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Review: Accordance 10’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Beale and Carson (part 2 of 2: the content)

September 11, 2012

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, is available as an add-on module in Accordance 10. In the first part of my review of the module, I focused on Accordance’s presentation of the commentary. Here I review the content of the commentary itself, but still with a close eye on how I’ve experienced it in Accordance.

I mentioned in my last post that for reading this commentary straight through (e.g., if I want to spend some time absorbing the introduction to any given book), I can easily detach it from a given workspace where it has shown up as a “Reference Tool.” I also noted that navigating through the various headings and sub-headings of the commentary is very easy, as Accordance lays it out.

To quickly view hyperlinks you can do a “Popover” for Instant Details by holding a click on a hyperlink or by pressing option-click. Or, as I’ve begun doing since my last post, you can just have the Instant Details always open. This way I can quickly read the text of a verse that is merely referenced in the commentary, and not lose my place in the body of the commentary.

Highlighting is also mercifully easy, so that my commentary currently looks like this:

One thing to appreciate about the content of the commentary right off the bat is that it succeeds in its hope that

Readers will be helped to think through how a particular NT book or writer habitually uses the OT; they will be stimulated to see how certain OT passages and themes keep recurring in the various NT corpora.

Take D.A. Carson’s introduction to 1 Peter, for example:

The OT is cited or alluded to in 1 Peter in rich profusion. In a handful of instances quotations are introduced by formulae: dioti gegraptai, “wherefore it is written” (1:16, citing Lev. 19:2), dioti periechei en graphē, “wherefore it stands in Scripture” (2:6–8, citing Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14), or, more simply, by dioti, “wherefore” (1:24–25a, citing Isa. 40:6–8) or by gar, “for” (3:10–12, citing Ps. 34:13–17). About twenty quotations are sufficiently lengthy and specific that there is little doubt regarding their specific OT provenance. For a book of only five short chapters, there is a remarkable record of quotation. Yet the quotations tell only a small part of the story, for 1 Peter is also laced with allusions to the OT.

Andreas J. Köstenberger’s introduction to John is remarkably thorough in this regard, containing (among other things!) a table of introductory formulas John used for OT quotations, a comparison between how John uses a given OT text and how other NT writers use it, how John’s quotations relate to potentially underlying Hebrew and Greek texts, and so on.

As noted above, there are several ways I can easily use Instant Details to look up each of the verses mentioned in the commentary, without losing my place in the main body. Note that the commentary uses transliteration for Greek and Hebrew throughout. For those who are not huge fans of transliteration (myself included), this is offset by the ease with which I can look up any of those verses in Accordance in the original texts, right alongside the commentary.

In the below screen shot I have the GNT-T text at bottom left tied to the Beale-Carson Commentary. This is simple to set up with a right click on the tab, then going to “Tab Ties.” This means that as I advance through 1 Peter, for example, the GNT-T text follows me. In the instance below, I have the parallel NET open, so that a Greek-English diglot follows me through the commentary. In the “Context” zone at the right I have the Hebrew Masoretic Text and the Old Greek (LXX) open with my favorite corresponding English translations (NET and NETS) below.

One thing I sort of stumbled on that is really neat. Besides clicking on a hyperlinked verse in the text (to show me that single verse in the Context zone), command-clikcing on a hyperlinked verse gives me all the verses in my commentary’s paragraph that are hyperlinked. Note the “Verse 1 of 12” below, and how Isaiah 8:14 is right below Leviticus 19:2 in my LXX. What a nice feature!

Okay. Back to the content of the commentary itself. The introductions to each NT book, then, do well to orient the reader to trends in how that particular writer interacts with the OT text. The list of contributors is impressive–see it here. The commentary seeks to analyze not only instances where the NT quotes the OT, but also “all probable allusions” as well.

Generally speaking, each citation or allusion in question is organized around these facets:

  • The New Testament context: “the topic of discussion, the flow of thought, and, where relevant, the literary structure, genre, and rhetoric of the passage”
  • The Old Testament context of the source of the quotation or allusion–already things get interesting here, because NT writers do seem to feel free to recontextualize or resituate OT passages…
  • How early Judaism literature understood the given OT text. Even when there is little evidence of citation in early Judaism, there is still explanation. Köstenberger, for example, on John 2:17 briefly discusses the Jewish valuing of zeal, drawing on Phinehas, the Maccabees, and the Qumran community.
  • Textual issues, e.g., changes in verb tense from the LXX to the NT, and explorations of what text (proto-MT, LXX, etc.) or texts might inform the NT author’s quotation, including good discussion of textual variants (in the MT, LXX, and GNT!)
  • “How the NT is using or appealing to the OT,” i.e., are they so steeped in the OT that its language comes out naturally and not as a deliberate quotation? Does the NT writer have fulfilled prophecy in view? Etc.
  • The “theological use” of the OT by the NT writer

This last category ties much of the other content together. For example, on the theological use of Mark 1:2-3, Rick E. Watts says, “As such, eschatologically, in Jesus Isaiah’s long-delayed new-exodus deliverance of Israel has begun in Malachi’s great and terrible day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5).” Watts is dense here, but delightfully so, in my opinion. He develops these themes further–especially that of the new exodus–throughout his analysis on Mark.

I mentioned in my last post that you can search this module in a dozen different ways. The search bar is similar to Google, in that you can search English content by a single word, but also by a phrase in quotation marks, so that that exact phrase comes up in your search. Unfortunately the “Greek Content” and “Hebrew Content” searches (which search using Greek and Hebrew letters) are not available in this module, but that’s no fault of Accordance’s, since the commentary uses transliteration.

Fortunately, “Transliteration” is a search option, so you can easily look up how the commentary treats a given Greek or Hebrew word. Searching hilastērion, I see that all seven of its uses in the commentary are at Romans 3:25.

There were a few times when I wanted to go deeper into a passage than the commentary allowed. For example, Paul’s citation of Malachi in Romans 9:13 has, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” It’s hard to imagine anyone using a commentary who doesn’t want at least a little explanation of “hated” here. The commentary, to be fair, does have, “This choice of Jacob meant the rejection of Esau,” but doesn’t connect this rejection with the verb “hate.”

This just means that Beale and Carson’s commentary won’t be the only place I turn for in-depth study of a passage, but all my seminary professors say don’t use just one commentary anyway! Not a major loss here. The book is already huge (though not on a computer, thankfully), and attempts to be only “reasonably comprehensive” (which it very much is), not exhaustively so.

Besides that, it took me about three seconds to find in Accordance the NET Bible note on Malachi 1:3:

The context indicates this is technical covenant vocabulary in which “love” and “hate” are synonymous with “choose” and “reject” respectively (see Deut 7:8; Jer 31:3; Hos 3:1; 9:15; 11:1).

This commentary is what we book reviewers like to call a monumental achievement. It sits in the carrel of many a student in my seminary’s library. For good reason. And Accordance has done a magnificent job if seamlessly integrating a rich and multi-facted commentary into its software. This is a five star commentary with five star integration into Accordance 10.

Beale and Carson say in their introduction:

If this volume helps some scholars and preachers to think more coherently about the Bible and teach “the whole counsel of God” with greater understanding, depth, reverence, and edification for fellow believers, contributors and editors alike will happily conclude that the thousands of hours invested in this book were a very small price to pay.

After consulting the original biblical texts, this commentary will always be the first place I turn when I am looking to better understand (and share with others) how the New Testament uses the Old. I am grateful for those “thousands of hours invested in this book.”

Thank you to Accordance for providing me with a copy of the Beale/Carson commentary module for review. Scroll through for all six parts of my Accordance 10 review here.

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