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Book Comments: Commentary Set of the Year

posted by Scot McKnight
Walton.jpg

I just spent a bundle of time with John H. Walton, who is the General Editor of a brand new series on the Old Testament, and it is a series we desperately need. This new series is a commentary unlike any commentary series ever because, instead of just being a commentary, it is a commentary only and specially-focused on historical background.


John Walton, editor: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Set: Old Testament.
The only way I can put it is this: every church and every pastor and ever seminarian, especially those who are evangelical, will want this commentary series within arm’s reach on his or her desk. There is nothing like it — and we all know commentaries repeat one another endlessly — and this one doesn’t.
We have learned so much about the ancient world — the Ancient Near East — in the last fifty years, but more and more it has become increasingly difficult to keep all of this stuff in our heads or within memory’s reach. But that has now been partially resolved for us with this new series written by experts on these materials. It’s focus is on the backgrounds and historical contexts for each book of the Old Testament.

I won’t list all the authors so I will randomly select a few: John Walton does Genesis, Richard Hess does Joshua, Phil Long does 1 & 2 Samuel, Iaian Provan does 2 Kings, Ed Yamauchi does Ezra/Nehemiah, David Baker does Isaiah, Tremper Longman does Proverbs, Andrew Hill does Malachi … and I could mention more but don’t want to consume space here.
The production is incomparable: four color, charts, pictures, maps, … fantastic stuff. It’s delightful to the eye and beautifully produced for anyone who wants to know more about the historical settings of texts and the ancient Israelites. Even if you disagree with historical conclusions, the material presented is of value to anyone who reads the Bible in the ancient context.
Now a point that has to be made that says nothing about what I’ve already said, but it says something about what could have been said and what could have been seen in the Old Testament texts: there are no women authors in this Old Testament commentary set. None. Thirty-five separate commentaries, thirty-five males, no women. [Added in light of comments: which tells us more about the place of women in ANE scholarship in the past than now, and more about the possibilities of the editor then than now.]



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pepy3

posted November 1, 2009 at 5:41 pm


Hmmmm. Too bad. They may have missed their audience on that aspect. Kind of hard for the women to get time on the court isn’t it.



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Pete Enns

posted November 1, 2009 at 5:57 pm


I agree, Scot, it is a great commentary set. Full of a lot of visuals and deals very directly with some important issues. This is a must-have and I plan on reviewing it on my website in the next couple of weeks or so.



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John Walton

posted November 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm


Before we get too tied up on the gender participants thing–it ought to be recognized that the pool of female evangelical OT scholars specializing in ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds was just about nil ten years ago (still very few today) and just because none are among the contributors, does not mean none were asked. Let’s not jump to conclusions. The fact is that the few women there are in the field are given so many opportunities that they cannot possibly accept them all.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 1, 2009 at 6:25 pm


John Walton’s observation is a very important one and I’m glad you spoke up John. So… commentaries like this are assigned years in advance, and I saw our NIVAC take more than a decade to get done and the volumes were assigned prior to that and it takes years for scholars to be known well enough to get invitations to do these things.
Here’s the major takeaway for me: times have changed dramatically for women even in the last decade. Today a number of female ANE scholars could be enlisted but that has not been the case for that long. It tells us something of where evangelicalism was 20-10 years ago.
I will ask that no comments be made about this issue. The point has been made … let’s celebrate the contribution this commentary will make for all of us. It’s a fantastic accomplishment.



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Jim Martin

posted November 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm


This sounds like a fantastic commentary series. I really look forward to this.



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Terry

posted November 2, 2009 at 12:17 am


I just received my set from Amazon on Wednesday (along with the NT set which I have been waiting to get for several years.) I picked it up because I hoped for and anticipated all that you expounded upon Scot. I made my mind up after reading John Walton’s excellent book on Genesis that was reviewed here in August. I’ve already been able to use some of the entry for the Psalms. Now I just have to find room close at hand.



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Derek Leman

posted November 2, 2009 at 11:32 am


I will be reviewing it on my blog and probably doing a regular feature on it (though mine hasn’t arrived yet).
It is great to have a commentary dedicated to precisely that kind of information that tends to be lacking. The focus on backgrounds is very needed. Context, Context. Context.



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Phil W

posted November 2, 2009 at 4:34 pm


Christianbook.com sells the OT set for $180, the NT set for $50, and the complete Bible set for $220. Those are big savings compared to Amazon.com.



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Craig Beard

posted November 3, 2009 at 10:02 am


Anyone: How does the NT set compare to the OT set?



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Pete Enns

posted November 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm


Well John, I am glad there are some biblical episodes you chose not to “live,” although it would have made for some interesting internet banter.
Great job on the volumes!



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RJS

posted November 4, 2009 at 8:35 pm


Great video



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James-Michael Smith

posted November 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm


I had the privilege of reviewing vol.1 of this series thanks to Koinonia and I agree, it’s fantastic. Such good information and the presentation is gorgeous. I’m looking forward to checking out the other 4 volumes in the future.
The Discipleship Dojo
gsdisciple.blogspot.com



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