Saturday, March 28, 2015

I opened this Bible commentary, and you won't believe what happened next...

I've had my hands on many biblical commentaries over the years. Individual volumes on specific books of Scripture. Solid blocks of commentary like the The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Ten Volume Set.

Of the making of many commentaries there is no end, and over time they tend to bend the bookshelves.

But no commentary has caught my attention or interest quite as quickly as the recent two-volume commentary from Fortress Press. If you are planning to update your personal or church library, want to get a gift for a seminarian, or just hope to enrich your reading of Scripture, I think this is the commentary you want to acquire.

Here's what the editors have to say about their own commentary: "As biblical scholars, we wish students of the Bible to gain a respect for the antiquity and cultural remoteness of the biblical texts and to grapple for themselves with the variety of their possible meanings; to fathom a long history of interpretation in which the Bible has been wielded for causes both beneficial and harmful; and to develop their own skills and voices as responsible interpreters, aware of their own social locations in relationships of privilege and power."

Towards this end, each volume begins with Topical Articles that set the stage on which interpretation takes place. These essays are particularly intriguing, focusing as they do on "the issues that arise when two different religious communities claim the same body of writings as their scripture, though interpreting those writings quite differently. Then the essays in the second volume "address the consequences of Christianity's historical claim to appropriate Jewish Scripture and to supplement it with a second collection of writings, the experience of rootlessness and diaspora, and the legacy of apocalypticism."

Following these topical essays, the commentaries have both Section Introductions and Commentary Entries, assisting readers with big picture issues of genre as well as specific insight into each book of Scripture.

I plan to read these commentaries straight through from beginning to end, something I haven't done with a commentary for quite some time.

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