Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (OT, NT): Big Accordance Sale

Image via Accordance

 

One of the most promising new commentary projects continues to add new volumes: the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, covering both Old and New Testament books.

Accordance Bible Software has a huge sale on the OT and NT volumes, both as collections and individual volumes. Check out the details here.

Want to read more about individual volumes in the series?

I reviewed Daniel I. Block’s Obadiah volume here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume might just be the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (A remarkable feat, as there is no dearth of Jonah commentaries!) I have not yet reviewed Block’s Ruth volume, but noted it here.

And I’ve reviewed these NT volumes: Matthew, Colossians and Philemon, James, and Luke… with a book note on Mark here. (Fun fact: the Luke ZECNT volume was the very first commentary reviewed at Words on the Word.)

If you haven’t gotten lost in the above hyperlinks, here is the link again to the sale at Accordance. Overall this is a series I’ve been impressed with, and have made good use of in preaching.

New Title from JPS: Justice for All

 

Readers of this blog (yes, it’s alive!) may recall my immense appreciation for commentaries and other works published by The Jewish Publication Society. You can find a host of JPS reviews and book notes I’ve written here.

JPS has just released Justice for All: How the Jewish Bible Revolutionized Ethics, by Jeremiah Unterman.

Biblical justice has been a recurring theme in our congregation this past school year–both in my preaching and in our adult Sunday school classes. I’m eager to dig in to this volume.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Justice for All demonstrates that the Jewish Bible, by radically changing the course of ethical thought, came to exercise enormous influence on Jewish thought and law and also laid the basis for Christian ethics and the broader development of modern Western civilization.

Jeremiah Unterman shows us persuasively that the ethics of the Jewish Bible represent a significant moral advance over Ancient Near East cultures. Moreover, he elucidates how the Bible’s unique conception of ethical monotheism, innovative understanding of covenantal law, and revolutionary messages from the prophets form the foundation of many Western civilization ideals. Justice for All connects these timeless biblical texts to the persistent themes of our times: immigration policy, forgiveness and reconciliation, care for the less privileged, and attaining hope for the future despite destruction and exile in this world.

You can read a .pdf excerpt here. The book’s product page is here, and is also available through Amazon.

NIV Application Commentaries, $4.99 Each

NIVAC sale

 

Zondervan’s NIV Application Commentary series is on sale again (today is the last day), with each of the ebooks selling at $4.99.

I really liked Psalms vol. 1 in this series. There are a lot of really good volumes in NIVAC, including some e-bundles available now.

All the Table of Contents now are hyperlinked, so navigating via Kindle or iBooks should be relatively manageable. You won’t get the same sort of search power you’d get in Accordance or Logos, but the price is tough to beat.

See everything here on Amazon or here at Zondervan’s page.

A Review of Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes)

Discovering the LXX

 

At long last Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, has been published by Kregel Academic. The TL;DR version of my review is: while the resource has a few noticeable flaws (easily fixable for a second edition), its addition to the world of Greek reading and Septuagint studies is long overdue.

Below is a longer review of the book, in what I hope will be easy-to-scan Q & A format.

 


 

What books of the LXX are covered?

There are ten, intended to “give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament” (9). Discovering the Septuagint treats nearly 700 verses from:

  1. Genesis (80 verses)
  2. Exodus (79 verses)
  3. Exodus 20:1–21 // Deuteronomy 5:6–21 (10 Commandments)
  4. Ruth (85 verses)
  5. Additions to Greek Esther (73 verses)
  6. Psalms (67 verses)
  7. Hosea (56 verses)
  8. Jonah (48 verses)
  9. Malachi (55 verses)
  10. Isaiah (81 verses)

 

For whom is this book?

Jobes says it “contains everything needed for any reader with three semesters of koine Greek to succeed in expanding their horizons to the Septuagint” (8). I think this assessment is right, as I found the book easy to understand (though I’ve had more than three semesters of Greek).

 

How is the book structured?

Each LXX book has a short introduction. Then there is the passage, verse by verse, with the Greek text re-printed in full. Under each verse are word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase comments on the vocabulary, usage, syntax, translation from Hebrew (the book is strong here), and so on. Following each passage is the NETS (English translation). The end of the book has a three-page, 33-term glossary and a two-page “Index of New Testament LXX Citations” for the books included in the reader.

 

What does a sample entry look like?

Here’s Jonah 4:6:

jobes-on-jonah-lxx

 

What’s commendable about Discovering the Septuagint?

It shouldn’t go without saying that the very existence of this resource is a boon to Greek readers. There is Conybeare and Stock, as well as some passages in Decker’s Koine Greek Reader, but readers of the Septuagint have far fewer resources than readers of the Greek New Testament.

The margins are plenty wide for students to jot down their own parsings, translations, and notes.

Notes on the verses are often answers to questions I’ve had as I’ve read the Greek text. In this sense the reader is a great guide. For example, here is a comment from Genesis 1:4:

ἀνὰ μέσον . . . ἀνὰ μέσον | Idiomatic prep phrase, “between.” This is a Hebraism, so there is no need to translate the second of the pair as NETS does.

And another helpful nugget from Genesis 1:11:

κατὰ γένος | Prep + neut sg acc (3rd dec) noun, γένος, kind. Remember the nom and acc forms are identical in this paradigm. Agrees with and modifies σπέρμα.

Whether or not a fourth semester Greek student should remember that nominative and accusative forms are identical in the third declension is another issue. That the reader reminds me as much is welcomed.

 

What is lacking?

The glued binding doesn’t do justice to a book like this, but that seems to be the way many publishers have gone recently, even with reference works in biblical studies.

Parts of the book feel under-edited or rushed to print:

  • a few typos (missing periods, etc.)
  • referring to the Rahlfs-Hanhart text as a “critical edition of the Septuagint” (9), which is technically true, but potentially misleading, as “semi-critical” is better (text criticism is not a real concern of the book)
  • a peppering of vague statements like this one on “the image of God” in Genesis 1:26: “See a commentary or study Bible” (31)
  • the typesetting on the epsilon just seems off to me. I’ve tried to convince myself it’s just me, but I haven’t since been able to unsee what just looks like a flattened ε or a backwards three, rather than an actual Greek letter:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-06-57

     

    By contrast, look at the letter in this screenshot, taken from Accordance Bible Software:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-08-42

     

    The layout and Greek font are nice otherwise! (Though a couple times in the typesetting of the book, a letter from another language intrudes mid-word.)

  • Introductory issues are quite sparse–whether in the introduction to the Greek of the Septuagint itself (just two pages) or in the introductions to books. I would have liked it if the contributing writers had offered more for each book–even three or four pages would have gone further than the one or two that are here.

This last point deserves just a couple more lines. A number of the introductions adapt or “abstract” their text from the NETS book introductions, which readers could easily enough have found on their own. In some ways the book introductions read just like exam study guides you might have made yourself for a grad-level class on the Septuagint. That may be, in fact, how they started! (Jobes is chief overseer of the book, with many contributors.) This does not make the introductions not valuable, but it will probably leave readers wishing for more detail.

All in all, Discovering the Septuagint is worth owning. The number of times I’ve gotten grammatical or morphological help from the comments far outweighs any of the volume’s weaknesses. And there is a lot of Greek help to be had here. I’ll be making repeated use of this book by Jobes and company, and am glad it’s finally on the market.

Discovering the Septuagint is available from Amazon, as well as from Kregel.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for sending the review copy, provided to me so I could write about the book, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

A Look Inside Zondervan’s New NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Image via Zondervan
Image via Zondervan

 

The aim of Zondervan’s just-released NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is simple:

This study Bible has been purpose-built to do one thing: to increase your understanding of the cultural nuances behind the text of God’s Word so that your study experience, and your knowledge of the realities behind the ideas in the text, is enriched and expanded.

John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener are the editors. Walton oversaw The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament (ZIBBCOT), a resource I consult for almost every passage I preach on. Walton also co-wrote the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

Keener has written a page or two in his time, too. Just today I found great help with Ephesians 5:21ff in his IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. (Although some of Keener’s contextual explanations of “submission” and “headship” and slavery did not make their way into this study Bible, where those verses unfortunately received a less nuanced approach.)

Content from both the ZIBBCOT and the IVP Bible Background Commentary finds its way into this study Bible. (As do a couple dozen articles from the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.) As for the 2011 New International Version—used in this volume—I write more about it here.

This definitely-not-compact Bible has more than 10,000 study notes. No, I didn’t count, but check out this page from Micah 1, a chapter which needs a lot of background explanation. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible delivers:

 

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The accompanying maps, images, diagrams, and charts are all in color:

 

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Micah’s introduction is fair in presenting a few different viewpoints on dating, and concludes:

The modern reader of Micah should at least be aware of the variety of ways in which different historical backgrounds have made a difference in the understanding of, and even translations of, several difficult passages in the book of Micah.

And it’s not just historical background for its own sake. The authors and editors seem to have the aim of helping the reader understand the text.

Micah 4:4 reads:

Everyone will sit under their own vine

and under their own fig tree,

and no one will make them afraid,

for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

Here is the study note on Micah 4:4:

The vine and fig were the two most important fruits of an ancient Israelite garden. The vine, because of the length of time necessary before good grapes were produced, was often a symbol of a sedentary life. The fig was known for its sweet produce (Jdg 9:11) and, like the vine, for its pleasant shade. …[T]he picture of the vine and fig tree also point to long-term investment and stability.

The Old Testament introductory materials include a helpful “Hebrew to English Translation Chart,” for instances where “there is no English word that corresponds sufficiently to capture the breadth of nuance that the Hebrew word contains. “ It’s a nice addition, and not one I can recall seeing in a study Bible before.

The inclusion of those Hebrew words caused me to be a little surprised, then, that the study Bible missed the opportunity to point out the Hebrew wordplay on Micah’s name in Micah 7:18: “Who is a God like you…?”

So one may still want the larger background commentaries that this study Bible makes use of. However, the Bible is already fairly large, so the level of detail is understandable.

All in all, though it’s difficult to justify yet another study Bible, this one does fill a void, since many study Bibles treat background, but in nowhere near this level of detail.

You can learn much more about the study Bible here. If you want to see some nice shots of the inside of the print edition, check out this post over at Bible Buying Guide. And you can find a couple different versions of the Bible at Amazon here.

 


 

AcademicPS and Zondervan set me up with a hard copy of the Bible, as well as electronic access, so I could review it, though this kindness did not influence my objectivity.

It’s Prohibitively Expensive, But…

Brill LXX

 

…the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series is nearing availability on Logos Bible Software.

Here is how Brill describes its series:

This multi-volume series fills a significant gap in biblical studies by providing a literary commentary on the Greek text of the Septuagint. The Septuagint is widely recognized as one of the most important interpretations of the Old Testament and one of the most important sources for New Testament study. Whereas there has been much attention devoted to the two testaments, with numerous commentary series having been written, the Septuagint has been virtually neglected as a set of primary texts used by Jewish and Christian religious communities in the Greco-Roman world.

All 13 published titles will be released in late July through Logos, now available for the steep pre-order price of $1,773.99. It’s a good time to consult your local theological library. All the same, I’m encouraged to see the expanding availability of electronic resources for Septuagint studies.

Find out more here.

A Three-Volume, Multi-Thousand Page Commentary for Psalms Study

Engagement with the Psalms—reading them, owning them, singing them, praying them, and taking cues from them—is vital for robust worship and spiritual formation in the church. If they truly are “a Bible in miniature,” as Luther has said, they offer the opportunity for the church to grow in its spiritual and emotional maturity.

 

Descriptive, Prescriptive

 

The writers of the Psalms give language to the whole range of emotions: from gratitude to fear, from joy to lamentation, from petition to thanksgiving, from intimate, private prayers to national, corporate prayers. In this way they are eminently descriptive of the human experience.

The Psalms also prescriptively guide the reader into various postures of prayer, so that the one praying does not only ever approach God with petitions, or only ever with complaint, and so on. The cognitive and affective come together in the Psalms in sometimes unexpected ways. Psalms of lament, for example, often begin with a loud “Why?” (stressing the affective) yet end with a determined profession of faith like, “But I will trust in you still….” In this way they stress the use of cognitive powers in prayer—external life evidence notwithstanding!

The Psalms express (descriptively) and call forth (prescriptively) a whole spectrum of human experience in relationship to God. They teach us to bring our whole selves to God in worship.

 

Preaching the Psalms

 

But how to preach them? One will need to take into account intercultural realities. Understanding the role of a shepherd in ancient society will certainly help with Psalm 23. And soul-searching is required.

 

Psalms of Summer

 

A good set of commentaries helps, too. I preached some Psalms a couple summers ago, and found these two options quite helpful.

Just completed, too, is Allen P. Ross’s three-volume, multi-thousand page commentary on the Psalms, published by Kregel Academic.

 

Ross’s Commentary, in Three Volumes

 

Ross Psalms Vol. 1

 

Volume 1 has more than 150 pages of introductory material, covering:

  • “Value of the Psalms” (Ross says, “It is impossible to express adequately the value of the Book of Psalms to the household of faith”)
  • “Text and Ancient Versions of the Psalms”
  • “History of the Interpretation of the Psalms”
  • “Interpreting Biblical Poetry”
  • “Literary Forms and Functions in the Psalms” (the best starting place, I thought)
  • “Psalms in Worship”
  • “Theology of the Psalms”
  • “Exposition of the Psalms”

I haven’t seen the just-released third volume, but Kregel was kind to send me the first two volumes for review. In what follows I interact with those books. Volume 1 covers Psalms 1-41; Volume 2 treats Psalms 42-89.

 

The Commentary Layout (Psalm 42 as Case Study)

 

Even in the Table of Contents you can get a sense of where Ross will go with a given Psalm, as each Psalm listed includes summary titles. Psalm 1 is “The Life That Is Blessed.” Psalm 23: “The Faithful Provisions of the LORD.” Psalm 46: “The Powerful Presence of God.” Psalm 51: “The Necessity of Full Forgiveness.”

Introduction to the Psalm

Then there follows Ross’s introduction to the Psalm. He provides his own translation from Hebrew with extensive notes, analyzing the text and textual variants. Psalm 42:2, for example, he translates:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?

His footnote offers a point of interest: “This first ‘God’ is not in the Greek version; it simply reads ‘for the living God.’” He often has the Septuagint in view, which I especially appreciate. On Psalm 42:9, for example (“I say to God, my rock…”), he notes:

The Greek interprets the image with ἀντιλήμπτωρ μου εἶ, “you are my supporter/helper.”

Not that every footnote “will preach,” but they don’t need to—Ross offers a wealth of insight that will help preacher, student, and professor better understand the text as it has come down to us.

Still with each Psalm’s introductory material, the “Composition and Context” session sets the Psalm in its biblical-literary context and explores background information (where available). Regarding Psalm 42, Ross says:

And Psalm 42 is unique in supplying details of the location. The psalmist is apparently separated from the formal place of worship in Jerusalem by some distance, finding himself in the mountainous regions of the sources of the Jordan. There is no explanation of why he was there; and there is no information about who the psalmist was.

Ross Psalms Vol. 2Reading the commentary, one trusts that were there such information, Ross would have unearthed and presented it!

Then there is a summary “Exegetical Analysis,” followed by an outline of the Psalm. Anyone looking to get their bearings quickly with a Psalm will find this one of the most helpful sections. Here is Ross again, with his summary of Psalm 42:

Yearning in his soul for restoration to communion with the living God in Zion and lamenting the fact that his adversaries have prevented him, the psalmist encourages himself as he petitions the LORD to vindicate him and lead him back to the temple where he will find spiritual fulfillment and joy.

Commentary in Expository Form

After each Psalm’s generous introduction, Ross presents the commentary proper (“Commentary in Expository Form”). It’s as detailed as one would expect and hope. Here he is, for example, on Psalm 42:3-4 (“They must endure the taunts of unbelievers”):

In the meantime, the psalmist must endure the taunts of his enemies—enemies of his faith. In this he is an archetype of believers down through the ages who are taunted for their faith. This has caused him tremendous grief, so much so that he says his tears have been his food night and day (see Pss. 80:5 and 102:9; Job 3:24). The line has several figures: “tear” (collective for “tears”) represents his sorrow (a metonymy of effect); “food” compares his sorrow with his daily portion (a metaphor); and “day and night” means all the time (a merism). The cause of his sorrow is their challenging question: “when they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God’?” (see Pss. 74:10 and 115:2). The unbelieving world does not understand the faith and is unsympathetic to believers. “Where is your God?” is a rhetorical question, meaning your God does not exist and will not deliver you—it is foolish to believe. For someone who is as devout as the psalmist, this is a painful taunt.

This blend of careful attention to the text and reverent devotion to the God who breathed it is typical of the Ross’s rich comments.

Message and Application

Though Ross already offers theological interpretation in the commentary proper, the Message and Application section is one any reader will appreciate. He often reads (in a good way) through a New Testament and Christological lens, as with Psalms 42-43:

But in the New Testament the greatest longing of those who are spiritual is to be in the heavenly sanctuary with the Lord, for that will be the great and lasting vindication of the faith. Paul said he would rather be at home with the Lord—but whether there or here, he would try to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8–9). And Paul certainly knew what it meant to be persecuted for his faith. But the marvelous part of the desire to be in the heavenly sanctuary is that the Lord Jesus Christ desires that we be there with him, to see his glory (John 14:3; 17:24). Throughout the history of the faith believers have desired to go to the sanctuary to see the LORD (see Ps. 63); in Christ Jesus that desire will be fulfilled gloriously.

Those looking for a dispassionate commentary or for one that does not find Jesus in the Hebrew Bible will be better served looking elsewhere. To my mind, this dynamic is one of the great strengths of these volumes.

Toward the end of a Psalm, then, Ross boils it down to an italicized expositional message. This is one of the (many) highlights of the commentary, as it pulls everything together from Ross’s careful exegesis into the world of the listener. Here is how he puts Psalm 23:

The righteous desire to be in the presence of the Lord where they will feed on his Word, find spiritual restoration, be guided into righteousness, be reminded of his protective presence, receive provisions from his bounty, and be joyfully welcomed by him.

Where to Get It

 

Here is where to find these fine books:

Volume 1: Amazon / Kregel

Volume 2: Amazon / Kregel

Volume 3: Amazon / Kregel

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.