Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review: Old Testament commentary survey. Fifth edition. by, T. Longman III



Tremper Longman III. Old Testament commentary survey. Fifth edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013. ISBN: 0801039916. $16.99. Pp. 159.
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                This latest edition of Longman’s OT commentary survey marks the fifth edition of this book.  As many of these projects start, Longman notes that it was out of necessity that he wrote his first edition of this work, and has continued to update these volumes.  The necessity, in this case, is to compile a resource that will assist people in the search for the best biblical commentaries in the area of the OT for quick reference, and likely, to save Dr. Longman time from answering the same question over and over.  I have been known to do similar things in the past.  But this is how the best tools are invented, namely, out of necessity. 
           Between edition 4 and 5 six years have passed, 2007-3013.  In this time many new commentary series have appeared as publishing of all things, including books, becomes more ubiquitous.   Longman is wise to limit his volume by noting that he had to drop some commentaries in this latest volume that had previously appeared in his other editions, and will by necessity not be able to address each commentary on the market.  One can only do so much!  We will explore the Minor Prophets as our test case to see what updates may have been made, and if any important holes are observed.  But first I will explore Longman’s approach to categorization and layout of his survey, and compare it to its sister survey, namely, D.A. Carson’s NT commentary survey.  Then, I will peruse the “One-volume Commentaries,” and “Commentary Sets and Series” chapters.  Finally, I will look at the Minor Prophets, since I feel most prepared to assess this section. 
                Longman’s volume is aimed primarily to the educated lay-person, theological-student, and pastor.  He does not explicitly mention the scholar as a target audience for his survey, but there is a category for “Scholar” (“S”) in his rating system, and I do not think that a scholar is ever above a volume such as this one, especially with the current, growing, ubiquity of publication.   Also, Longman has a subsection (just a half-page) on “The Use and Abuse of Commentaries” that should be widely read or passed on.  In the end of the fifth edition, as in the fourth, Longman lists his published commentaries so as to avoid conflicting interests.  However, as one that has used his commentaries, they are probably mostly made up of high-ranking works!
Carson and Longman both present helpful tools for quick commentary selection in each survey Note: Carson’s 7th edition of his survey should be released soon.  This comparison is upon Carson’s 6th edition published in 2007 at the same time as Longman’s 4th edition.  Here is how they compare, one-to-one.  Longman rates the commentaries by a star system (out of 5), and with a grading system of the content that spans three levels academic rigor, “Lay” (“L”), “Minister” (“M”) and “Scholar” (“S”), and at times the levels are combined, as in, “LM,” etc.  Carson gives no rating or grading system, only comment.  Longman’s layout is very organized, as in, a paragraph for each commentary, which means he has to be very selective about the commentaries he comments on, I assume, to keep his book within a reasonable page limit.  Carson's covers many more commentaries than does Longman, but organization is lost.  Also, Carson’s volume has the slightly wooden and cumbersome chapter-section-paragraph numbering system at each heading (ex. 2.2.1), which Longman’s volume excludes. At the end of his survey Longman gives a list of all the 5 star commentaries.  Unfortunately, the list of 5 star commentaries leaves out some OT books, like Deuteronomy, or some books only have one top-rated commentary, which can be limiting.  Maybe this is a challenge to the OT scholarly community? Thus, the list is not really a quick reference to the BEST commentaries for each book, but simply a list of the BEST OT commentaries.  Carson, however, gives a “best buys” list that lists three to four commentaries for each NT book, and in some cases gives option for “advanced students.” One will find, though, in Carson that most of these “best buys” are from an Evangelical perspective.  Simply an observation to keep in mind.  Overall, neither stands above the other for approach.  Each approach, in all honesty, has its equal amounts of pros and cons.
In the fifth edition, Longman drops three one-volume commentaries on the OT, and adds one.  First, Longman, opts to drop the Baker Commentary on the Bible, ed. W.A. Elwell, which in the fourth edition he had given a moderately high marking (LM, four-stars); The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, eds. C.F. Pfeiffer, and F.F. Harrison, which had receive a rather low rating in his fourth edition (LM, two-stars), because of the spotty nature of the commentary’s quality; and the well-known Eerdmans   Bible Commentary, eds. D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer, which received a moderate overall score in his fourth edition, with a pretty good comment on the volume by Longman.  He adds the newly published  Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, eds. Burge, and Hill (2012).  Burge and Hill’s effort receive high-praise from Longman (LM, five-stars).  This volume includes a NT section as well, and in Longman’s words is “the most up-to-date and best available, and there are pictures!”  Longman wrote the Micah section in this work.
In this edition, Longman adds seven commentary series in his “Commentary Sets and Series” chapter, and does not subtract any from his fouth edition.  First, he rightly adds the Ancient Christian Commentary Series, ed. Thomas Oden.  This is a phenomenal series, and correctly receives five-stars from Longman (MS).  Next, he adds Brazos Theological Commentary, a theologically oriented series; Concordia Commentary, which is Lutheran in perspective; The Preachers’ Commentary, a set that has changed its name, now, three times (formerly: Communicator’s Commentary, and Mastering the Old Testament); Two Horizons Old Testament Commentaries, a series that, according to Longman, does what the Bazos series does, only better; Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, a series committed to “believing criticism” (formerly: New International Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament; and finally, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, ed. J.H. Walton, a five-volume commentary focused exclusively about the cultural background of OT books. It receives five-stars from Longman, and is Evangelical in approach. 
                For my test case, I explored his sections on the Minor Prophets.  What I found is that the updates are minimal, for instance he drops Smith, Ward and Brewer’s ICC commentary on Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah, and Joel (1911).  One hole in this section I noted is that James Nogalski’s superb two-volume commentary from the Smyth and Helwyn’s Commentary Series is omitted.  Nogalski’s work on the Minor Prophets is on the cutting edge in the field, and presumably compared to others listed in Longman’s survey, is one of the best.  The price for Nogalski’s volumes is a bit prohibitive, which is par for the whole SH series, but a comment from Longman on this work is deserved.  Overall, however, the lists look very similar to 2007.  But in all fairness, I did not get to peruse the entire book and its entire listing, only the Minor Prophets.  Significant updating may have occurred in other books.
                So how does the fifth edition stack up?  It is still the same great resource that it has always been.  For that reason, I will still recommend it to folks interested in a ready reference on OT commentaries.  It is also updated, and even if that updating is minimal, it saves me doing the work Longman has done to find where updates have occurred over the past six years.  It improves in small ways as well.  One very small way is that the citation of each commentary, and commentary set/series, is bolded.  It makes skimming through a page much easier.  In the end, I still believe that Carson’s approach has one thing on Longman’s, namely, the “best buys” list.  Longman’s “five stars” list needs to be expanded to include a couple options from each OT book, as Carson does, so that quick reference to the top two to four commentaries for each respective OT book can be observed without having to reference the rest of the book.  Overall, it is still a great resource, but for the average user finding a cheaper fourth edition may be the way to go! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bantam Review, Vol. 2, received!

Yesterday, I received my copy of The Bantam Review.  The BR is a publication of the Theological Fellowship @ Covenant Seminary.  

The review is published under the authority of the two co-chairs, Daniel Robbins (MDiv), and Phil Ryan (MDiv, 2014).  The editor in chief is Arthur Keefer, for the second year.  Arthur has put together a very profession looking journal. 

This year the journal adds a new dimension.  This year book reviews are included.  It was a good add to the journal; both beefing it up a bit, and providing a peer forum for academic review of scholarship.  

As stated in the past, the papers included in the journal are Covenant Seminary student papers that were deemed the best papers at the annual theological conference put on each January by the theological society (this conference includes many institutions of higher ed.  - Wheaton Graduate School, Saint Louis U, Concordia Seminary, Trinity College, Bristol, etc., but to stay within its goals and purposes the theological society only publishes Covenant student papers, since it is a ministry for Covenant Students primarily).  One exception may be David Richmon, who I believe is a '09 alumnus, which would be a change in focus of the publication of papers that the co-chairs have the right to make, but could have been explained in the preface (see contents of vol. 2 here).  
Again, as will be attested in this volume, the success of this group could not have been successful without the willing participation and direction of Dr. Robert Yarbrough and the participation of the faculty of Covenant Seminary.  Many presented their latest research at the conference, and many more shared their higher education insights at monthly campus-wide conversations put on by the fellowship.  

Congratulations to the leadership of this group for another great year, and exceptional publication!  I am excited to see how the new leadership takes on the '13-'14 academic year. 

See the pics for images of the Bantam Review vols 1& 2.  

If you would like to order one, contact Daniel Robbins at dfrobbins@gmail.com.  They are only $5 and they directly support the fellowship to further the future of rigorous and Christ-centered research and education. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: A Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic two-way index to the Septuagint


T. Muraoka. A Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic two-way index to the Septuagint. Louvain ; Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010.  ISBN: 978-90-429-2356-0. £60, $81.  Pp. 384.
                 
       Takamitsu Muraoka, professor emeritus of Leiden University, Holland, a well know linguist in the discipline of biblical languages, has now with this volume completed a two-volume reference for the study of the Septuagint.  His previous volume published in 2009, A Greek-English lexicon of the Septuagint, published also by Peeter’s, was quickly regarded by scholars as a watershed in LXX scholarship.  I use it with great frequency.  Muraoka’s presently reviewed work is a great companion, but has been viewed correctly to have had less of an immediate impact in comparison to his 2009 lexicon.  This volume’s point of departure is largely from Hatch and Redpath’s concordance, yet is also critical of it at times.  Muraoka seeks to provide a supplement both HR and his own recently published lexicon with this volume.   This volume seeks to augment his lexicon by giving the semantic (Hebrew and Aramaic) words that were previously listed at the end of each lexeme, which were deleted in the 2009 lexicon.  The value of Muraoka’s approach in both his lexicon and his index is that it is not oriented towards a type of “interlinear model,” which seeks to provide translational equivalents.  Muraoka, rather, furnishes broader definitions in his lexicon to allow for a broader semantic meaning, and then provides the breadth of corresponding semantic possibilities for each Greek word for a better understanding of the Septuagint in his index.  The broader base of information provided in this volume allows for a better reference tool when studying translation technique, and the ways the translators of the LXX related to the semantic texts they were translating. (vii)
                The index is divided in two-sections.  Part one includes the Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic information that was excluded in the latest edition of Muraoka’s lexicon, as noted above.  Part two gives the mirror image of the information of the first part, that is, the Greek terms that were used by translators of the LXX for each Hebrew or Aramaic word.  The most notable update of HR in this index is the inclusion of data from 1 Esdras and new DSS information.  From Muraoka’s earlier index to HR (1998), he retained the corresponding page numbers and columns in HR for each of his entries.  Finally, in the introduction of both the first and second part, Muraoka includes a full listing of symbols that are important to be informed of if one wants to effectively use this tool.  Probably the most important symbol for this edition of the index is *.  This specific symbol indicates a new word in relation to the lists in HR. 
                There are always limitations with works, and with this one, two are salient to me.  First, one will notice that Muraoka’s index is very slim, especially compared to HR.  One reason for this is that he excludes the listing of bible references for each corresponding Greek and Hebrew word.  Though Muraoka’s work is an index that has a slightly different goal in mind than a more comprehensive concordance, HR will still be useful to the scholar or pastor who seeks to investigate each supposed sematic parallel proposed by Muraoka. 
Second, Muraoka’s index is based on the critical Göttingen edition of the LXX.  This aspect does set it apart from what HR had available to themselves when assembling their tome.  And it will also, to many, be an added benefit to this work.   However, further note is required.  The value of Göttingen’s critical edition is beyond words for the investigation of the LXX text, and should in no way be understood as an undervalued resource by this reviewer.  But, a new wave of scholars is valuing the LXX textual tradition is a new way.  For example, Brill’s Septuagint Commentary Series now includes a few commentaries that work off of only one manuscript, namely, Vaticanus.  The Septuagint is not simply being used for its use in text criticism of the MT, but it is being appreciated for own sake, and now even individual MSS are being studied for their own theological and textual witnesses.  So as scholarship continues to ebb and flow in its preference for an accurate composite text or a complete, extant MSS, the impact of this preference upon such reference works like Muraoka’s index is something to keep an eye on; but still its impact is not decided.
                And, finally, I do not place this comment under a limitation of the work, but more as ‘an area of growth’ for the field.  In Muraoka’s work he notes that though much data in HR has been critically examined, it is still incomplete: “ideally, one should study each verse of every Septuagint book translated from either the Hebrew or Aramaic and compare it with what is judged to be the Semantic Vorlage of the Septuagint text.” (vii) The critical investigation and work is evident, and of course more needs accomplished for greater accuracy.  But how much can one expect of one man?!  LXX research is certainly meeting another high-water mark in its history.  The “ideal” work pointed out by Muraoka will surely be accomplished soon, I suspect, and those women and men who complete this work will be standing almost completely on Muraoka’s shoulders for what their research builds upon.   
                Overall, how could this work be given anything but high praises?  My general rule of reading anything the Muraoka has published is yet again confirmed with his latest contribution.  This volume will sit upon a special shelf that I reserve only for my most often reached-for reference works.  I continue to pray for a long life for Professor Muraoka so that his work will continue and we will continue to benefit, as the Lord wills!


My appreciation to Peeters for the opportunity to review this book with the expectation of an objective review.

Review: A Theology of Luke and Acts, by: Darrell Bock



Note: I wrote this review about 8 months ago, but never got around to publishing it.  Better late than never, I guess! Enjoy.

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Darrell Bock, A Theology of Luke and Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations.  Biblical Theology of the New Testament.  General Editor: Andreas J. Köstenberger.  Downers Grove, IL: Zondervan, 2012.  496 pp. $39.99 hardcover.  


Darrell Bock nearly every decade since the writing of his dissertation, as noted in his preface, produces major work of scholarship in the area of Luke-Acts.  This decade we receive with open arms A Theology of Luke and Acts. 
With this work, it should be first noted that Bock fills a need for a complete and updated theology of the two volume Lukan work.  Since the 1950s much in the way of Lukan studies has been published, but in view of proper theologies committed to the entire body of Lukan material, Bock is correct in noting the gap of scholarship (27). 
In A Theology of Luke and Acts there are two guides for the structure of Bocks overall study.  First, he understands Luke-Acts to share literary and authorial unity, thus treating the theology of Luke and Acts as one unified work, Luke-Acts (55-62).  Second, Bock let’s Luke guide the study.  He says, thus, “we will precede to present theology in steps, looking for major topics Luke treats” (29). 
From such an approach, Bock’s theology of Luke-Acts comes in three broad sections.  He begins with “Introductory Matters,” which contains typical introductory material such as authorship, genre, and date, but a helpful discussion on philosophy of history, and updated discussion on the unity of Luke-Acts, and a literary survey of Luke-Acts set Bock’s intro apart from others one will find in any current commentary.  Next, in section two, Bock spends the majority of his theology, 329 of his 424 pages (there is 496 pages in this work, but I am on counting pages in the body of the work here) on “The Major Theological Themes”. Here Bock, as the section title insinuates, takes a closer look at classic issues in Lukan theology, such as issues of promise and fulfillment in the plan of God, the person and work of Jesus; some others that are typically controversial: “The Law in Luke-Acts” and “Eschatology, Judgment, and Hope for the Future in Luke-Acts,” among others; but Bock also updates Lukan theology with some more recent cares such as, “Women, the Poor, and the Social Dimensions in Luke-Acts,” and “Discipleship and Ethics in the New Community.”  Finally in his third and smallest section, Bock considers the Lukan dual-narrative in light of its reception into the NT canon, contribution to this canon, and relation to other writings in the NT canon. 
As the structure of this volumes goes, the major sections addressed above are supported by chapters that consist of a tapestry of subsections that develop the larger theological topic at hand.  Helpfully, each chapter begins with a select bibliography and a brief orientation to question the chapter is answering.  At the end of each chapter, the conclusion is as brief and simply serves to tie together in a few sentences the topic covered. The actual synthesis of the study does not come until the “Conclusion,” where Bock as a recap probes many questions already raised and sums them together. 
The reader of this volume will benefit from many aspects of this theology, two of which are salient to this reviewer.  First, Bock's writing is, as always, organized and marked with clarity, but not lacking thoroughness that would miss treating a subject in a fashion relevant to academia. 
One example of this is Bock’s “Conclusion”. Here he summarizes his theology in these seemingly implicit questions (I list a few for illustration), all of which are very controversial, especially in the past 60 years of Lukan scholarship. (447-451):

Was eschatology replaced with salvation-history? No.  According to Luke, Jesus came to inaugurate and culminate the plan of God established in the covenant with Abraham, then David: “Luke-Acts is a Missiongeschichte” (448).

Is Luke-Acts anti-Semitic? No.  Bock calls the Lukan Doppelwerk an “in-house debate about legitimacy” just as the prophets engaged in in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In sum, a new community of “the Nations” alongside of, yet distinct from, Israel now exists, which is not new according Scripture.

Is the Holy Spirit merely a spirit of prophesy? No.  The Spirit manifold in its work.  It is the sign of the new age; the evidence that Jesus is resurrected, is justified, and is the Messiah-Lord; and the Spirit is given to the community of believers as a sign that Jesus is in session with the Father and is co-executioner of the divine plan.

Is salvation according to Luke-Acts monolithic? No.  Salvation is illustrated in multifaceted examples.  God saves is a central theme to Luke-Acts, consistent with Marshall (1970).  God, after all is the main actor.

Is the faith of the new community itself new? No.  Bock simply states, “The new community is really an old faith.”  The suffering and glory of Jesus the Messiah is a foretold prophesy known in the Hebrew Scriptures as the vehicle of blessing to the nations promised to Abraham.  

Second, Bock writes as a believing Christian.  Even still in a climate where Bock’s final paragraphs of this work may seem awkward or unscholarly, he states the conclusions of his study in what reads like an erudite benediction.  He notes here that God “cares for his own daily…desires to reach those who are lost…visits His people in Jesus Christ…[and His] Word reveals that, through Jesus Christ, God is mighty, saving, and compassionate.  His arms are open to any who turn to Him” (451).  Bock’s associations and involvement at the highest levels of academia speak for themselves against any thought that his tact may be signs of a tendentious study.  Rather, from this reviewer’s vantage point, this is a study that sets the example for Christian scholars who will follow Bock in coming generations.  
So finally, how then is theology of Luke-Acts summarized according to Bock?  Continuity and legitimation.  Continuity of the new community of faith with the story and faith of Israel.  And legitimation that this new community of Jesus-followers participate in the program of God even “in the face of doubt that others have about it” (448).  Bock gives Jesus primary place, while showing according to the theology found in Luke, that God’s is the major actor in His program and the Holy Spirit is the one who forms the new community of believers in continuity to Israel of the past. 
                One small criticism of the work is that it is a bit ‘text-book-ish’.  How this will affect its influence on the church and academia, and its reach more broadly, is still yet to be seen.  But as a way of publishing Bock’s work, Zondervan may have stifled some of its success by the overly organized, outlined form the book takes.  However, I still believer that in A Theology of Luke and Acts Bock offers without a doubt an instant classic to the NT discipline and a work that comes from a career of diligent study and passion.  As noted earlier, a work such as this was sorely needed, and will be well appreciated and received due to its many virtues by a broad audience interested in Lucan theology.  The benefits from this work will be reaped by many.  



My appreciation to Zondervan for the opportunity to review this book with the expectation of an objective review.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Received: Old Testament Commentary Survey - Fifth Edition

This morning I received Tremper Longman's Old Testament Commentary Survey, Fifth Edition from Baker.

I have found the previous editions of this volume and Carson's NT Commentary Survey (also from Baker) to be very helpful.  See my other posts on these volumes below.

I will be posting a review of this edition soon.





Review

Other post #1

Other post #2

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bantam Review: Preview of Contents

Here is the first peek of the contents to pique your interests in the upcoming Bantam Review: Journal of the Theological Fellowship @ Covenant Seminary.

I have been informed that Steven Nicoletti's paper won the student paper competition at this year's mid-west SBL regional conference.   Congrats, Steven!  Copies will be on sale soon.  Let me know if you have interest in a copy.


Ten Thousand Hits

In less than a year, MosisMose has reached 10 thousand hits!  I am pretty excited about it.  

Our top five countries by hits goes as follows, in order: USA, Russia, UK, Australia, and France.  We've also reached South Korea, the Ukraine, and India, among many more.
In this time, we have also become book reviewers for Zondervan, Peeters, Brill, Baker, Wipf and Stock, and more.  It has been a pleasure, so far, to read such great literature and post our thoughts on a forum that has been read widely.

My vision for this year is that I will be able to sweet-talk some of my compadres at Trinity College to post along with me, and when they do post, they will leaving their posts up!  I think this would give a very interesting perspective, and I hope to pursue those on the sidelines to get involved at our Summer post-graduate research conference, in June at Bristol.  

Keep reading, and add to the conversation!  Thanks.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Coming soon...

In its second year.  The Bantam Review.  By The Theological Fellowship @ Covenant Seminary.  See last year's edition featured on Michael Bird's blog, Euangelion.

Coming soon...