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Gunkel’s Form Critical Classification of the Psalms in Portuguese

23rd August 2009

A couple years back I put together a summary of Hermann Gunkel‘s form critical classification of the Psalms for one of my classes. I posted the summary on my blog and made a handout available on my website.

Since then Bio Nascimento has translated the handout into Portuguese (with my permission). I don’t know how many readers I have that read Portuguese, but I figured I would make the translated handout available, so here it is:

Many thanks to Bio for his work on translating this.


Posted in Criticism, Form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Psalms | Comments Off

Ecclesiastes Goes Golfing

10th August 2009

golffrustrationI just returned from a nice long weekend away with the family. This was one of our annual trips that with a couple other families. We took the kids tubing at the lake, went ATV-ing, sat around the campfire and played various games. All in all it was a great weekend. Another regular part of this weekend is that the guys head out early one morning for a round of golf.  I enjoy golf, although I am not very good at it and I only seem to get out half a dozen times a year.  I had one of the best games in years earlier this summer when I shot a 47 (on 9 holes) on a father’s day outing.

This last weekend we teed off Sunday morning for our annual game. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and the course was in superb condition. I was looking forward to this round since I have been playing pretty good this summer so far.  The one downer was that I didn’t bring my own clubs (which are nothing special, but I am used to them), due to a miscommunication about whether or not we were playing. So I had rentals, which I usually don’t mind since they give me a chance to try out a newer set of clubs.

Then it started. Third off the tee box. I lined up with my rented driver and swung and heard a nice smack and watched the ball sail at least 250 yards… right into the trees, never to return. The cause: a magnificent slice. Something I hadn’t done for most of the summer. I decide to take a mulligan since I have to get used to the rentals. A second swing. An impressive smack. And I again watched my ball turn a right angle into the forest. I decide to place a ball where it went out and started walking down the fairway enjoying the  beautiful weather with my mind still in the game. I drop a ball at the appropriate spot, take out my 4 iron, and duff it. By the time I get to the green I am already sitting six and then proceed to three putt it.

I won’t describe any more of my game, except to say that I had pretty much my worst game in a long time. I was slicing. I was topping balls. I was hitting the sand traps. I was not having a good game.

Around the 6th hole my mind turned to Scripture. More specifically my mind turned to the book of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet in the Hebrew Bible). “All is vanity/meaningless”; or as I prefer to translate hebel, “All is absurd.” I thought of the absurdity of ruining a perfectly good walk through God’s beautiful creation by trying to hit a stupid white ball into a hole hundreds of yards away with only a club.  Throughout the rest of the game I thought of other lines from Ecclesiastes:

What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun [chasing a stupid white ball]? (Eccl 1:3)

All is absurd and a chasing after [stupid white balls] (Eccl 1:14)

A time to [hit balls] away [into the rough], and a time to look for [stupid white balls] in the rough (Eccl 3:5)

Cast your [balls] upon the water [hazard], for after many days you will get it back [yeah, right!]  (Eccl 11:1)

I still like golf, although any delusions I had that my game was getting better were dashed this last Sunday. In this respect, golf is very much like the book of Ecclesiastes. A peruse through Ecclesiastes also dashes any illusions that we are in control of our lives; that what we do in this fallen hebel world will always go according to our best laid plans. I like the way Eugene Peterson described the book of Ecclesiastes:

[It is] a John the Baptist kind of book. It functions not as a meal but as a bath. It is not nourishment; it is cleansing. It is repentance. It is purging. [We] read Ecclesiastes to get scrubbed clean from illusion and sentiment, from ideas that are idolatrous and feelings that are cloy. It is an exposé and rejection of every pretentious and presumptuous expectation aimed at God (Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, pp. 155-156).

That, my dear reader, is also the function of the game of golf.


Posted in Ecclesiastes, Humour, Personal | 2 Comments »

The Relationship between the Septuagint and Qumran Psalm 151

6th August 2009

As I mentioned in my previous posts on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, there is significant debate on the relationship between the Septuagint Psalm 151 and the version of the Psalm found in the Qumran Psalms scroll (11Q5 Psalm 151A and B).

The editor of 11Q5 Psalm 151A and B, James Sanders, argues that 11QPsa 151A and B, while related to, are not identical with the Vorlage of LXX Ps 151. He further argues that “there can be no hesitancy whatever in affirming that 11QPs 151 is the original psalm” (The Psalms Scroll of Qumrân Cave 11 (11QPsa); DJD 4 [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965; buy from Amazon.com], 60), and that the LXX Psalm is a later translation of an “amalgam” of the Qumran originals (63). Most (but not all) scholars have followed Sanders in his reconstruction of the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of Psalm 151.  Peter Flint considers the Greek version a “transformation of two separate psalms into a single piece” (“Apocryphal Psalms,” Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls [2 volumes; Oxford University Press, 2000; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com. ],  2:708), while his Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 1999; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com) also popularizes Sanders’s view:

The text found in 11QPs-a represents the original Hebrew with two originally separate Psalms, which the Greek translator has reworked and synthesized into a single Psalm (p. 585).

Beyond the question of the relationship between these psalms, Sanders has little good to say about LXX Psalm 151.  He calls it “meaningless” (DJD, p. 60), and maintains that without the background provided in Psalm 151A, the LXX psalm “makes little or no sense at all” (p. 59). Furthermore, he argues that the individual who brought together the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151 destroyed “the beauty and integrity of the original” and “sacrificed not only the artistry but also the sense of the one, and probably as well of the other” (p. 63). In his popular work, The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Cornell University Press, 1967; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), Sanders further refers to the Greek version of Psalm 151 as “nearly meaningless” (p. 94) and “comparatively ridiculous” (p. 95).  Sanders is not alone in his low opinion of the Septuagint Psalm 151. For instance, Strugnell echoes Sanders when he describes it as “largely meaningless” (“Notes on the Text,” 259), while Meyer considered it a “dogmatic correction” of a rustic psalm (“Die Septuaginta-Fassung von Psalm 151:1-5,” 172).

While I agree that the Qumran psalms are related to the Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151, there are significant differences between the texts that indicate that their relationship is not so simple, and that the texts are more dissimilar than even Sanders admits.  In fact, I think – in line with the works of Haran, Smith, Segal, and most recently Debel (in part) – that it is more plausible that the Qumran psalm(s) are a later reworking of the shorter Hebrew Vorlage of LXX Psalm 151. Furthermore, in contrast to Sanders, I will argue that LXX Psalm 151 is a coherent text in and of itself, and that it doesn’t need 151A/B to make sense of it. In this regard I argue that while LXX Psalm 151 is shorter, it is in fact a well-constructed midrash on 1 Samuel 16-17.

In fact, I would argue that reading LXX Psalm 151 in the light of the Qumran psalms actually hampers our understanding of it, since the later Qumran versions take the psalm in a slightly different direction. In a recent article, Segal (“Literary Development,” Textus 21[2002], 143), has made the bold claim that

the bias towards the Hebrew version of the psalm has resulted in a skewed view of the meaning of the Greek edition, as all scholars have assumed that this shorter poem [i.e., the LXX] necessarily addresses the same topics as the longer version.

While Segal overstates the case, I concur with his evaluation. In my next post I will explore in more detail the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalm.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Psalm 151 at Qumran

4th August 2009

As mentioned in my previour post on Septuagint Psalm 151 (first installment in my series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition), the discovery of Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 created quite a stir among biblical scholars.  Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalm 151 was only know to us from its Greek and Syriac versions. At the beginning of the last century Septuagint scholar Henry B. Swete noted that “there is no evidence that it [Ps 151] ever existed in Hebrew” (Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek [Hendrickson, 1989], p. 253; buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com), and in the 1930s Martin Noth “expressed doubts” about a Hebrew original to LXX Psalm 151 in his study of the five Apocryphal psalms and did not bother to provide a Hebrew retroversion of Psalm 151 in that study.

It was not until the discovery among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the so-called “Qumran Psalms Scroll” (11QPs-a or 11Q5; see my Scroll Introduction) that contained two Psalms (Ps 151A and B) that were clearly parallel with the LXX 151, that scholars universally recognized that LXX Psalm 151 had a Hebrew Vorlage (i.e., a Hebrew original), though the precise relationship between LXX Psalm 151 and 11Q5 Psalm 151 remained under debate.

Before we discuss the nature of the relationship between the Greek LXX Psalm 151 and the Hebrew 11Q5 Psalms 151A and 151B, it would do us well to carefully examine the psalms in question. I have already provided a translation of LXX Psalm 151 in my previous post; here I provide a translation of Psalm 151A and B as found in column 28 of 11Q5:

11Q5 Ps 151A-B

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
3

הללויה לדויד בן ישי

A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse.

קטן הייתי מןאחי

Smaller was I than my brothers

וצעיר מבני אבי

And the youngest of the sons of my father
4

וישימני רועה לצונו

And he made me shepherd of his flock

ומושל בגדיותיו

And ruler over his kids

ידי עשו עוגב

My hands made a (musical) instrument

ואצבעותי כנור

And my fingers a lyre
5

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד

And I rendered glory to the Lord

אמרתי אני בנפשי

I said within myself

ההרים לוא יעדו לו

The mountains do not witness to him,
6

והגבעות לוא יגידו

Nor do the hills declare;

עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯

The trees have cherished my words

והצואן את מעשי֯

And the flock my works.
7

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר

For who can declare and who can speak,

ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון

And who can recount the works of the Lord?

הכול ראה אלוה

Everything has God seen,
8

הכול הוא שמע

everything has he heard,

והוא האזין

and he has heeded.

שלח נביאו למושחני

He sent his prophet to annoint me,
9

את שמואל לגדלני

Samuel, to make me great

יצאו אחי לקראתו

My brothers went out to meet him,

יפי התור ויפי המראה

Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance

הגבהים בקומתם

They were tall of stature
10

היפים בשערם

Handsome by their hair,

לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם

The Lord God did not choose them.

וישלח ויקחני מאחר הצואן

But he sent and took me from behind the flock
11

וימשחני בשמן הקודש

And annointed me with holy oil,

וישימני נגיד לעמו

And made me leader to his people
12

ומושל בבני בריתו

And ruler over the sons of his covenant
13

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד

משמשחו נביא אלוהים

At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him

אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב]

Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy].

אנוכי [     ]  את

I   […]  ’t […]

I should note that while the translation is my own, the above reconstruction follows that by the scroll’s editor, James Sanders (which I do not entirely agree with, but I’ll discuss that in another post).  The line numbers in the left-hand column are not precise; they reflect the line divisions of the editor.  According to Sanders’s reconstruction, Psalm 151B begins in line 13.

In the actual scroll, the column is laid out as follows:

11Q5 Column 28

יהוה העומדים בבית יהוה בלילות שאו ידיכם קודש וברכו

1

את שמ יהוה יברככה יהוה מציו[ן] עושה שמים וארץ

2

vacat

הללויה לדויד בן ישי קטן הייתי מןאחי וצעיר מבני אבי וישימני

3

רועה לצונו ומושל בגדיותיו ידי עשו עוגב ואצבעותי כנור

4

ואשימה ליהוה כבוד אמרתי אני בנפשי ההרים לוא יעדו

5

לו והגבעות לוא יגידו עלו֯ העצים את דברי֯ והצואן את מעשי֯

6

כי מי יגדי ומי ידבר ומי יספר את מעשי֯ אדון הכול ראה אלוה

7

הכול הוא שמע והוא האזין שלח נביאו למושחני את שמואל

8

לגדלני יצאו אחי לקראתו יפי התור ויפי המראה הגבהים בקומתם

9

היפים   בשערם לוא בחר יהוה אלוהים בם וישלח ויקחני

10

מאחר הצואן וימשחני בשמן הקודש וישימני נגיד לעמו ומושל בבני

11

vacat בריתו

12

תחלת גב[ו]רה ה[דו]יד משמשחו נביא אלוהים אזי רא֯[י]תי פלשתי

13

מחרף ממ[ערכות האיוב] אנוכי [     ]  את

14

Here is an English translation:

11Q5 Ps 151A & B
1 of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord by night. Lift your hands in the holy place and bless
2 the name of the Lord May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
blank space
3 A Hallelujah of David son of Jesse. Smaller was I than my brothers And the youngest of the sons of my father
4 And he made me shepherd of his flock And ruler over his kids My hands made a (musical) instrument And my fingers a lyre
5 And I rendered glory to the Lord I said within myself The mountains do not witness
6 to him, Nor do the hills declare; The trees have cherished my words And the flock my works.
7 For who can declare and who can speak, And who can recount the works of the Lord? Everything has God seen,
8 Everything he has heard, and he has heeded. He sent his prophet to annoint me, Samuel,
9 to make me great My brothers went out to meet him, Handsome of figure and handsome of appearance They were tall of stature
10 Handsome by their hair, The Lord God did not choose them. And he sent and took me
11 from behind the flock And annointed me with holy oil, And made me leader to his people And ruler over the sons of
12 his covenant
13 At the beginning of [Dav]id’s p[ow]er after the prophet of God had annointed him Then I s[a]w a Philistine
14 Uttering defiances from the r[anks of the enemy]. I   […]  ’t […]

As you can see, the actual scroll does not divide the Hebrew psalm into poetic lines, but takes up the width of the column with as much text as possible. (By the way, the top of the column [lines 1 and 2] consists of all but the first part of Psalm 134 [LXX Ps 133]).

Comparing Sanders’s line divisions with that of the actual scroll raises an issue common with any analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the issue of editorial reconstruction.  A number of aspects of Sanders’s reconstruction of Psalms 151A and B have been severely criticized by scholars — especially his reconstruction of lines 6-8. That being said, even a quick comparison of LXX Psalm 151 with this text from Qumran suggests some sort of literary relationship between the texts, though as I noted above, the precise nature of that relationship is debated.


Posted in Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX Psalms, Old Testament, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Psalms Scrolls, Septuagint | 1 Comment »

Septuagint Psalm 151

30th July 2009

This post is my first in a series on Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition.  Now,  some of my readers may be wondering what is this Psalm 151 that I am talking about? The biblical book of Psalms only contains 150 psalms! To you I reply, you are absolutely correct (but also a little incorrect!).  The book of Psalms in the Hebrew Masoretic tradition — the tradition on which Protestants and Jews base their modern English translations — contains 150 psalms (actually this isn’t quite correct; there are Masoretic manuscripts that divide the psalms differently resulting in more or less than 150 psalms. For example, there are manuscripts that divide individual psalms differently and end up with 147, 148, 149 and even 170 psalms!  Nonetheless, the Masoretic tradition is consistent in its content with modern Protestant and Jewish translations). If we turn to the  Greek Septuagint (and the Syriac) tradition, however, we find an extra psalm right after Psalm 150, which has become known as “Psalm 151.” It appears that this psalm was not held with quite the same authority as the other 150 psalms,  since an editorial note in the psalm title marks it as ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ (“outside the number”).

While this psalm was known for a long time from the Greek and Syriac traditions, the discovery of two Hebrew psalms clearly related to the Septuagint Psalm 151 among the Dead Sea Scrolls (dubbed “Psalm 151A and 151B” by the editor of  11Q5), has challenged our understanding of this psalm in a number of ways. It has raised significant questions surrounding the relationship between the Greek and Hebrew versions of this psalms, as well as the precise nature of the Hebrew original from which the Greek was translated.  In much of this debate, the interest in the Qumran psalms has overshadowed interest in the LXX version of Psalm 151. In this series of posts I will explore these questions and any implications they may have to our understanding of the development of the book of Psalms. More specifically, I want to look at the relationship between LXX Ps 151 and 11Q5 Ps 151A and 151B and then provide an analysis of  Psalm 151 as a psalm in its own right.

But first, let me provide the actual psalm itself as well as an English translation:

 

LXX Psalm 151
1a Οὗτος ὁ ψαλμὸς ἰδιόγραφος εἰς Δαυιδ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ, ὅτε ἐμονομάχησεν τῷ Γολιαδ. This Psalm is autobiographical. Regarding David and outside the number. [When he fought Goliath in single combat.]
1b Μικρὸς ἤμην ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου I was small among my brothers,
1c καὶ νεώτερος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πατρός μου, and the youngest in my father’s house;
1d ἐποίμαινον τὰ πρόβατα τοῦ πατρός μου. I would shepherd my father’s sheep.
2a αἱ χεῖρές μου ἐποίησαν ὄργανον, My hands made an instrument;
2b οἱ δάκτυλοί μου ἥρμοσαν ψαλτήριον. my fingers tuned a harp.
3a καὶ τίς ἀναγγελεῖ τῷ κυρίῳ μου; But who will report to my lord?
3b αὐτὸς κύριος, αὐτὸς εἰσακούει. The Lord himself, he listens.
4a αὐτὸς ἐξαπέστειλεν τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ It was he who sent his messenger
4b καὶ ἦρέν με ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τοῦ πατρός μου and took me from my father’s sheep
4c καὶ ἔχρισέν με ἐν τῷ ἐλαίῳ τῆς χρίσεως αὐτοῦ. and anointed me with his anointing oil.
5a οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καλοὶ καὶ μεγάλοι, My brothers were handsome and tall,
5b καὶ οὐκ εὐδόκησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς κύριος. but the Lord took no delight in them.
6a ἐξῆλθον εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ ἀλλοφύλῳ, I went out to meet the foreigner,
6b καὶ ἐπικατηράσατό με ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτοῦ, and he cursed me by his idols.
7a ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παῤ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν But I, having drawn the sword from him,
7b ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν I beheaded him,
7c καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ. and removed reproach from Israel’s sons.

 

This psalm has been aptly described as  an autobiographical midrash on the early life of David as recorded in 1 Samuel 16–17. It weaves together incidents from David’s adolescence recorded in 1 Samuel 16-17: his anointing (16:1-13), his entry into Saul’s service as a musician (16:14-23), and his victory over Goliath (chap. 17).  Significantly, these three episodes hang together uneasily in their context in Samuel, but are brought together in this poetic midrash connecting David’s anointing by Samuel with his victory over Goliath as an example of the Lord’s presence with David.

I will offer some more analysis of this psalm in a later post.


Posted in Bible, LXX Psalms, Psalm 151 in the Biblical Tradition, Psalms, Septuagint, Series | 2 Comments »

Williamson on the Oxford Hebrew Bible

13th July 2009

The latest volume of Biblica has an excellent article by H.G.M. Williamson evaluating the proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible project. In the article, “Do We Need A New Bible? Reflections on the Proposed Oxford Hebrew Bible” (Biblica 90/2 [2009] 153-175), Williamson begins by noting his general methodological agreement with the project, but then continues to raise some very serious problems with the project as a whole.  Some of his objections relate to the nature of the textual evidence for the Hebrew Bible, while others are connected with the proposed format of the OHB.

Here is his concluding paragraph:

It shows a sorry lack of understanding about the fact that our text is a linguistic hybrid which makes this enterprise flawed from the start. Its form of presentation only aggravates that problem, since against its stated objectives it will not present anything remotely resembling an eclectic edition of a supposed archetype. And finally it fails to take into account the ways in which the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible inevitably differs from that of most other texts, leading, I fear, to further confusion on the part of those who are not already well versed in the subject. In the present state of knowledge, as well as in the light of the extraordinary range of diversity of opinion in this field, what is required is full and sober textual commentary. I have no doubt that that aspect of the project will be welcomed and widely used; but it is not a Bible, new or old.

I too have had a number of methodological questions about the project, so it is nice to see Williamson raising some of the same concerns I have had.

I encourage you to read the article carefully!


Posted in Hebrew, Old Testament, Text Criticism | Comments Off

Introduction to the Bible Textbooks: Any Thoughts?

15th June 2009

One of the new courses I will be teaching regularly at The King’s University College is a one semester introduction to the Bible (i.e., the Christian Bible, Old and New Testaments).  At Taylor, I taught an introduction to the Hebrew Bible course every semester and was quite pleased with the textbook I used (Barry Bandstra, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (4th ed.; Wadsworth, 2008; Buy from Amazon.caBuy from Amazon.com), but now I have to find a new one.

I would love to be able to find a textbook for the course that I could use long term, since I don’t want to be adjusting the course for a new text every year and it also makes it easy for students to purchase used texts and save a bit of money. As I have been looking at different introductions, I haven’t found one that I am entirely pleased with.

My ideal textbook would have the following characteristics:

  • Student-friendly. By this I mean a number of things. First, the text should be written with undergraduate students in mind. Thus, the writing style should be clear and strike a good balance between being jargon laden and introducing some of the more important terms in biblical studies to students. It also should not be too long; I figure around 300-400 pages is all I can expect students to read for a one semester course — especially if I also want them to read significant portions of the biblical text.  Second, stuff like chapter outlines, key terms, glossary, useful and interesting pictures and illustrations, as well as good study questions at the end of each chapter are essential. Third, and this is one of my pet peeves, I would strongly prefer a text organized according to the Protestant canon. It never has made any sense to me why introductions to the Old Testament, especially those written from a Christian perspective, followed the order of the Masoretic Hebrew Bible. There is nothing special about the MT order, so why not use the order that virtually every English translation of the Bible follows? Finally, I would want a textbook that is relatively inexpensive and that doesn’t come out with a “new” edition every other year.
  • Faith-friendly. I teach at a Christian University and the majority of my students come from a church background, so I would like a textbook that is not offensive or dismissive of their faith, but presents the results of critical biblical scholarship in an evenhanded way. If a text pushes students too hard, or if they find it dismissive of their faith, then their tendency will be to reject it in toto rather than sift through the different perspectives and integrate what is valuable. My ultimate goal is to broaden and deepen their faith, not dismantle it.
  • Teacher-friendly. Perhaps this is obvious, but I want to like the text I choose! That doesn’t mean I need to agree with everything in it, but I do want it to complement my classroom work. This is all the more important in a one semester Bible introduction course where there will be a lot of material I will not have the time to cover in class and I will want the text to cover it for me.  In addition, a textbook that comes with a good test bank or some such teacher aids,would be advantageous.

As it turns out, my ideal textbook doesn’t exist. Or if it does, I have not found it yet! I have looked at a number of potential textbooks, and while I am leaning towards one in particular, I’m not entirely convinced.

There are quite a number of introductions that focus on presenting the theological message of the Bible (i.e., creation – fall – redemption). While the shorter of these books would be ideal to recommend to someone entirely unfamiliar with the biblical story, they typically do not engage critical biblical studies.

  • James O. Chatham. Creation to Revelation: A Brief Account of the Biblical Story (Eerdmans, 2006). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Baker Academic, 2004). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

I quite like the Bartholomew and Goheen volume. It modifies N.T. Wright’s notion of the story of Scripture of a five-act play and presents the grand biblical narrative a coherent whole.  It does this, however, with little or no interaction with critical biblical scholarship. As such, I think it would be an excellent text to read alongside a more typical introduction (although it is 250 pages long), but I am not comfortable using it as the primary text.

The other introductions I have examined are ones that introduce the Bible from the perspective of critical biblical scholarship:

  • J. Bradley Chance & Milton P. Horne. Rereading the Bible: An Introduction to the Biblical Story (Prentice Hall, 2000).  Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • Clyde E. Fant, Donald W. Musser, and Mitchell G. Reddish. An Introduction to the Bible (Abingdon, 2009).  Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • Stephen L. Harris. Exploring the Bible (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • Christian E. Hauer & William A. Young. An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds (Prentice Hall, 2007).  Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • Robert Kugler & Patrick Hartin. Introducing the Bible (Eerdmans, 2009). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

All of these volumes do a good job covering the basic message of the Bible as well as different critical perspectives. Chance and Horne is the least traditional of the bunch, focusing on teaching students to read the Bible critically rather than simply surveying the contents of the Bible and rehearsing the different scholarly opinions on critical questions. The other four texts follow a more traditional approach. I was quite looking forward to examining the Kugler and Hartin introduction, since the publisher’s description says it “surveys the content of all the biblical books, section by section, focusing on the Bible’s theological themes.” While it does this, it does it in over 550 pages, which I feel is a bit too long for a one-semester course. The text that I am leaning towards using is Hauer & Young’s. It is about the right size (about 375 pages) and I like how it employs the metaphor of the journey into three worlds (the historical, literary, and contemporary world). The only problem with it (all all introduction from educational publishers) is the price.

I do need to decide on a textbook sooner than later, so if you have any great suggestions, please let me know!


Posted in Bible, New Testament, Old Testament, Teaching | 16 Comments »

Jonah’s “Big Fish” Story 3: Jonah and the Sailors (1:1-16)

26th March 2009

[I will be republishing my series on the Hebrew text of Jonah for my current introductory Hebrew class since I had to go back and fix the Hebrew in the posts]

The first chapter of the book of Jonah begins with Jonah’s call to go to Nineveh. But instead of heading for Nineveh, he heads the opposite direction to Tarshish aboard a ship filled with pagan sailors. Jonah’s presence on the ship does not bode well for the sailors, who eventually figure out Jonah is the reason their ship is in danger. After much prayer, they toss Jonah into the sea, after which he is swallowed by a divinely appointed “big fish.” Thus begins Jonah’s “Big Fish” story.

Jonah and the Sailors (1:1-16)

Jonah1-LeningradCodex-sm.jpgHebrew Text

The Hebrew Text is taken from BHS. Click on the image to the right to view the passage in the actual Leningrad Codex (MS B19 A). To hear the chapter read in Hebrew, an MP3 file is available here.

‏וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי לֵאמֹר׃ קוּם לֵךְ אֶל־נִינְוֵה הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי׃ וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה וַיֵּרֶד יָפוֹ וַיִּמְצָא אָנִיָּה בָּאָה תַרְשִׁישׁ וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ וַיֵּרֶד בָּהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהֶם תַּרְשִׁישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה׃ וַיהוָה הֵטִיל רוּחַ־גְּדוֹלָה אֶל־הַיָּם וַיְהִי סַעַר־גָּדוֹל בַּיָּם וְהָאֳנִיָּה חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הַמַּלָּחִים וַיִּזְעֲקוּ אִישׁ אֶל־אֱלֹהָיו וַיָּטִלוּ אֶת־הַכֵּלִים אֲשֶׁר בָּאֳנִיָּה אֶל־הַיָּם לְהָקֵל מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וְיוֹנָה יָרַד אֶל־יַרְכְּתֵי הַסְּפִינָה וַיִּשְׁכַּב וַיֵּרָדַם׃ וַיִּקְרַב אֵלָיו רַב הַחֹבֵל וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מַה־לְּךָ נִרְדָּם קוּם קְרָא אֶל־אֱלֹהֶיךָ אוּלַי יִתְעַשֵּׁת הָאֱלֹהִים לָנוּ וְלֹא נֹאבֵד׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִישׁ אֶל־רֵעֵהוּ לְכוּ וְנַפִּילָה גוֹרָלוֹת וְנֵדְעָה בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ וַיַּפִּלוּ גּוֹרָלוֹת וַיִּפֹּל הַגּוֹרָל עַל־יוֹנָה׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו הַגִּידָה־נָּא לָנוּ בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ מַה־מְּלַאכְתְּךָ וּמֵאַיִן תָּבוֹא מָה אַרְצֶךָ וְאֵי־מִזֶּה עַם אָתָּה׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי וְאֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲנִי יָרֵא אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה אֶת־הַיָּם וְאֶת־הַיַּבָּשָׁה׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו מַה־זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ כִּי־יָדְעוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים כִּי־מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה הוּא בֹרֵחַ כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם׃ וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעָלֵינוּ כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵיהֶם שָׂאוּנִי וַהֲטִילֻנִי אֶל־הַיָּם וְיִשְׁתֹּק הַיָּם מֵעֲלֵיכֶם כִּי יוֹדֵעַ אָנִי כִּי בְשֶׁלִּי הַסַּעַר הַגָּדוֹל הַזֶּה עֲלֵיכֶם׃ וַיַּחְתְּרוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים לְהָשִׁיב אֶל־הַיַּבָּשָׁה וְלֹא יָכֹלוּ כִּי הַיָּם הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר עֲלֵיהֶם׃ וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֶל־יְהוָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אָנָּה יְהוָה אַל־נָא נֹאבְדָה בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאִישׁ הַזֶּה וְאַל־תִּתֵּן עָלֵינוּ דָּם נָקִיא כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ׃ וַיִּשְׂאוּ אֶת־יוֹנָה וַיְטִלֻהוּ אֶל־הַיָּם וַיַּעֲמֹד הַיָּם מִזַּעְפּוֹ׃ וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת־יְהוָה וַיִּזְבְּחוּ־זֶבַח לַיהוָה וַיִּדְּרוּ נְדָרִים׃ ‎

Translation

Please note that my translation is more formal in nature and purposefully highlights literary and poetic features of the text. The versification follows the Hebrew text.

1:1 The word of YHWH came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying: 2 Get up, go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim against it; for their wickedness has come before me. 3 Jonah, however, got up to flee to Tarshish away from the presence of YHWH. So he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish, and he paid its hire, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the presence of YHWH. 4 But YHWH hurled a great wind to the sea, and there was a great storm upon the sea that the ship thought about breaking up!

5 And the sailors were afraid and cried out, each to his own god; and they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten [it] for them. But Jonah had gone down into the hold of the vessel and had lain down, and was in a deep sleep. 6 The captain went over to him and cried out, “Why are you sleeping so soundly? Get up, call upon your god! Perhaps the god will bear us in mind and we will not perish.” 7 The men said to one another, “Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 They said to him, “Please declare to us — you who have brought this evil upon us — what is your business? Where have you come from? What is your country, and from what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew and I fear YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 The men were greatly terrified [feared a great fear], and they said to him, “How could you have done this?” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of YHWH, for so he had told them. 11 And they said to him, “What must we do to you so that the sea calms down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more stormy. 12 He answered, “Heave me overboard, and then the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this great storm came upon you on my account.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to return to the dry land, but they could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy against them. 14 Then they called to YHWH: “Oh, please, YHWH, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life and do not put innocent blood upon us! For You, O YHWH, have done just as you pleased.” 15 And they cast Jonah into the sea, and the sea stopped from its raging. 16 The men feared YHWH with a great fear, and they sacrificed a sacrifice to YHWH, and they vowed vows.

Translation & Text Critical Notes

For basic identification and parsing, please see the excerpts from Owens (PDF) or Beall and Banks (PDF). For bibliography noted in my post on “Resources for the Study of the Book of Jonah,” only short references will be provided here. See my “Mastering Biblical Hebrew” pages for more information on any Hebrew grammars and lexicons mentioned.

Verse 1

  • וַיְהִי- This Qal prefix vav conversive apocopated form is at home in Hebrew narrative and is the typical opening for “historical” books like Joshua, Judges, 1Samuel, and Ruth (see AC 3.5.1 c).
  • יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי - This “Jonah son of Amittai” is considered to be the nationalistic prophet of the same name mentioned in 2Kings 14:23-29.

Verse 2

  • קוּם לֵךְ- Of the two imperative verbs, קוּם functions as an auxiliary verb to the principal verb לֵךְ and may be translated something like “Arise, go…” or better, “Go at once…” (GKC 120g).
  • וּקְרָא עָלֶיהָ- The collocation of על with the verbקראtypically has negative connotations, hence my translation “proclaim against.” The parallel statement in Jonah 3:2 on the other hand has אל. While this change may only suggest the interchangeable nature of the prepositions (WO’C), the change to the more innocuous “proclaim to” in 3:2 may foreshadow the Ninevites’ positive response to Jonah’s message (see Ben Zvi).
  • הָעִיר הַגְּדוֹלָה- The definite articles are functioning as weak demonstratives, “that great city” (AC 2.6.6). Alternatively, both adjectives could be modifying the noun, “Nineveh the great city” (J-M 138b; 141c; BHRG 30.2.2vii).
  • כִּי־עָלְתָה רָעָתָם לְפָנָי- This phrase should be taken as causal (“because…”), providing the rationale for God sending the prophet to Nineveh (contra Sasson who understands it as asseverative). See AC 4.3.4a, i.

Verse 3

  • מִלִּפְנֵי- This compound preposition is best translated as “away from the presence of” or even just “away from” (HALOT).
  • תַרְשִׁישׁ- The identification of “Tarshish” is the subject of much spilled ink (see Sasson for a discussion). I tend to think of it as an ancient “Timbuktu.” Either way, the point is that Jonah headed in the exact opposite direction of Nineveh. Note that it occurs both with and without the directive ה in this passage
  • אָנִיָּה- The footnote in BHS (sic L, mlt MSS Edd אֳניה cf 4.5) suggests that the pointing of אָנִיָּה is incorrect; it should be אֳניהas many other Masoretic texts indicate as well as the pointing in vv. 4 and 5.
  • וַיִּתֵּן שְׂכָרָהּ- The antecedent of the 3fs possessive pronoun is clearly אָנִיָּה(“paid its [i.e., the ship's] fare”). A number of Jewish traditions (and modern authors) suggest this indicates Jonah rented the entire ship (and thus was wealthy), which again emphasizes the extent to which he was willing to avoid God’s call.
  • עִמָּהֶם- While the sailors are not mentioned until v. 5, the 3mp object suffix on עִמָּהֶם refers to the sailors included in the sense of the term אָנִיָּה (GKC 135p).

Verse 4

  • וַיהוָה- The fronted subject with the conjunction breaks the series of vav conversives and introduces a different subject and is best rendered as “but YHWH…” (AC 3.5.4; 5.1.2b.2).
  • חִשְּׁבָה לְהִשָּׁבֵר- Many translations render this combination of Piel affix 3fs and Nifal infinitive construct something like, “the ship was about to break up” (NASB) or the like. I prefer to take it as an example of personification or prosopopoeia where the ship is portrayed as thinking about breaking up. This understanding is supported by the fact thatחשׁבis always used elsewhere with an animate subject. See WO’C 23.2.1 for the sense of the Nifal here.

Verse 5

  • אִישׁ אֶל־אֱלֹהָיו- This is a distributive use ofאִישׁ, “each to his own god” (GKC 139b). It could also be translated “each to his own gods” since the sailors were evidently pagan.
  • לְהָקֵל- The Hifil infinitive construct needs an object, i.e., “to lighten [it].”
  • “But Jonah had gone down… and had lain down, and had fallen fast asleep.” The fronted subject once again interrupts the sequence of wayyiqtol verbs and marks a new subject which contrasts Jonah’s actions with those of the sailors.
  • וַיֵּרָדַם- The verbרדםmeans “deep sleep” and is from the same root as the noun used to describe Adam’s sleep when the woman was taken out of his side in Gen 2:21. The Septuagint translatesרדםwith the verb ῥέγχω “snore,” which adds some humour to the scene as Jonah’s snoring was apparently loud enough for the captain of the ship to hear him from above deck as he comes down to Jonah and asks him what is he doing snoring when a life threatening storm has been thrown to the sea by YHWH (see my post on snoring here)!

Verse 6

  • רַב הַחֹבֵל- Lit., “chief of the sailors,” i.e., captain.
  • מַה־לְּךָ נִרְדָּם- The Nifal participle may be functioning as a subordinate accusative of state, i.e., the object of the non verbal interrogative construction, lit. “what [is it] to you, sleeping?” = “why are you sleeping so soundly?” (see GKC 120b; J-M 127a, 161i). I am almost tempted to take the participle as a vocative and translate it something like, “What is the matter with you, sleepy head?!”
  • יִתְעַשֵּׁת - The Hitpael of עשׁתis a hapax that means something like “bear in mind” (HALOT).

Verse 7

  • Note the cohortative הs on וְנַפִּילָהand וְנֵדְעָה .
  • בְּשֶׁלְּמִי- The compound particle is made up of the preposition ב + relative שׁ + preposition ל + interrogative מי; together it means “on whose account” (HALOT), or “for whose cause” (GKC 150k). For the combination of the relative שׁ and preposition ל, see WO’C 19.4a n15.
  • Note the idiom of “casting lots” with the verb נפל.

Verse 8

  • There is a rather oblique text critical footnote in BHS (“nonn add Hab” = “several manuscripts have added”) marking off the phrase בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ, “on whose account has this evil come upon us” (as well as a similar phrase in v. 10; see below). The footnote suggests the editors of BHS considered this phrase to be an addition or later gloss. While they do not provide any reasons, it is likely based on two things: (1) the phrase is omitted in the LXX and a number of Masoretic manuscripts and (2) it appears to be a doublet or repetition of virtually the same phrase in v. 7. While this is certainly possible, the phrase is found in the huge majority of Masoretic texts as well as scrolls from Qumran. Furthermore, the absence of the phrase in some Hebrew and Greek manuscripts can easily be explained by homoeoteleuton (skipping over words between words with similar endings) triggered by the repetition of לָנוּ in the Hebrew or ἐν ἡμῖν in the Greek. That being said, the question of how to translate it remains. The most straightforward translation is to repeat the question, “on whose account has this evil come upon us?” even though they already know the answer and Jonah doesn’t answer it (see NASB, KJV, NIV). Another, perhaps better, option is to render it as a relative clause, “you who have brought this evil upon us” (see JPS and Sasson). This recognizes the subtle difference of the construction בַּאֲשֶׁר לְמִי־הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּ with בְּשֶׁלְּמִי הָרָעָה הַזֹּאת לָנוּin the preceding verse.
  • The sailors pose four questions to Jonah: (1) what is your mission? (2) from where are you coming? (3) what is your (home)land? and (4) from what people are you? (the combination of the interrogative with מן does not produce any notable change in meaning; J-M 143g).

Verse 9

  • עִבְרִי אָנֹכִי- The order of predicate –> subject in the verbless clause indicates classification and refers to a general class (Hebrews) of which the subject is a member (WO’C 8.4.2). The term “Hebrew” is typically only used in the HB to imply a contrast with foreigners (GKC 2b).
  • The irony of Jonah’s confession is marvelous; while his confesses he fears “YHWH, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” he also appears to believe he can flee from this same YHWH by taking a sea voyage!

Verse 10

  • וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה- This construction of a verb with a direct object derived from the same root is called an “internal accusative” or “cognate accusative.” It serves to strengthen the verbal idea and may be translated “the men were greatly terrified” or the like (AC 2.3.1c; GKC 117q).
  • מַה־זֹּאת- The linking of the interrogative pronoun to the feminine demonstrative is an exclamation of shock or horror rather than a query (Sasson).
  • כִּי הִגִּיד לָהֶם- This phrase is marked off as a gloss in BHS (see discussion on v. 8 above).

Verse 11

  • מַה־נַּעֲשֶׂה לָּךְ- The prefix form in this context likely has a modal nuance, i.e., “what must we do to you…” (J-M 113m).
  • וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form indicates purpose, “so that” (J-M 169i; BHRG 21.5.1.iv).
  • הוֹלֵךְ וְסֹעֵר- The participles form a hendiadys to convey repetition and increasing intensity, with הלךfulfilling an auxiliary role (GKC 113u).

Verse 12

  • וְיִשְׁתֹּק- The prefix + vav form in Jonah’s reply has a consecutive sense, “then…” (J-M 169i).

Verse 13

  • וַיַּחְתְּרוּ- The verb חתר means “to dig”; it is used here to suggest hard rowing or “digging” into the water with their oars.

Verse 14

  • The first person plural cohortatives are found here with the particle of entreaty נָא, often translated as “please” or the like (J-M 114f; GKC 105, 108c).
  • כִּי־אַתָּה יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר חָפַצְתָּ עָשִׂיתָ- This clause is a bit difficult to unpack. Sasson takes it and the preceding clause as separate motivations offered by the sailors to God: “Indeed, you are YHWH; and whatever you desire, you accomplish.” While this is possible, I think Sasson is giving too much weight to the zaqef qaton on YHWH. I have translated YHWH as a vocative and the relative clause as modifying אַתָּה“you.”

Verse 15

  • מִזַּעְפּוֹ- The Qal infinitive construct with the prepositionמן (and the 3ms suffix) serves as a verbal complement to עמד, “the sea stopped from its raging.”

Verse 16

  • וַיִּירְאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה אֶת־יְהוָה- The verb here has double accusatives: YHWH is the affected object (the object that existed apart and before the action of the verb, but is reached by the verb), while the “great fear” is the internal object (the object is an abstract noun of action typically of the same root as the verb, and thus a cognate accusative) (AC 2.3.1; J-M 125u n1).
  • Note again the irony that the pagan sailors are more devout than Jonah.

Comments

While I will leave most of the larger questions of interpretation to a later post, I do want to highlight a few things from chapter one.

First, it is difficult if not impossible to pick up on a significant key word for the book of Jonah: גָּדוֹל“great” or “big.” Everything in Jonah is “great”: Nineveh (v. 2), the wind (v. 4), the storm (v. 4, 12), the sailors’ fear (v. 10) and their repentance (v. 16). In later chapters we will encounter a “great” or “big” fish (2:1), among other things.

Second, the frequent use of גָּדוֹלas well as some of the other language in this (the ship thinking) and later chapters (the animals putting sackcloth on themselves in 3:8), “shifts the story to the fabulous” as Sasson suggests. I will come back to this observation in a later post.

Finally, when examining the characterization of Jonah, YHWH, and the pagan sailors in this chapter it is striking:

  • Jonah does exactly the opposite of what YHWH calls him to do: instead of getting up and going (קוּם לֵךְ), he got up to flee (וַיָּקָם יוֹנָה לִבְרֹחַ ), and then in contrast to getting up, he has a series of descents (ירד) in order to get away from YHWH’s call. And of course, as I already noted, the irony between Jonah’s flight and his confession is stunning.
  • The sailors come across much better than Jonah. Their actions are often parallel to those of YHWH: they, like YHWH, tell Jonah to “get up” and “call” (1:2, 6); they both “cast to the sea” (1:4, 5, 15). In addition, a contrast is set up between the sailors and Jonah: Jonah’s fear (1:9) vs. the sailors’ fear (1:10); and “perish” in the mouths of the sailors (1:7, 14) vs. from Jonah’s perspective (4:10).

Well, this post has ended up longer than I anticipated. I better end it here. We’ll pick up Jonah chapter three next.


Posted in Jonah, Jonah's "Big Fish" Story, Old Testament, Text Criticism | 2 Comments »

Cain and Abel: A Cameo from Year One

2nd March 2009

My previous post on Cain and Abel reminded me of a somewhat funny (OK, it is funny — just a little dark) trailer for a new Harold Ramis film, The Year One:

The film follws the adventures of two lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) as they travel the ancient world. It appears that they not only encounter Cain and Abel, but also Adam and Eve,  Abraham and Isaac, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Hmmm… I don’t think it is trying to be biblically accurate!  The film is scheduled to be released 19 June 2009 according to IMDB.

If you are interested in more films based on the Bible, check out my “The Old Testament on Film” pages.


Posted in Bible, Bible & Film, Film, Genesis, Humour, Old Testament | Comments Off

New and Forthcoming Commentaries on Genesis

27th February 2009

I have been perusing a couple new commentaries on the book of Genesis and decided to update my commentary listing.  I am aware of four recently published commentaries on Genesis:

  • Bill T. Arnold. Genesis (New Cambridge Bible Commentary; Cambridge University Press, 2009). This is a popular series based on the NRSV aimed at pastors and laypeople, but useful for scholars and teachers as well. Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • C. John Collins. Genesis 1-4. A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (P&R Publishing, 2006). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • James McKeown, Genesis (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary; Eerdmans, 2008). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com
  • John H. Sailhamer. Genesis (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition, vol. 1; Zondervan, 2008). Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com

These four recent commentaries all have different things to offer the careful reader. Arnold‘s volume is an excellent study of the book of Genesis that engages its ancient context (in the commentary proper and in “Closer Look” sections) as well as its modern significance (primarily through “Bridging the Horizons” sections).  This is the most academic of the four volumes, and also the most concise (he packs a lot of information in). McKeown‘s commentary is another excellent study of the book of Genesis which also tries to address both the “horizon” of the text and our modern “horizon” (that’s Gadamer speak for ancient and modern context). While Arnold embeds his discussion of theological relevance of a passage throughout the commentary, McKeown primarily offers his at the end of the commentary in an almost 200-page section on the theological message of Genesis and its theological significance for today.  The next two offerings are more conservative in nature, although while Sailhammer is fairly conservative, that has never hampered his creative and detailed engagement with the biblical text (see his Genesis Unbound: A Proactive New Look at the Creation Account Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com). And he doesn’t disapoint with his treatment of Genesis. Perhaps the biggest weakness in Sailhammer’s commentary is due to the limitations of a multi-volume series. Collins‘s conservative commentary on the first four chapters of Genesis is good, though I found it somewhat predictable (to be honest I was a bit disappointed).

If I had to recommend only one of these recent releases, it would be a toss up between Arnold and McKeown, and I would probably end up recommending Arnold.

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

  • 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 Amazon.ca or Amazon.com) is any indication, this should be a very good critical commentary. It is a few 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 Amazon.ca or Amazon.com), 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 was projected to be available in 2008 but it is behind 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.
  • 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 was projected to be released in late 2008, but is behind schedule.

If anyone knows of other recently published Genesis commentaries or others in preparation, please let me know.


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