Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LHP Review: Old Testament Resources



Wenham, Gordon. The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 205 Pages. Paper. $15.99. www.crossway.org (LHP)

Webb, Barry G. The Book of Judges (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012. 555 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. www.eerdmans.com (P)

Franke, John R., editor. Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament IV). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005. 458 Pages. Cloth. $40.00. http://www.ivpress.com/ (P)

Our focus is the Old Testament in this review with titles from IVP, Eerdmans, and Crossway.


Though frequently used in times of crisis or pain, the book of Psalms is often misread or misunderstood, seeming like a disorganized jumble of prayer, praise, and lament. To help readers get more out of the Psalms, renowned Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham highlights its foundational place for all Christian worship and spiritual formation. This compilation of eight lectures delivered between 1997 and 2010 teaches the practices of singing, reading, and praying the Psalms, paying special attention to the Psalter's canonical structure, messianic focus, and ethical goal. In drawing on his extensive academic and scholarly experience, Wenham has crafted a guide for discovering afresh the manifold wonders of this beautiful and surprisingly complex portion of the Bible.

Gordon Wenham (PhD, University of London) studied theology at the universities of Cambridge, London, and Harvard, taught Old Testament at Belfast and Gloucestershire Universities, and is now adjunct professor at Trinity College, Bristol. He has also authored a number of critically acclaimed Bible commentaries and books.
(Publisher's Website)

I like this brief volume as a re-introduction to many readers on "Praying and Praising with the Psalms." I appreciated references to St. Bernard and Martin Luther. The author does exceptionally well when he urges use (and re-introduction where necessary) of Psalms in public and private Christian worship.

I disagree with the author's stance on re-written hymn texts (24-25, 104-105) and was exceptionally disappointed by the author's denial that Psalm 51:5 has anything to do with original sin (76).

Our second volume focuses exclusively on the book of Judges.

Eminently readable, exegetically thorough, and written in an emotionally warm style that flows from his keen sensitivity to the text, Barry Webb's commentary on Judges is just what is needed to properly engage a dynamic, narrative work like the book of Judges. It discusses not only unique features of the stories themselves but also such issues as the violent nature of Judges, how women are portrayed in it, and how it relates to the Christian gospel of the New Testament.

Webb concentrates throughout on what the biblical text itself throws into prominence, giving space to background issues only when they cast significant light on the foreground. For those who want more, the footnotes and bibliography provide helpful guidance. The end result is a welcome resource for interpreting one of the most challenging books in the Old Testament.

Read Judges and Misogyny, a blog post by Webb about the book.

Barry G. Webb is senior research fellow emeritus in Old Testament at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia, where he taught for thirty-three years. Among his other published works are The Book of the Judges: An Integrated Reading and Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther.

(Publisher's Website)

I appreciate the context provided by the author as he presents the individual verses of the Biblical text of Judges. His exegesis is largely sound and quite usable by Lutheran pastors at Bible Class.

I do not care for the introduction or the seratim historical critical take on numbers of people throughout the commentary. At this point, The Lutheran Study Bible remains my commentary of choice for the book of Judges, at least until Judges appears as a volume in Concordia Commentary.

As a whole, Old Testament Volume IV of Ancient Christian Commentary may be a better use of limited funds if pastors need a commentary on Joshua, Judges, Ruth, or 1-2 Samuel.

The history of the entry into the Promised Land followed by that of the period of the judges and early monarchy may not appear to readers today as a source for expounding the Christian faith. But the church fathers readily found parallels, or types, in the narrative that illumined the New Testament. An obvious link was the similarity in name between Joshua, Moses' successor, and Jesus--indeed, in Greek both names are identical. Thus Joshua was consistently interpreted as a type of Christ. So too was Samuel. David was recognized as an ancestor of Jesus, and parallels between their two lives were readily explored. And Ruth, in ready fashion, was seen as a type of the church.

Among the most important sources for commentary on these books are the homilies of Origen, most of which are known to us through the Latin translations of Rufinus and Jerome. Only two running commentaries exist--one from Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the famous Cappadocian theologians, the other from Bede the Venerable.

Another key source for the selections found here derives from question-and-answer format, such as Questions on the Heptateuch from Augustine, Questions on the Octateuch from Theodoret of Cyr and Thirty Questions on 1 Samuel from Bede. The remainder of materials come from a wide variety of occasional and doctrinal writings, which make mention of the biblical texts to support the arguments.

Readers will find a rich treasure trove of ancient wisdom, some appearing here for the first time in English translation, that speaks with eloquence and challenging spiritual insight to the church today.

Related Information & Resources

Read the general introduction to the series. And for even more information, visit the Ancient Christian Commentary website!

Download an essay by J. Robert Wright on the significance of the art used on the covers of the Ancient Christian Commentaries.

Join the Ancient Christian Commentary Series to save 50% on every volume!

John R. Franke (D. Phil., Oxford) is associate professor of theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. With Stanley J. Grenz, he is coauthor of Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context.

(Publisher's Website)

These books only occasionally show up in the lectionary, but they do a couple of times in Year C. I am thankful for a multi-book resource like this ACCS commentary to help me out on those occasions.

Ruth 1: 1-19 shows up this year on October 13 (Proper 23C). Turn to 181-184 and keep your congregation's focus on Ruth as an ancestor to Christ, prefiguring the Christian Church, and better explain Naomi's new name.

2 Samuel 11:26–12:10, 13-14 (Proper 6C) is read this June 16. Share the impressive and unique insights of the David, Uriah, Bathsheba, and Nathan story from Augustine, Gregory the Great, Chrysostom, and lesser-known Church Fathers with your congregation. The way they retell the story may add "ancient" freshness to your preaching in the 21st century.

Pastors, do you regularly study an Old Testament Bible book verse-by-verse with your congregation? I'm currently in the middle of one on Judges and consider it a book for our time. Studying the Old Testament is a great way to increase and promote Biblical literacy among those entrusted to your care. And we have a great opportunity to frame all of salvation history in Christ!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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