All Commentaries are Not Created Equal, Part 4

Posted By on November 12, 2011

This is actually a short follow-up to Part 3, where I recommended some commentary sets. In that post I had two links to web pages on the Denver Seminary website to their own commentary recommendations. I have gone through that site and highlighted the volumes I have used and can recommend as useful — though with the caveats given earlier still in place — that I use resources that engage the text. My own tendency is to use commentaries like these to mine the footnotes to get to journal articles.† So, for me, commentaries that engage the text plus journal articles are part of what I do in research. I will also use our software to create searches based on things I want to investigate in the text, along with Hebrew reference grammars. But that is all a means to an end: to translate the data in my head and then to others as biblical theology, rooted in the text. What I find in the text is always informed by the bigger (contextual – ancient Near East). My goal is to try to think about the text the way an Israelite would have thought about it — an Israelite informed by the wider culture, literature, and religion of the ancient Near East (i.e., the Israelite who wrote the material for his own people and posterity). Not easy, but a better goal than looking to the 16th or 21st centuries to understand the text. If you’re going to do that, save yourself the time and just filter everything through a modern creed.

In the next post, I’ll say a little about how I use this approach for the New Testament.

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2 Responses to “All Commentaries are Not Created Equal, Part 4”

  1. Jesse in Oregon says:


    So, without a exhaustive knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is this even possible? I have an undergrad degree in a social science, military training and some theology classes. I can manage simple research projects and form my own opinions using research articles, databases and the like… but is this dangerous ground? Until I learn Hebrew am I better off in the safety of a mainstream “creed?”

    I have read your posts about cross referencing multiple translations when doing personal bible study, but will that ever approach the “contextual Ė ancient Near East?”
    Does a modern Israeli Jew accomplish this naturally? How about an archeologist without Hebrew training, does their academic ability carry them over?


    • MSH says:

      this is why finding and using high-end sources is crucial. Short of learning all these languages, one can learn enough of them (alphabet, grammatical concepts and their meaning, etc.) to be able to use scholarly sources by people who have done this sort of grunt work for you. A modern Israeli may or may not know how to analyze a Hebrew text (think of the analogy of an English speaker – how well they an English speaker can diagram a sentence or analyze the grammar in any given English passage varies widely).

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