The value of a commentary depends upon what type of questions you ask. If your questions relate to textual matters, grammar, history, or the social world of the text, Hermeneia should be at the top of your list. More times than not, when I turn to this series, my questions are addressed, and often they are discussed quite thoroughly. As a whole, Hermeneia represents the best of current critical scholarship. Older volumes in the series are in the process of being updated or replaced.
Logos Bible Software offers most of the Hermeneia series in a 68 volume set, which also includes each volume of Hermeneia’s forerunner, the Continental Commentary series. Newer Hermeneia volumes are sold separately in three different upgrade bundles. The most recent upgrade bundle (Hermeneia Upgrade 3) is the focus of this post and includes the following:
- 2 Maccabees, by Robert Doran (2012)
- 2 Chronicles, by Ralph W. Klein (2012)
- Luke 3: Commentary on 19:28-24:53, by François Bovon (2012)
This semester I am participating in a PhD seminar focusing on intertestamental history and literature. One of the primary sources we are reading is the Greek text of 2 Maccabees. Along the way I have turned to Robert Doran’s commentary and have found it consistently helpful.
For example, 2 Maccabees 1:7 mentions the 169th year of the reign of Demetrius. This date is based on the Seleucid calendar, which Doran concisely explains as follows:
According to the Seleucid Macedonian calendar, year 1 fell between fall 312 and fall 311, while a Seleucid Babylonian calendar has been posited in which year 1 ran from spring 311 to spring 310. Following the Seleucid Macedonian reckoning, year 169 would be fall 144/fall 143, while in the Seleucid Babylonian counting, year 169 would be spring 143/spring 142. (p. 28)
In 2 Maccabees 1:16 one comes across συνεκεραύνωσαν from συγκεραυνόω. LSJ glosses the word as “strike with or as with a thunderbolt.” Doran comments,
The verb used to describe the effect of the priests’ stone throwing is συνεκεραύνωσαν and reflects the word for “thunderbolt,” κεραυνός, the weapon of Zeus. I suggest that the author wittily plays on this resemblance to have the ruler of the gods punish the arrogance of Antiochus. (p. 42)
One more example: note the curious use of the article in 2 Maccabees 2:18, ἐπισυνάξει ἐκ τῆς ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν. Doran explains,
“Under the sky” is literally “the [land] under the sky.” This ellipse of γῆς is found also in Prov 8:28 and Bar 5:3. (p. 61)
The other two commentaries in this three volume upgrade are just as noteworthy. Ralph Klein’s 2 Chronicles commentary complements his volume on 1 Chronicles, which is included in Logos’ base Hermeneia set. Klein’s work on Chronicles represents his mature thoughts after a lifetime of studying the book.
François Bovon notes in the preface to his Luke commentary that he began this work in the 1970′s! Bovon’s commentary stands out for its insightful discussion of the Gospel’s literary features and history of interpretation.
The Logos edition of Hermeneia offers full search capabilities, hyperlinking to primary and secondary sources, and allows users to link commentary and Bible text so that both scroll together. Note also, in the image below, that (1) the Logos edition shows clearly where the pages of the print edition change and (2) one can mark-up the text with various highlighters (I always use yellow):
One can easily link an English translation to both resources:
Using the Logos’ “Power Lookup” tool one can also automatically display a preview of each hyperlink in the commentary, whether a footnote, a reference to 2 Maccabees, Josephus, etc.
Commentaries are the type of resource that I prefer to have in electronic format for quick reference. In my opinion it is not too difficult to read up to 20 pages at a time on a computer screen, and the benefit of having easy access to your resources far outweighs the disadvantages of e-books.
The content puts these three commentaries at the top of my go-to list, and Logos’ electronic edition of Hermeneia is the way in which I prefer to access the series.