Yesterday, I started my focus on the New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, kindly provided to me by Oxford University Press. Oxford is also the publisher of the New English Translation of the Septuagint, a personal favorite.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with reading the Scripture in sections, don’t be taken back when you see that the NOAB neatly divides the text into these sections. The first one we encounter is the Pentateuch, which as we know, are the five books of Moses. This introduction is brief, dealing with historical criticism, generally, such as the source theory.Written by Marc Z. Brettler, it provides an easy introduction into modern academic theories. Of course, from the start, he will not find friends among more traditional readers. Nothing the unanimity of the tradition which heralds Moses as the author of these books, he gives an academic rebuttal. He notes the lack of a ‘complete coherence of plot among them’, the failure to introduce the central character, Moses, until deep within the complete work, goes on to lay waste to other unifying themes commonly espoused by the more conservative readers. Of course, if this was a rebuttal to his work, I might suggest that the central character is not Moses, but YWHW; that the coherence of plot is not one simple string, but several, namely the rising and falling and limiting of one humanity to one tribe in order for God to have some semblance of activity with His creation; and that if nothing else, since it is five different books, with accepted redactions within, no single identification of unity will actually work. I also might chide him for his Western viewpoint that works must have a central, unifying, plot device, if this was a rebuttal to his introduction, which of course, it is not. Overall, his introduction well formed and presents a clearer understanding of the Pentateuch as a whole than one might expect.
Coming to the first book of the Bible, we are greeted with an Instruction written by David M. Carr. It, like the other introductions discuss the usual – Name, Canonical Status, Authorship and devotes some space to Structure and Contents as well as, which by far is among the most important aspects of the introductions, Interpretative History. From Genesis to Revelation, different books have been taken to mean different things by different people in different times. Seemingly, the point is made no more clearer than by the Genesis and Revelation in which the introductions pay homage, respectively, to the various interpretative methods for the books, even the Deuterocanon. It is a little disjointing, however, especially while reading the Old Testament books, seeing non-Christian interpretations brought into the discussion. While it is easy for me to accept Jewish interpretations – these are their books – I find it difficult to recognize Islam’s use as valid; although, we must note that other religions besides Judaism and Christian have used these books and help them in high esteem.
The Introduction to the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (original title) goes the distance in drawing Protestant users to the fact that these books exist and are actually used by other Christians. My main concern here is that the subsection regarding the use in the New Testament provides erroneous material, namely that the New Testament writers do not have “frequent quotation(s) of the thirty nine-books in the Hebrew Bible”. Several books of the Jewish canon do not make an appearance into the writings of the New Testament, such as Judges-Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra-Nehemlah, and Chronicles. Much to my chagrin, Wisdom and Sirach are regulated to ‘literary echoes’ which misplaces their importance to the wind, instead of providing an understanding of Wisdom for John and Paul. Finally, in noting the further influence of these books, they fail to mention the wide use of Baruch, Wisdom and Sirach in the early Christological debates.
Over all, the section introductions as well as the book introductions serve to further the academic notice and interest into the study of these books, even if at times they do not provide the entire answer.
For some pictures of the NOAB, see this post.