Review of @OUPAcademic’s “Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition”

The (now) first Jewish Study Bible (JSB) was a major breakthrough in establishing a critical, yet faithful, study system for the Jewish canon (for Protestants, the Old Testament). It brought to the table both modern research as well as rabbinical sayings, easily competing with other critical study bibles not only for attention but for depth and clarity. It has been my go-to bible for much of my study in the Jewish Scriptures. Not bad for an “experiment” (as the editors call the first edition) and a winner of the National Jewish Book Award (2004). With the second edition (again edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler), what was good before is now great. I simply have no other words to describe it.

The barebones of the JSB has remained the same. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) 1985 translation has remained the same. The introductions to the books of bible are virtually unchanged, but the notes have been revised. According to the second edition’s preface, “over one-third” is new. This means we have updated scholarship, new voices, and more importantly in this last category, new voices that include women and Israeli scholars. In the first edition, some essays are simply revised essays from the New Oxford Annotated Bible, but in this one, the editors sought completely new essays on the same topics while asking for revisions of previous ones. Likewise, new essays are added — such as the additions of  “Reading Biblical Narrative” and “Reading Biblical Law” to the stand alone essay of “Reading Biblical Poetry.”

One new essay of note is “Gender in the Bible”(2177–84) by Marc Zvi Brettler. Brettler is a co-editor of the volume, the Dora Golding Professor at Brandeis University, and the author of numerous scholarly works examining the Jewish Scriptures (including serving as co-editor on Amy Jill Levine’s The Jewish Annotated New Testament, also by Oxford). He notes the difference between “gender” (“enacted”) and “sex” (“biological”). No doubt this differentiation will concern some, but Brettler is able to show easily why it needs to be. Even a woman can share the (en)action of a man (masculinity) — and the bible’s idea of masculinity often changes based on perspective. In once sense, masculine means warrior while in another time, masculine meant a devoted student. “The diversity of models should not be surprising, since the Bible is a complex work with multiple perspectives on many issues.”

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to specific roles, Brettler breaks down the language to show that while ancient Israel and Judaism was indeed male-centric, it was not exactly patriarchal. Nor was it homogenous. Women did have specific roles, but in some portions of Scripture, women shared in roles usually thought to be the sole domain of men (for instance, Brettler points out the Nazarites and prophets). This doesn’t mean Brettler is a wild-eyed liberal, nor given to exaggeration of Scripture. His attention to the verse rather than later culturally influenced readings is made readily apparent when he explores the masculinity of God. He does, in all fairness, give time to scholars who disagree with him, but in the end maintains the explicitness of the bible. “Gender is central to one’s identity and should be immediately evident. Males should act and look like males, and females should act and look like females, and both genders should worship a masculine God” (2184). This section in particular is prefaced with a warning that “all religions…change over time” (2182). We are not told what to think, only what the facts are in determining how we think.

Each essay is based on solid scholarship that remains within the biblical realm. Of note, Jon Levinson’s introduction to Bere’shit (Genesis) ends with, “if J, E, P, and various equally anonymous sources and redactors are its human authors, nothing ensures that God is not its ultimate Author” (10).

My only issue with the bible is the cover. I am going to heavily use this one and I am fearful I will damage the white hardcover. JSB1 had a dust jacket and rough, dark colored cover. JSB2 lacks the dust jacket (thankfully) but has a white glossy cover. The quality of the book, however, is one that will last over time. The pages are thin (use an India marker) but so are most bible pages. (If this bothers you, note there is a kindle version.) JSB2 is set up a lot like JSB1, with the text in the upper portion, next to the spin, surrounded on the left/right and on the bottom by notes. Also included are the JPS 1985 translator’s notes. Throughout the various books, you will find charts and smaller maps to help guide the reader in understanding what is happening in the text and notes. Also include are full color maps like you would find in other bibles. This is a scholar’s bible, but it is a adherent’s book as well.

I have looked, but in vain, for a better study bible for those interested in engaging the Jewish Scriptures as Jewish. Granted, the Christian writings are mentioned, as are the rabbinical sages and both alongside critical scholarship. It does not exclude ecumenical inquiry, but it is the most useful when one is trying to determine how one portion of the text is seen by Jews. This is a great benefit, to be sure, to Christians and Muslims, scholars and theologians, if they are going to interpret the “Old Testament” as a Jewish document first. It is an intellectually stimulating study bible that must be on the desk of every serious student of Scripture.

@IVPAcademic/@IVPress has their own Reader’s Choice Awards

Perhaps it is because I just read a marketing letter from another publisher that was filled with fallacies, lies, and sheer stupidity, but my opinion of the House of IVP is at an all time high. They really do publish a lot of good books and a few more great ones – ranging from Evangelical to Orthodox to Catholic, etc…

This year, they are asking for nominations from among their titles for awards.

From here:

2014 was a great year for books at InterVarsity Press. Between November 2013 and October 2014, IVP published 117 new titles on topics ranging from missional living, culture making and spiritual formation to creation care, biblical theology and Christian leadership. This year we want to highlight some of our readers’ favorites with IVP’s first Readers’ Choice Awards.

We’re a bit partial to all our books and with so many to choose from, we’d really love your help in selecting this year’s Readers’ Choice nominees. List your favorite books from the past year below and we’ll select the most frequently mentioned titles as the offical nominees.

Leave us your name and email address and we’ll send you a discount on your next IVP purchase with an invitation to vote on the awards. We can’t wait to hear about your favorite books!

Details

  • Write in up to five books in the form below
  • Only books from this list will qualify (published between November 2013 and October 2014)
  • Let us know why you’re nominating your choice (We just need a quick word or phrase about why you love this book)
  • Share this page with your friends and encourage others to nominate! (Nominating yourself or an author you know is acceptable)
  • Books with the most mentions will be selected as official nominees and we’ll call for votes to select the first Readers’ Choice Awards.
  • Nominations will close on Sunday, November 23 at 11:59pm CT.

Mine, thus far, are:

The last one is especially helpful — I received it through the Book Club — for small groups, high schoolers, and new to the bible types.

So, go and enter!

This coming week… In (pre-)reviews

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I intend to highlight and review these books this coming week.

I’ll update this post with links to those reviews, of course.

But, what would you like to see in these reviews?

Book Review of @Energion’s “Worshiping with Charles Darwin”

There are a few names unmentionable, at least in the positive sense, from the Christian pulpit. One of them, if not the main one of them, is Charles Darwin, the 19th century scientist many accuse of creating evolutionary science. But, there are more than a number of Christians who believe science and faith are co-habitable. This number, we hope, grows every day. And this is where the problem lies. Pastors are having a difficult time presenting science and faith together due to a lack of education on the topic or because they simply do not know how. There are plenty of books about science and faith, but only a few on how to use them together. There is one, however, incorporating them. Cornwall’s book is a book of sermons and essays.

This is a pastoral account, almost like an autobiography, of bringing forth God’s message out of the two books, Scripture and Nature. As one who has read Cornwall considerably, I am neither surprised nor let down at the amount of work in these sermons. They exist, ever etched into someone’s mind, as a real method of worshiping the Most High God by celebrating how he formed the world. The book begins with a lengthy introduction wherein Cornwall tells you of his journey from Young Earth Creationism to this robust faith presented in this volume. Many of us who have traversed the same plane will recognize the same highway pit-stops along the way. This is not a story about someone losing their faith, but one where someone finds a faith richer and fuller than he has known before.

Following this are two parts, one with sermons and the other essays. Cornwall uses these short statements to explain further the relationship between faith and science. The sermons he delivered while the essays are former blogposts, all are crafted for both the subject and the audience. What does Cornwall really do? He doesn’t destroy the Christian faith, as I imagine some of his detractors would accuse him of, but instead leads us along the way to a better, more honest faith.

English: "A Venerable Orang-outang",...

English: “A Venerable Orang-outang”, a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine Deutsch: Man sieht Darwin als Affen dargestellt, was eine Anspielung auf seine Evolutionstheorie sein soll. Seiner Meinung nach entwickelten sich die Menschen aus den Affen, was damals eine völlig neue Vorstellung war. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be frank, it is difficult to review sermons, although not all of the book is made up of sermons. Sermons are meant to be given rather than read. Even the poorest sermon can sound remarkable if given properly. So I will not judge them as such. Rather, when I read them I tried to see if they were accomplishing what Cornwall intended. He does the job well. The sermons are exactly what you expect from sermons — rooted in Scripture, rooted in the Christian faith, and yet applicable to the modern world. No doubt, this is going to be difficult for some to digest, but the sermons (and essays) approach the Christian as a Christian who is in need of moving forward. Yes, Cornwall declares, the Books of God are applicable, practical and compatible. I would hope, and pray, that more pastors seek to implement what Cornwall has done, else we subcumb to St. Augustine’s warning about looking like fools for following superstitions (disguised as theology). God helps us and God bless Robert Cornwall.

Book Announcement: “Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire”

This looks important:

The supposed collapse of Roman civilization is still lamented more than 1,500 years later—and intertwined with this idea is the notion that a fledgling religion, Christianity, went from a persecuted fringe movement to an irresistible force that toppled the empire. The “intolerant zeal” of Christians, wrote Edward Gibbon, swept Rome’s old gods away, and with them the structures that sustained Roman society.

Not so, argues Douglas Boin. Such tales are simply untrue to history, and ignore the most important fact of all: life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, as Boin shows, a small minority movement rose to transform society—politically, religiously, and culturally—but it was a gradual process, one that happened in fits and starts over centuries. Drawing upon a decade of recent studies in history and archaeology, and on his own research, Boin opens up a wholly new window onto a period we thought we knew. His work is the first to describe how Christians navigated the complex world of social identity in terms of “passing” and “coming out.” Many Christians lived in a dynamic middle ground. Their quiet success, as much as the clamor of martyrdom, was a powerful agent for change. With this insightful approach to the story of Christians in the Roman world, Douglas Boin rewrites, and rediscovers, the fascinating early history of a world faith.

In the Mail from @OUPAcademic, “The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition”

From the official listing:

  • Informative essays that address a wide variety of topics relating to Judaism’s use and interpretation of the Bible throughout the ages
  • Section and book introductions that deliver insights into the background, structure, and meaning of the text
  • Running commentary beside the biblical text that provides in-depth theological interpretation
  • Features the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH translation
  • Full-color Oxford Bible maps
  • Verse and chapter differences between the Hebrew text and many English translations
  • Table of Scriptural readings for synagogue use
  • Glossary of technical terms

First published in 2004, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. It has won acclaim from readers in all religious traditions.

The Jewish Study Bible combines the entire Hebrew Bible–in the celebrated Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation–with explanatory notes, introductory materials, and essays by leading biblical scholars on virtually every aspect of the text, the world in which it was written, its interpretation, and its role in Jewish life. The quality of scholarship, easy-to-navigate format, and vibrant supplementary features bring the ancient text to life.

This second edition includes revised annotations for nearly the entire Bible, as well as forty new and updated essays on many of the issues in Jewish interpretation, Jewish worship in the biblical and post-biblical periods, and the influence of the Hebrew Bible in the ancient world.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible.

More can be found here.

It is an increase of about 180 pages above the previous version.

By far, it is already an improvement upon something that was near perfect. More later.

Book Notes: @IVPAcademic’s “Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13″

Robert H. Stein has written a very specific book on a very particular chapter in the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Taking only chapter 13 (although he does provide a lead-in by exploring its place in the book itself), Stein goes virtually line-by-line through the chapter, offering the ‘why’ of his interpretation. He does so by relying on conservative scholarship as well as canonical support. His reliance upon these things, including Q and other unidentified oral sayings, is mixed with his acceptance and use of critical scholarship as well. Indeed, given his locus, his conclusions are that much more outstanding. All of this — locus, avenues of investigation — would normally give me pause when considering his conclusions; however, I find little fault in them. While I do not agree with his conclusion regarding the arrival of the Son of Man, his treatment of the first half of Mark 13 and his conclusion thereof is spot on. The book is divided into 8 chapters. The first lays out his thesis statement and his actual goal. The second chapter tackles various issues in reading this chapter, such as placement in Mark. Chapters 3-7 each discuss a specific, and successive, pericope wherein the chapter itself is given a critical and theological account. The final chapter includes the author’s own translation, making use of cues inside the text. Again, he uses intracanonical support as well as (a hope of) oral tradition. Unfortunately, this is the lowpoint (although admittedly, his lowpoint is still well above the highpoints of many) of Stein’s work. In the end, he allows that the first part of Mark speaks to the destruction of the Temple while the second half alerts the readers to an unknown date of the arrival of the Son of Man. He bases this on the inclusio he sees in 13.5 and 13.23. Rather than an inclusio, I believe Mark is using a chiastic structure. But, this is my view point, not my book. In all, while Stein uses avenues I would not, he arrives at a solution I believe is tenable. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man is an important book, especially in these times of heightened expectation. It is at once academic and theological, allowing the reader to place Mark 13 within the context of the entire Gospel as well as seeing how it works without a canonical context.

English: The destruction of the Temple foretol...

English: The destruction of the Temple foretold. Caspar Luyken. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 3904. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section R. predictions and warnings. Mark 13:1-37. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-q-to-r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

@FortressPress “Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha” – Additions to Esther

Since he-who-must-not-be-named is reviewing the “normal books,” I wanted to take some time and focus on the books you good Protestants are missing due to the drunk who threw them out. Frankly, they are among my favorites.

Yes, you Wesleyans like James and you Calvinists like the Institutes, but for those of us who love Jesus, there are books (used by Christians since the beginning) like Wisdom of Solomon and the (Greek) Additions to Esther. Admittedly, the former of these two is my favorite.

The introduction to the entire section (split off as as they do in Protestant bibles) is a short, but masterful work on the history of the deuterocanon (or “Apocrypha”) in Protestant bibles. I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it, but Eileen M. Schuller has done her considerable homework and gets it, as far as I can see, right. By this I mean, Schuller presents exactly what I want to see presented in a commentary of this scope and it is appreciated. She presents the ups and downs (the drunken brawl that led to the books being discarded right up to their reemergence in our wayward and biblically illiterate society) of these “hidden” books in Protestantism. Further, she doesn’t exclude, as many are apt to do, the Orthodox varieties of lists.

Let me spend just a moment on the (Greek) Additions to Esther, for no other reason than it was penned by my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Vivian Johnson. She begins by noting the surface problem with Esther — there is no God (at least in the book). Therefore, later Jewish scribes sought to remedy that, adding to the story as they needed to deliver the message they wanted. Rightly so, Johnson speaks to how this book dealt with identity in Empire and how the additions turn the book from a very limited scope to one that has far reaching cosmic implications.

After taking us through the additions and what they mean inside the text, she turns to the interpretative tradition and the text in contemporary discussion (as is the case with all other books in this commentary). Since the Additions to Esther are so short, this has allowed Johnson to expand these two discussion sections greatly to the benefit of the reader. To my great joy, her section on contemporary discussion discusses the contrast between the Greek additions (and the story it produces) compared to that of the original and Hebrew forms. This is important in deciding which story to read — not necessarily which story is authoritative. Like Daniel and his additions, the additions to Esther are important to us as we discover how stories were told, retold, and redacted/edited to meet new challenges — not simply with mimetic reuse, but by adding directly to a sacred text.

In all, Johnson does exactly what this former student expects, delivers supremely.

Book Recommendation: @ashgate’s “Theological Reflection and the Pursuit of Ideals: Theology, Human Flourishing and Freedom”

I recently wrote a review for this book. It’ll appear in a journal so I can’t post it here. I have surrendered my copyright. However, I wanted to call your attention this. It is a new concept for me, called theological humanism. This book is filled with theologians, scientists, etc… discussing what it means to reflect upon God in our (post-)modern world. If you are familiar with the work of David Klemm — I was not — then you will enjoy this book immensely. If you aren’t, well you should make yourself at least acquainted. It is not for the lay reader, but for those who know something about the debate around human flourishing.

I would so far as to say that

From the official description:

Contemporary thought is marked by heated debates about the character, purpose and form of religious thinking and its relation to a range of ideals: spiritual, moral, aesthetic, political and ecological, to name the obvious. This book addresses the interrelation between theological thinking and the complex and diverse realms of human ideals. What are the ideals appropriate to our moment in human history, and how do these ideals derive from or relate to theological reflection in our time? In Theological Reflections and the Pursuit of Ideals internationally renowned scholars from a range of disciplines (physics, art, literary studies, ethics, comparative religion, history of ideas, and theology) engage with these crucial questions with the intention of articulating a new and historically appropriate vision of theological reflection and the pursuit of ideals for our global times.

You can read a preview about the book here.

da vinciI didn’t cover this in the review, so I can write about it here. There is a chapter on the inherent mystery of Catholicism. It is one that is freeing rather than restrictive. I encourage all of you who see Rome in a legalist or fundamentalist, or even rigid, light (given the Synod, why not?) to read this chapter in particular. Further, the first chapter co-written by William H. Klink and David Klemm addresses, deeply, the dichotomy between freedom and matter, proposing a middle ground without the logical inconsistencies inherent in those two ideals (idealism v. dogmatism). I have pondered the middle between determinism and free will, finding both unusable because of the problems hidden in each thought system. What Klink and Klemm propose is something I will need time to consider — if not understand.

I would like to address more of the chapters, and I might, later. For now, let me recommend the book to you. If you are a theologian, or even a dabbler in theological concerns, read it. If you are a theist, deist, atheist, or other, pick it up and see if it changes your self-identification.

“Romans” in @FortressPress Commentary on the Bible: The New Testament

Romans is one of the most difficult New Testament books. It has started Reformations and continues to plague us as the artificer of poor readings today. I am always interested in seeing how Romans is presented… and as my readers know, I believe Romans is a rhetorical set piece designed to represent a dialogue between Paul and his imaginary interlocutor, whereby Paul is able to give his message as an explanation rather than a set of points.

First, the introduction includes a reference to Stanley Stowers and his “Rereading Romans.” Yet, nothing is mentioned about the scholarship on rhetorical practices involved in the letter. The author, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, does mention rhetoric, not as a form of discourse so much as a figure of speech. Douglas Campbell is nowhere mentioned, yet his proposals (and mine, although mine is only blogged) are central to the author’s presentation of Romans 1.18-3.31. Kittredge correctly notes that the “clobber passage” at the end of chapter 1 is Jewish agitprop against Gentiles and that Paul’s “you” in 2.1 is directed against them for this. In speaking about homosexuality, she doesn’t shy from the surface level statements but does offer a way around it by tackling “natural theology.”

If I read the passage the same as Kittredge (admittedly, I am close), I still would not buy her argument about Natural Theology; however, I believe she approaches this with unbiasedness and an admission that she understands why. It is, frankly, a pleasant read.

I have found a solid “New Perspective” throughout the chapter on Romans, much to my likely. Also included are connections (because they are there) between Paul’s Romans and the Empire.

Over all, I am impressed with what Kittredge gets right and could quibble over the rest — especially in reading Romans through a particular viewpoint. If anything, the sections may be too large I would like to have seen 1.18-3.31 divided up, as well as Romans 13-14.

 

Review, @degruyter_TRS “The Rewritten Scrolls from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary”

 The Dead Sea Scrolls, as a mystical object the majority of Jewish and Christian believers still ignore, is relatively new. As an object of study, newer still. Yet, in recent years scholars have paid more attention to the content of the scrolls more than the scrolls themselves. We have come to understand a lot about these lost desert communities, isolationists who had retreated to wait for the end of their world. While many scholars focus on the more well-known works, there is still room yet to explore the richness of works largely ignored. Such is case with Ariel Feldman (Ph.D, University of Haifa) who has turned his attention the rewritten Joshua Scrolls (4Q378, 4Q379, 4Q522, 4Q123, 5Q9, Mas 1039-211).

There is not merely a propositional monograph supported with eruditic footnotes. Rather, Feldman presents us a unique type of scholarship, so that while he examines the scrolls for their connectivity, he likewise gives us a solid commentary on the fragments therein. This book of 9 chapters is divided into several parts. First, Feldman gives us an introduction to the history of these particular scrolls. In the first chapter, Feldman makes the argument (as he reminds us in the final chapter) that Joshua is the most rewritten book among the Minor Prophets. He then gives details about the scrolls themselves. Following this are several chapters dedicated to succinct literary and contextual commentary on the various scrolls and fragments. Following this are two concluding chapters arguing for various positions on composition and vorlage. His conclusions, because he has invested such a great amount of work in the preceding chapters, are almost unquestionable at this stage of scholarship.

I will briefly focus on the commentary section. For this, I will use his chapter on 4Q378 (the second chapter of the book), for no other reason than the material provides for an allusion in my New Testament studies. We are introduced to the manuscript itself, giving us the sequence of fragments. Following this is the author’s summary of the contents. For this scroll, we are introduced to one relatively free of narrative but filled with discourses. The author gives us an approximate span of the canon where the fragment would appear. The central portion of each chapter is the text and commentary. The text, of course, is given in the original language. The commentary covers the text, different readings, and includes the author’s comments. I am reminded most of the Hermeneia series. After this, there is a detailed discussion of the contents of the fragment, calling attention to (in this case) Joshua and Moses and Joshua’s succession. Finally, Feldman gives us a list of biblical allusions and discusses provenance.

In total, this is a highly detailed and much needed contribution to these scrolls. If all such Dead Sea Scroll fragments were treated in such a manner, scholarship in this area would find itself near completion. I am most impressed with the attention to detail of the text and the sharp focus of the commentary. Feldman does not get bogged down into outlying issues but remains focused on the fragments and their suspected place as rewritten Scripture. Anyone studying this area, as well as the New Testament or Second Temple Judaism must find this book a necessity.