament and former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Walter Kaiser is well known in evangelical circles for his work in biblical theology and commentaries on several Old Testament books. Tiberius Rata is Associate Dean of the School of Ministry Studies and Professor of Old Testament Studies at Grace Theological Seminary. Rata contributed a monograph on Jeremiah, The Covenant Motif in Jeremiah’s Book of Comfort: Intertextual Studies in Jeremiah 30–33 (Peter Lang, 2007). This commentary focuses on a clear exposition of the text of Jeremiah and will be useful for pastors and teachers preparing to apply Jeremiah to Christian communities.

Kaiser and Rata, JeremiahThe twenty-nine-page introduction deals briefly with the composition of the book. Jeremiah is obviously not arranged in a chronological order (chapters 36 and 45 date to the fourth year of king Jehoiakim) so there was some editorial activity. Kaiser takes the two scrolls in Jeremiah 36 seriously. When the king destroyed the first scroll, Jeremiah dictated a second scroll with added material. Beyond that, Kaiser is not interested in theories of composition. For example, he rejects Bernhard Duhm’s suggestion that the prophet Jeremiah wrote the poetry (280 verses), Baruch wrote the prose sections (220 verses) and the bulk of the book are post-exilic additions (880 verses). As Kaiser observes, most reject this theory today. Prose is close to Hebrew from the period (citing the Lachish letters).

The introduction deals with Jeremiah’s use of Deuteronomy. For conservative scholars, Moses wrote Deuteronomy much earlier and Jeremiah knew Deuteronomy after Josiah re-discovered in 622 BCE. Critical scholarship focuses on a Deuteronomic history (Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings) compiled during and after the exile. Kaiser points out there is no reference to Jeremiah in the Deuteronomic history, even though the prophet Isaiah figures prominently. Others detect a difference between Jeremiah and the Deuteronomic history; Jeremiah is optimistic about her return from the exile while 2 Kings seems pessimistic (there is no hope for return). For Kaiser, the historical Jeremiah wrote the book at the end of the Kingdom of Judah.

Kaiser deals briefly with the Septuagint text of Jeremiah in the introduction. The Septuagint text is 2700 words shorter than the Hebrew Masoretic text and arranged differently. Kaiser points out three fragments of manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, two of which are similar to the Masoretic text, and the third is closer to the Septuagint. This implies there were two text forms for Jeremiah in the third century BC (12). Although the translation in the body of the commentary often refers to the Septuagint, but the exposition relies on the Hebrew Bible.

The introduction summarizes the theological contribution of the book of Jeremiah. First, focusing on God, Yahweh is the God of creation, love, and “pathos.” More than any other book in the Bible, Jeremiah presents God as having deep feelings, emotions, and passions. God shows his love and affection for his people Israel and the people of the whole earth. But also his deep anger and wrath for the moral degradation of those flaunting his law (13). Second, Jeremiah presents God as using historical events as the means to accomplish his will. Third, God’s words of salvation echo the promises given to the patriarchs and David. In Jeremiah, promises of salvation intermingle with words of judgment. Commenting on Jeremiah 31:40, Kaiser asks, “has Israel forfeited… her share in the promises made in the covenant to Abraham and David? Surprisingly enough, the answer to that very good question is: Never! Never once will God retract and go back on what he has promised Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David” (375). In fact, the new covenant “does not envision a change in the partners to that covenant” (370). Kaiser rejects a supersessionist reading of Jeremiah 32:31-33. He suggests the church has “no grounding and no vitality except through the promises made to Israel and that at some point the Jewish people will turn to their Messiah in such vast numbers that it will be said ‘all Israel’ will saved (Romans 11:25b-27)” (370). The future of Judah will not depend on Judah’s own works, but on God himself. Because God made an everlasting covenant with his people, he will accomplish his covenant via a new covenant, the internalized law written on people’s hearts (31:31-33).

The introduction concludes with a detailed nine-page outline of Jeremiah, which forms the sections of the commentary. In addition, there is a short bibliography of major works cited in parentheses in the body of the commentary.

In the body of the commentary, each unit starts with a fresh translation with translation notes comparing the Hebrew text to other early translations (Septuagint, Syriac, etc.). For example, if the Septuagint omits or adds words, these appear in the notes with relevant Hebrew and Greek, along with a translation of the phrase. Expositional comments are verse-by-verse, written in clear prose without too much reference to the Hebrew text. When Hebrew appears, it is untransliterated. Footnotes deal with details of Hebrew syntax or variations of translation based on the Septuagint. There are occasional references to secondary literature.

Although not marked with a heading, each unit concludes with a paragraph drawing devotional or pastoral conclusions. For example, in his comments on Jeremiah 11 and Jeremiah facing his enemies, Kaiser comments that a congregation will stand or fall on how faithfully the word of God has been preached, and how well that congregation has responded to the word of God.

Kaiser interprets some of the prophecy in the book from a premillennial perspective. For example, commenting on Jeremiah 3:16, the phrase “in those days” points to “the messianic times coming in the future” (71). Commenting on the unification of Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 50:4, he says this will occur over a long period of time, “into the days of the second coming” (561). Commenting on the prediction “Babylon must fall” (51:61-64), Kaiser rejects the suggestion Jeremiah’s words are hyperbole since that “would verge on saying Jeremiah gave a false prophecy” (571). Instead, he suggests this prophecy telescopes from the immediate fulfillment of Jews returning from the Babylonian exile to an ultimate future when these prophecies will be fulfilled in the messianic age. But Kaiser is no dispensationalist. He rejects an interpretation of Jeremiah 30:7 which associates “the time of Jacob’s trouble” with a great tribulation after the rapture (342).

Although the commentary is nearly 600 pages long, some sections are brief. For example, the section on Jeremiah 52:1-34 is only nine pages, the bulk of which is translation. In the printed version, pages 357 have the wrong chapters for the commentary; Lexham corrected this error in the Logos digital version.

Conclusion. Walking the Ancient Paths is an excellent example of evangelical scholarship aimed at service to the church. Pastors and teachers will find this a valuable addition to their library as they prepare to preach and teach this important prophetic book. Although some academically minded readers may find the lack of engagement with critical issues frustrating, that is not the goal of the commentary.

 

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.

 

Logos Free Book -How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman III

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.

Book Review: Christopher J. H. Wright, The Message of Lamentations

Wright, Christopher J. H. The Message of Lamentations. The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2015. 166 pp. Pb; $16.00.   Link to IVP

Wright has already written the volumes on Jeremiah and Ezekiel for The Bible Speaks Today series as well as the excellent Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Intervarsity, 2011) and The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Intervarsity, 2006). His brief commentary on Lamentations is a welcome contribution to the study of this obscure book. Often commentaries on Lamentations are something of an appendix to Jeremiah (with the exception of the strange paring of Lamentations and Song of Songs in the Word Biblical Commentary series). Recently, however, several commentaries Lamentations have appeared: Adele Berlin’s commentary in the OTL series (Fortress, 2002), Dobbs-Allsopp in the Interpretation series (WJK, 2002), and Robin Parry’s commentary in the Two Horizons series (Eerdmans, 2010).

Wright LamentationsWright’s thirty-five page introduction to the book of argues “Lamentations is a book for today” (21). This is true despite the fact the book is rarely the subject of preaching and few Christians would think to “lament” as part of Christian worship. Yet there is a great deal which is worthy of lament in the modern world, horrors which are in many ways resonant with the context of Lamentations.

Wright begins by setting lamentations in the context of the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., “unquestionably the most traumatic moment in the whole history of the Old Testament” (25). With respect to authorship, there is nothing in the book that could not be written by Jeremiah and the book “sounds like Jeremiah” (27). Yet the author has chosen to remain anonymous, so Wright simply calls him “the poet” throughout the book. Wright offers a short introduction to the poetry of the book, including the acrostic structure and the form of dirge/lament.

Perhaps the most valuable section of the introduction to the book is Wright’s view how a lament functions. In some ways it is a memorial to the horrors of the fall of Jerusalem, but a memorial gives voice to those who have suffered and cannot cry out for themselves. But there is something more in this lament. Jerusalem suffered greatly because of their sin, but was God’s wrath on this people just? Lamentations can be read as a struggle to find the justice of God in the face of extreme suffering. In this sense, it is a protest against what God has done—but it is a protest that ultimately accepts both God’s sovereignty and his righteous wrath (39). Meditating on Psalm 56:8, Wright suggests Lamentations is something of a bottle for the tears of God’s people. The book is a place where outrage and sorrow can be honestly and safely expressed.

The final two sections of the introduction offers a reading of Lamentations as part of the whole canon of Scripture. In order to connect this book to the rest of the canon, Wright briefly explores the silence of God in Lamentations and the rest of Scripture. But how does a book like Lamentations “fit” into the overall drama of Scripture? He suggests reading Lamentations is like “hitting the pause button, freezing the action of the drama, memorializing that moment in the story when it did indeed seem like the drama was coming to an end” (47). He cites numerous verbal connections between Lamentations and Isaiah 40-55 to suggest the Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is at least theologically linked to Lamentations. But this reading does mean we “jump straight to Jesus” and make Lamentations all about the Cross (52). There is a sense in which God’ is silent in both cases, but his silence in the crucifixion anticipates resurrection and salvation.

The commentary itself proceeds by paragraph, commenting on the English text of the book of Lamentations. Since The Bible Speaks Today series is intentionally brief and aimed at the layperson, there is no Hebrew in the text or notes. The style used for the commentary is very readable and at times convicting. While Wright is offering an accurate exposition of the text, he also wants to challenge his readers with the content of this disturbing book. For example, while discussing the horrors of children dying in the streets of Jerusalem (Lam 2:11-19), he refers to a report from the United Nations Relief and Work Agency which detailed the aftermath of the July 2014 shelling of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force. The spokesperson for the Agency wanted to show there is a human being with a heart behind the people killed. Likewise, Lamentations seeks to “humanizes the statistics” of Jerusalem’s disaster by graphically describing the death of children in the street. This juxtaposition of current events and the distant history of Lamentations brings the text alive for the modern reader.

This commentary is very friendly toward the non-professional reader. It is not an exegetical commentary nor does it intend to deal with all of the complex issues the book of Lamentations raises. While Wright occasionally interacts with other significant commentaries, the bulk of this is relegated to the notes so a layperson will have no trouble reading this book. Each chapter ends with a few “reflections” on the text. These are questions to prompt further discussion, perhaps as a part of a small group or Bible study.

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

Published on September 5, 2015 on Reading Acts.

Logos Free Book – Thomas Schreiner ‘s 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law

40 Questions Logos Bible Software partners with Kregel this month to offer Thomas Schreiner ‘s  40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law (Kregel, 2010) for their “Free Book of the Month” promotion. Schreiner explains the “interplay between Christianity and biblical law.” Schreiner is well-known for his Baker Exegetical commentary on Romans and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on Galatians. He serves as professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2014.

This book is part of Kregel’s “40 Questions” series. Schreiner therefore follows a Q&A format in order to cover a wide variety of questions about the relationship of Christians and the Law, such as What Does the Word Law Mean in the Scriptures? Does the Old Testament Teach That Salvation Is by Works?  Does Paul Teach That the Old Testament Law Is Now Abolished?  Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?  Should Christians Tithe?

Bateman WarningIn addition to this free book, Logos is offering Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Kregel, 2007), edited by Herbert W. Bateman IV.  Bateman begins the book with a lengthy essay introducing the reader to the Warning Passages in order to set up the debate. The four views covered in the book are the “classic Arminian” by Grant Osborne, the “classic Reformed view” by Buist Fanning, the “Wesleyian Arminian view by Gareth Lee Cockerill and the “moderate Reformed view” by Randall Gleason. As is typical of these four-views books, each author responds to each position, and George Guthrie offers a concluding comment. More than most texts in the New Testament, exegesis of these passages in Hebrews is very much influenced by theological perspectives, so this book offers a balanced survey of the options.

So for 99 cents you can have two excellent books representing conservative Evangelical biblical scholarship. Both are worth owning and reading. But Logos is also giving away a copy of Logos 6 Bronze along with the six 40 Questions books published in the Logos library (a $670.90 value). Head over to Logos and get the two free/almost free books and register to win Logos 6.

 

Logos Free Book – Anthony Tomasino, Esther (EEC)

EstherLogos’s Free Book of the Month promotion is offering an excellent commentary once again for the month of June. Until the end of this month, Logos users can download Anthony Tomasino’s contribution on Esther in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC). If you are not familiar with the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary is a 44-volume commentary series published by Lexham Press, a division of FaithLife / Logos. The commentary incorporates the latest critical biblical scholarship” and “a distinctly evangelical perspective” and is in many ways similar to the Word Biblical Commentary or Baker Exegetical Commentary. The series was originally planned as a traditional print series but was dropped by the original publisher. Lexham picked it up a few years ago and has been publishing new volumes in the Logos system as they are released. (See this list of volumes, authors and publication dates.)

Anthony J. Tomasino (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is the Director of the Biblical Studies Program and associate professor of Bible, Old Testament and Hebrew studies at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana and is well-known for his Judaism before Jesus: The Events and Ideas that Shaped the New Testament World (IVP, 2003). He wrote the Esther commentary in the Zondervan Bible Background Commentary of the Old Testament.

CommentaryIn addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is also offering Gary Derickson’s 1, 2, & 3 John commentary in the EEC. Derickson has a Ph.D from Dallas Theological Seminary and is currently Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek and Chair of the Bible and Theology department at Corban University.

This is another great giveaway from Logos I can think of no better use of 99 cents than adding these two resources to your Logos library. In addition to the free and nearly free books, you can enter to win the entire Evangelical Exegetical Commentary Series (a $999.95 value). I think this is the most expensive giveaway Logos has had since the started the promotion.

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.