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Archive for January, 2007

SBL Forum February 2007: Manuscripts, Monsters, and ETANA

30th January 2007

The February 2007 SBL Forum is online and includes a number of interesting articles and news items. Any academics considering moving for work will want to read blogger Michael Bird‘s piece on the “biblical studies disaspora.” Those interested in my current series on ANE creation stories will want to read Mobley’s discussion of Chaos monsters where he begins by discussing Enuma elish, as well as the news update on ETANA.

Here is the full table of contents of the February 2007 (vol. 5, no. 2) edition:

In the Public Sphere

In the Profession

In Popular Culture


Letters to the Editor


Posted in SBL, SBL Forum | 1 Comment »

Ten Most Redeeming Films of 2006

30th January 2007

Christianity Today Movies has released their “The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2006” list. I believe this list is voted on by the Christianity Today’s movie review staff, including Peter Chattaway and Jeffrey Overstreet.

It’s important to note that these are not necessarily the best films of 2006, but the most “redeeming.” And by “redeeming” this is what they mean:

They’re all stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of them literally have a character that represents a redeemer; one even includes the Redeemer. With others, you might have to look a bit harder for the redemptive thread, but it’s certainly there. Some are “feel-good” movies that leave a smile on your face; some might leave you uncomfortable, even disturbed, and asking, “How should I process that?” But you won’t be able to shake it from your memory, either.

Here is the list:

I have not seen a number of these films and I have to admit that the ones that I have seen, I’m not sure I would agree with their ranking.

Posted in Faith & Film, Film | 2 Comments »

Ideas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Part 1

29th January 2007

Next to a close reading of the biblical text, one of the most important steps in its interpretation is knowledge of the ancient cultural and literary context of the Bible. For proper interpretation, we need to know a text’s genre. Genre functions to mediate between speakers and hearers by establishing common guidelines that control both the production of a certain texts and their interpretation. We work with and recognize different genres all the time in day to day life. But when we come to the Bible – an ancient document that is linguistically, culturally, and historically remote from us — our ability to identify certain genres is attenuated due to our unfamiliarity. Misreading a text’s genre leads to incorrect interpretation. Thus, when approaching the biblical creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, it is essential to have some knowledge of other ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. This isn’t necessarily easy to do, since many of the ancient texts are difficult to understand conceptually. In connection with ancient cosmologies, Richard Clifford notes “ancient oriental literature is alien and difficult to understand, though the many biblical phrases and ideas in our discourse may trick us into thinking otherwise… Particularly difficult are ancient cosmogonies. Major differences separate them from modern conceptions” (Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible, p. 198).

This is the first of four posts on ideas of creation in ancient Mesopotamia. This post will discuss some methodological issues surrounding the study of Mesopotamian texts and highlight some of the resources available for studying this literature. The second and third posts will survey Old Babylonian texts and Neo-Babylonian texts, respectively. The fourth post will synthesize some of the findings and relate them to our understanding of the biblical creation texts. I should note that I am by no means an expert in ancient Mesopotamian literature. A lot of this work originally derived from a graduate course I did with Dr. Ronald F. G. Sweet at the University of Toronto a number of years back.

Approaching the Diversity of Materials

There a number of methodological issues surrounding the interpretation of ancient Mesopotamian creation texts. First, in relation to the nature of the textual evidence, the problem is not that there is a paucity of material, but that the available material is of such a wide scope historically and culturally that it would be erroneous to speak of a uniform view of “creation in Mesopotamia.� The ancient culture of Mesopotamia covers a period of more than five thousand years and at least two groups of entirely different peoples and languages. Therefore, it is necessary to recognise that the myths and stories relevant to this topic are by no means homogeneous, and should not be described as an absolute unity. The tendency to create uniform views where none exist needs to be guarded against, and the generalisations that result from this study must be recognised to be just that—generalisations. A related dilemma is the composite nature of many of the extant texts. Many later works borrow—or even copy directly—motifs and themes from earlier texts. The supreme example of this is the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic. Tigay’s reconstruction of the evolution of the epic identities a number of separate Sumerian stories that underlie the final form of the Gilgamesh Epic (see his The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic).

Second, uncertainty of our ability to understand across the borders of conceptual conditioning (to echo Oppenheim) highlights the important hermeneutical issue of imposing modern questions on ancient texts. While questions about origins were certainly not avoided in ancient Mesopotamia, they were almost always subsidiary issues. The primary purpose of much of the ancient mythological and epic literature was to exalt one deity over another or to explain the organization of human society, rather than provide a systematic teaching concerning creation. For instance, Jacobsen notes, in relation to Enuma elish, that “world origins . . . are essentially accidental: gods were born out of mingling of the primeval waters and they engendered other gods� (The Treasures of Darkness, p. 191). Similarly, only the first twenty lines of the first tablet of Enuma elish actually deal with the creation of the universe, while the bulk of tablets four through six covers its organisation. Furthermore, it is impossible to speak of the Mesopotamian view of the creation of the cosmos without speaking of the creation of the gods: in Mesopotamia theogony and cosmogony were inextricably intertwined.

(This perhaps is not so different from the biblical worldview considering that the two major biblical creation accounts are incorporated into the book of Genesis, the first book of the primary history.” Because of our modern preoccupation with creation (and especially as it relates to science) we tend to isolate discussions of ancient Israelite ideas of creation from their narrative context in the much larger biblical picture.)

Arrangement and Dating of the Sources

Another major difficulty in doing a study such as this is the question of how best to arrange and present the data. Should the compositions be grouped according to language, subject matter, cultural origin (i.e., are they Sumerian, Assyrian, or Babylonian), or date? Each of these options has its own pitfalls, but for the purposes of this study the texts will be presented according to their date.

This does not solve all problems though, as dating Mesopotamian literature also has its associated uncertainties. Dating can be based on two variables: (1) the date of the extant text; and (2) the date of its original composition. This study will use the first criteria. While this is not ideal, it is the most reliable, as in many cases there is no scholarly consensus concerning the original date of composition of many texts. This is due primarily to historical circumstances and the type of literature we have. Historically, the Babylonians, Assyrians, and the various other political groups that had their turn at ruling in ancient Mesopotamia almost without exception accepted and built upon the older religious traditions of the Sumerians. It is therefore almost impossible to draw a clear distinction between, for example, the specifically Sumerian and the Assyrian and Babylonian elements in the religious texts.

Most of the texts containing materials that are useful for this study tend to come from two periods of Mesopotamian history. First, most of the earlier Sumerian myths, epics and hymns date from the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000–1600 BCE). Ringgren notes that “it is precisely in these last centuries [of the Sumerian ‘empire’] that most of the works of Sumerian literature seem to have been written down. It is probable that they existed earlier . . . but were transmitted in oral form� (Helmer Ringgren, Religions of the Ancient Near East [London: S.P.C.K., 1973], 3). The tablets themselves principally come from archaeological excavations in places such as Nippur and Ur. Second, a lot of the materials representing the views of the Babylonians and Assyrians have been found at Ashurbanipal’s (668–626 BCE) library at Nineveh (Kouyunjik, in modern Iraq). The date of most of these texts fall into the Neo-Babylonian Period (ca. 1000–500 BCE).

It should be noted that there is some correlation between the date of the text and its language. For example, most of the compositions coming from the Old Babylonian period are written in Sumerian, while those from the Neo-Babylonian era are typically composed in Akkadian. This approach will also allow — albeit in a limited fashion — both a diachronic and a synchronic analysis of the information. Synchronically, all the texts can be probed for similarities and differences that might be significant. Diachronically, any change in thought between the two major historical periods can also be noted.

Annotated Bibliography of Texts and Discussions

The resources for the study of these ancient stories may be broken up into three categories: guides to the literature, primary texts in translation, and discussions of the ideas of origins and creation in the texts themselves as well as in connection with the biblical creation stories.

Guides to ANE Literature

  • Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible. A Guide to the Background Literature. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2005). This is one of the best and most recent guides to all of the background literature. It includes an introduction to comparative study of ANE texts and ANE archives and libraries, as well as a discussion of all of the relevant texts organized by genre. Original publication data and other useful bibliography is included for each ancient text. Buy from | Buy from
  • John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990). Similar to Sparks, though a bit dated and written for a more conservative audience. Buy from | Buy from
  • John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006). While not a guide to the literature, this work is an excellent introduction to the worldviews and value systems of the ancient Near East and how the worldviews expressed in the Bible are similar, yet at times distinct, from them. Buy from | Buy from

Primary Texts in Translation

  • Bill T. Arnold and Bryan Beyer, Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study (Encountering Biblical Studies; Baker, 2002). A college-level collection of excerpts (with introductions) of the most relevant ancient texts; written by a couple evangelical scholars. Buy from | Buy from
  • Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989). A highly readable, yet critical, translation of the major Mesopotamian mythological texts (e.g., she represents the various lacunae and reconstructions in her translation). Highly recommended. Buy from | Buy from
  • A. R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2 vols.; Oxford: Ocford University Press, 2003). The definitive critical edition with translation, including apparatus, photographs, and line drawings for all of the tablets in existance. Buy from | Buy from
  • William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, eds., The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions, Monumental Inscriptions and Archival Documents from the Biblical World (3 volume set; Brill, 2004). A detailed reference work for the study of the OT/HB and the ancient Near East, this book provides reliable access to ancient Near Eastern texts that have some bearing on the interpretation of the Bible. Translation of recently discovered texts is included, alongside new translations of better-known texts. The recognized replacement of Pritchard’s ANET. Buy from | Buy from
  • Thorkild Jacobsen, The Harps that Once… Sumerian Poetry in Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). A classic collection of Sumerian texts by the noted scholar. Buy from | Buy from
  • Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C. (Rev. ed.; New York: Harper, 1961). A somewhat dated translation and discussion of Sumerian texts by the renowned Sumerian scholar; needs to be read in light of Jacobsen’s and other more up to date work. Buy from | Buy from
  • W. G. Lambert, and Alan R. Millard, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (New ed.; Winnona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999). The standard critical translation of this important Mesopotamian epic. Buy from | Buy from
  • Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels (Fully Expanded and Revised; Paulist Press, 1997). An accessible college-level collection of brief excerpts from ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the OT. Buy from | Buy from
  • James Bennett Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement (3rd edition; Princeton University Press, 1969). This is the classic collection of ancient texts that shed light on the OT/HB. Dated, though still highly recommended. Buy from | Buy from

Discussions of ANE Texts and Biblical Ideas of Creation

  • Richard J. Clifford, Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and the Bible (CBQMS 26; Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1994). An excellent introduction and discussion of the ANE creation accounts and their relevance to the Bible. Buy from | Buy from
  • Richard J. Clifford and John J. Collins, eds., Creation in the Biblical Traditions (CBQMS 24; Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1992). A good collection of essays dealing with different ideas of creation found in the Bible. Buy from | Buy from
  • David Damrosch, The Narrative Covenant. Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature (Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987). Buy from | Buy from
  • Ronald A. Simkins, Creator & Creation: Nature in the Worldview of Ancient Israel (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1994). An intriguing examination of the cultural world of the Bible and the ancient Near East, especially as it related to conceptions of creation. Buy from | Buy from
  • Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982). Buy from | Buy from

The next instalment will survey Old Babylonian texts relating to creation.

Posted in Ancient Near East, Creation, Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Series | 8 Comments »

Forthcoming Commentaries on Genesis

28th January 2007

In a comment on my previous post on commentaries on the book of Genesis, John Hobbins of Ancient Hebrew Poetry fame noted the value of Skinner’s ICC volume on Genesis (and he’s right, I should have at least listed it!). He also mentioned Ronald Hendel’s forthcoming commentary on Genesis for the Anchor Bible series (replacing Speiser). If Hendel’s work The Text of Genesis 1-11 (Oxford University Press, 1998; Buy from or is any indication, his Anchor Bible commentary will be the top critical commentary available on Genesis for years to come (or at least until Clifford’s Hermeneia volume is published!).

Here is a listing of other forthcoming commentaries on the book of Genesis:

  • Bill Arnold. New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge University Press). A popular series based on the NRSV aimed at Pastors and laypeople. This volume is still in progress and won’t be published for a few years.
  • David Baker. Apollos Old Testament Commentary (Apollos/InterVarsity Press). A semi-popular series based on the author’s own translation of the Hebrew text. This volume is several years down the road.
  • Erhard Blum. Historical Commentary on the Old Testament (Peeters). The title of this series is a bit misleading if you are expecting a history of interpretation. The series is more of a historical-critical commentary aimed at scholars and ministers.
  • Richard Clifford. Hermeneia (Fortress). This is one of the premier critical commentaries available in English (and it’s beautifully typeset). If Clifford’s volume on The Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible (Catholic Biblical Association, 1994; Buy from or is any indication, this should be a very good critical commentary. It is at least three years from publication.
  • Blackwell Bible Commentaries (Blackwell). This series looks more at the reception history of the book under study. As such it is of primary interest to scholars and teachers. This one was assigned to Danna Fewell and Gary Phillips, but they have since dropped out and I don’t think the commentary has been reassigned yet (at least there is no indication on the Blackwell site)
  • Duane Garrett. Kregel Expository Commentary on the Old Testament (Kregel; note the title of the series is still tentative). This is a conservative evangelical series geared for pastors and laypeople. Garrett is author of Rethinking Genesis, The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Baker Book, 1991; Buy from or, which I reviewed a number of years back. The commentary is at least two years from completion.
  • Ronald S. Hendel. Anchor Bible (2 volumes, Doubleday). The new volumes in this series are excellent critical commentaries. The first volume on Genesis 1-11 should be available in 2008 if everything goes according to schedule.
  • Theodore Hiebert. Abingdon Old Testament Commentary (Abingdon). A popular series aimed at pastors and laypeople.
  • Kathleen M. O’Connor. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Smyth & Helwys). This is a unique series aimed at pastors and laypeople that includes insightful sidebars, fine art visuals, and a CD-Rom containing all the text and images of the volume in a searchable format. This volume will be a while since she is just getting underway with it.
  • Russell R. Reno. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Brazos/Baker). A series designed to serve the church; appropriate for pastors, teachers, and laypeople. This volume may be available in late 2008.
  • John H. Sailhamer. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Rev. (Zondervan). This volume is scheduled to be released in June 2008.

Most of these commentaries are a number of years off. The only ones which I am not sure of any potential publication date are the Hiebert and Blum volumes. So it looks like we’ll have to make due with what we already have!
Is anyone aware of any other forthcoming commentaries on Genesis?

Posted in Commentary Survey, Genesis, Old Testament | 4 Comments »

WordPress 2.1 – Worth the Upgrade

26th January 2007

I just upgraded to WordPress 2.1. This looks like a significant upgrade… I especially like some of the chages they did to the post editor (you can now tab between code and wysiwyg view), the autosave feature (no more lost posts!), and the spelling checker (not that I need it! :-) ). There are a number of other upgrades, but I haven’t had time to explore them all.

Please let me know if you notice anything not working correctly and have a great weekend!

Posted in Blog Maintenance, Blog News | 1 Comment »

Religious Studies Review: Religion and the Internet

26th January 2007

I just received the latest edition of the Religious Studies Review (Volume 32, number 4, October 2006), which is a special issue on Religion and the Internet edited by Christopher Helland. The volume highlights and evaluates a number of different religious studies resources online. The reviews are by no means exhaustive, typically only reviewing a handful of sites and totally ignoring the blogging community. Be that as it may, here is a summary of three areas related to my own personal interests.

Biblical Studies on the Internet (Matthew Mitchell)

The review of biblical studies on the web is pretty basic, highlighting only four resources, one relating to NT, one to OT/HB, one to the DSS, and the ancient world.

These are all great resources, though there are so many other excellent resources available on the Internet for biblical studies that I can’t help be a bit disappointed with the brevity of the list. Noteably, the sites of bloggers Mark Goodacre and Chris Heard are both mentioned.

Resources for Christianity on the Web (Heidi Campbell)

The focus of this section is on scholarly websites on the Christian tradition, not confessional sites of a particular brand of Christianity. As such only two sites are reviewed in any depth:

A number of other confessional sites were also mentioned.

Researching Judaism Online (Jay Michaelson)

Three types of sites are highlighted, primary source sites (first five), a couple indexes, and non-academic sites (last five).

Other categories that are also covered in the volume are Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, New Religious Movements, and Wicca, Witchcraft and Modern Paganism.

On the whole a number of very good sites are noted. With the Internet the challenge will always be sifting the valuable from the trash, so such reviews, while not exhaustive, at least give people a place to begin in their online research.

Posted in Online Resources, Religious Studies, Teaching & Learning | 2 Comments »

Biblical Studies Carnival XIV Call for Submissions

25th January 2007

Chris Weimer over at Thoughts on Antiquity has posted a call for submissions to the fourteenth Biblical Studies Carnival.

I encourage you to submit a post today! This can be one of your own posts or you can nominate a post written by someone else — don’t forget that the post needs to fit into the general category of academic biblical studies and cognate areas and needs to have been written sometime in January 2007.

You can submit/nominate posts via the submission form at or you may email them to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com.

For more information, consult the Biblical Studies Carnival Homepage.

Posted in Biblical Studies Carnival | Comments Off

The Slavonic Pseudepigrapha Project

23rd January 2007

I received notice today of an interesting online project dedicated to the Second Temple Jewish literature preserved in the Slavic milieux. The Slavonic Pseudepigrapha Project is developed by scholars from the Theology Department at Marquette University (Milwaukee, USA).

The resource provides original manuscripts, translations, and extensive bibliographies to the following pseudepigraphical materials preserved in Slavonic language, including:

  • Slavonic Life of Adam and Eve
  • Adam Octipartite
  • 2 Enoch
  • Sataniel Text
  • Apocalypse of Abraham
  • Testament of Abraham
  • The Ladder of Jacob
  • Joseph and Aseneth
  • Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
  • Testament of Job
  • Life of Moses
  • Apocryphal Fragments about David, Solomon, and Elijah
  • Ascension of Isaiah
  • 3 Baruch
  • 4 Baruch
  • Pseudo-Danielic Fragments
  • Apocalypse of Zosimus
  • Ahiqar
  • The Word of the Blessed Zerubabel
  • The Josippon
  • Palaea Historica
  • Interpretive Palaea
  • Palaea Chronographica

This looks to be a great resource for those interested in the pseudepigrapha.

While I am on the topic of the pseudepigrapha, another excellent resource is the SBL sponsored, Online Critical Pseudepigrapha.

Posted in Announcements, Bible, Pseudepigrapha | Comments Off

Jesus of Hollywood

23rd January 2007

reinhartz-jesushollywood.jpgI just received my copy of Adele Reinhartz’s new book, Jesus of Hollywood (Oxford University Press, 2007; Buy from or I have always been a fan of Reinhartz’s scholarship on the Bible and film, and it looks like this book will not disappoint. (Her other book on the Bible and film, Scripture on the Silver Screen [WJK, 2003; Buy from or] is also worthy of perusal.)

This book has five major sections. The first section, “The Genre: Jesus Movies as Biopics” includes an introduction where Reinhartz orients the reader to the nature of biographical films and Jesus films in particular, deals with some methodological issues, and offers a brief survey of Jesus movies. She distinguishes between traditional Jesus films that portray significant portions of the life of Jesus, peplum or “sword and sandal” movies in which Jesus appears briefly within the story line of another character, and “Passion play” films that cover events surrounding the production of and actual clips from a Passion play. Her survey is not exhaustive, though she covers the most significant films between the Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1889 and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004/2005; Buy from or One Jesus film absent from her survey was Denis Potter’s Wednesday Play: Son of Man (UK 1969), though this may be due to the fact that it was produced for television. Understandably, recently released films such as The Nativity Story (Castle-Hughes, 2006; Buy from or and The Color of the Cross (La Marre, 2006; Buy from or were also absent.

The first section ends with a chapter dealing with the thorny issue of the relationship of Jesus films — and the gospels they are ostensibly based on — to history. Here Reinhartz’s background as a biblical scholar comes to the fore. While many filmmakers have claimed to present the “reel” Jesus in their films, i.e., a Jesus who is faithful to both the Scriptures and history, Reinhartz questions these claims. She deals deftly with the complicated question of the relationship of the gospels to history and how screenwriters have negotiated between the divergent portrayals of Jesus in the four gospels., focusing on the iconoclastic films Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989; Buy from or and The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese, 1988; Buy from or Her conclusion that more recent fare such as The Gospel of John (Savile, 2003; Buy from or and The Passion of the Christ mark a “return to the reverential norms of the biopic genre” (p. 40) in contrast to the more provocative films of the 1980s, is correct up to a point, though The Color of the Cross demonstrates that there is still much controversy to be raised by the Jesus film genre.

The rest of the volume looks at the film portrayal of the primary characters in Jesus films: Jesus of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph, God, Mary Magalene, Judas, Satan, the Pharisees, Caiaphas, and Pilate. Each of these characters are the focus of a chapter in which Reinhartz shifts between the presentation of various aspects of their characters in the gospels and their portrayal in the movies. It is in these chapters that Reinhartz offers some close analysis of the biblical text and a wide variety of Jesus films.

The book closes with an afterword where she sums up her study of “Jesus of Hollywood” with the honest assessment that “it is unlikely that the Evangelists would recognize their own particular Jesus in any of the films we have discussed” (p. 252). Furthermore, while there are many similarities between the Jesus of the silver screen and the Jesus of Scripture, “the biopic Jesus is fundamentally different from his historical and scriptural counterparts” (p. 253). The “reel” Jesus is, according to Reinhartz, the Jesus transformed by “two thousand years of art, theology and interpretation, into Jesus of Hollywood” (p. 254). This Jesus is ultimately the product of a combination of history, theology, contemporary concerns, and — let us not forget — the entertainment industry.

All in all, this is an excellent study of the Jesus of Hollywood. I highly recommend it.

Posted in Film, gospels, Jesus Films, Reviews & Notices | 1 Comment »

Commentaries on Genesis

21st January 2007

westermann_genesis.jpgI am teaching an undergraduate course on the book of Genesis this semester, so I thought I would put together a post on what I consider some of the better commentaries on this foundational book of the Bible. I have focused on commentaries in English and have made recommendations for scholars, teachers and preachers, as well as students and lay people.

There are many good commentaries on the book of Genesis, though with Genesis — perhaps more so than other books — the critical commentaries can focus extensively on matters of historical-criticism. While this may be valuable for questions of authorship and the development of a book like Genesis, it doesn’t help with the interpretation of the final canonical form of the text. That being said, Claus Westermann‘s three-volume commentary is excellent, both for its engagement with the critical questions and matters of interpretation (and Speiser to a lesser degree). I also find Nahum Sarna‘s commentary to not only be beautifully typeset, but also rich in its dealing with the Hebrew text and Jewish interpretation. wenham_genesis.jpgFrom a more evangelical perspective, Gordon Wenham‘s masterful volumes are second to none. While Wenham is more concerned with literary and theological issues, he also engages most critical issues with scholarly responsibility. As such, Wenham is my choice for best overall commentary on Genesis.

sarna_genesis.jpgOther good critical commentaries include Coats (somewhat limited by the nature of the FOTL series) and von Rad (a classic tradition-history commentary albeit somewhat sparse), while Brodie‘s literary analysis is interesting to say the least. For a conservative Jewish perspective on the opening chapters of Genesis check out Cassuto. In addition, for those interested in the history of the interpretation of this book, the volumes in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture by Louth and Sheridan are worthy of careful perusal. Finally, Hermann Gunkel‘s ground breaking commentary on Genesis has been recently translated into English by Mark Biddle and is full of many insights for the assiduous reader.

hamilton_genesis.jpgFor pastors and teachers, there are ample commentaries to choose from. Brueggemann, Cotter, Fretheim, Gangel, Hamilton, Mahthews, Ross, and Waltke are all good, though I would probably go with Hamilton if you are looking for one solid commentary written from an evangelical perspective. If you want a broader perspective, then both Brueggemann and Fretheim are excellent. While not a full commentary, Alter‘s translation is refreshing and his comments are also quite insightful.

walton_genesis.jpgMore popular-level commentaries include Gowan, Hartley, Janzen, Kidner, Roop and Walton. I have used Roop as a textbook in the past and have quite liked its style and theological substance. I also find the ITCs by Gowan and Janzen quite insightful. And Kidner, of course, always provides solid exposition from an evangelical point of view. I have to say, however, that I have been nothing but impressed with John Walton‘s commentary in the NIV Application Commentary Series. While he may be a bit more on the conservative side of the spectrum, his knowledge and engagement of the ancient Near Eastern literary, cultural, and historical background to the book are evident on every page. I highly recommend his commentary for pastors, students, and laypeople alike.

Here is an (almost) exhaustive listing of commentaries on the book of Genesis in English:

For more listings and evaluations of commentaries on other biblical books, see my Old Testament Commentary Survey.

    Posted in Commentary Survey, Genesis, Old Testament | 4 Comments »