Friday, October 08, 2004

Review of Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible

Robin Griffith-Jones has an appreciative review of the Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible in this week's Church Times:

EERDMANS COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE By James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson
Reviewed by Robin Griffith-Jones
. . . .The range of approaches exemplified in the book is immensely stimulating. It may, however, (albeit unjustly) lessen the value of the volume as a compendium of the information that pastors and students have come to look for in a commentary . . . .

The voices we hear in this volume are the voices of those personally involved in the faith and the Church. They are well equipped to urge us, as S. C. Barton does, to take with full seriousness both the historical contingency of the text and the text’s continuing significance in the life of the Church. “We have to read it eschatologically, as the ‘word of God’ for the present with a view to the future consummation of all things.”

There is a vivid sense, here, of how intimately the text addresses these contributors and their readers as individuals: as scholars, in particular, almost all working in Britain or the United States. But the anger of the text at intractable structures of power generally reaches the reader (I think) only faintly, from the middle distance. The anger of some readers with the text — and with the endorsement it has been used to lend to those structures — is even harder to hear.
But Griffith-Jones really likes it. He comments that "The list of the 67 contributors is a roll-call of current scholarship". I am not sure about the word "current". The contributors represent the top notch senior colleagues in the guild, what my friend Michael Goulder would call "the top brass". In some ways, this is an excellent thing. But I would add something here from my own experience. As a graduate student in Oxford, I did some work, in the very early stages, for John Muddiman and John Barton on the Oxford Bible Commentary. My task was to do some research on the publications of scholars who were towards the beginning of their careers in order that the editors could assess who might be useful to approach as potential contributors, the point being to give the commentary some longevity by featuring not only the top brass but also the up-and-coming. I reckon that that was a good idea.

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