The New International Commentary is wonderfully helpful resource, and it is currently deeply discounted in Accordance. It’s a sale that is worth your consideration. This post focuses on the Old Testament volumes and ways in which they are easily accessible in Accordance.
Who are commentaries for? Commentaries are helpful to anyone who regularly reads their bible — whether layperson, student, or scholar. It is the kind of resource that you want to be accessible when questions arises, and that is why I prefer to have them in a digital format.
One feature of commentaries like NIC that can easily be overlooked, however, is their introductions. Each work provides much more than verse-by-verse comment on the biblical text. The introductions at the beginning of each work offers a thourough overview issues related to authorship, literary structure, theological themes, and more. These introductions are often as valuable as the commentary itself.
Victor Hamilton on Genesis
The introduction to Victor Hamilton’s Genesis commentary, for example, is just over 100 pages, overviewing the title, structure, composition, theology, problems in interpretation, canonicity, the Hebrew text, and offering a twenty-five page bibliography. Granted, for the average reader the bibliography is not going to be quite as useful, but the other seventy-five pages of the introduciton are substantial and very helpful.
Reading a commentary introduction is ideal for teachers or preachers when prepping for a class or a sermon series. When I taught Sunday School, I would either (a) work through a portion of an introduction like this each week before prepping the lesson or (b) read straight through a commentary introduction before the first week’s lesson.
Reading through a robust commentary introduction provides a tour of the unique issues scholars discuss with a particular book of the Bible. Knowing the issues is helpful and important because I found that by becoming acquainted with the scholarly discussions I was able to stand and speak with more confidence. It helped allay lingering doubts of what I might be missing or overlooking. Secions like Hamilton’s “Problems in Interpretation” are especially helpful in this regard.
John Oswalt on Isaiah
In my post on NICNT, I mentioned spending six months teaching through Romans with Moo’s volume as a constant companion. We did the very same thing Isaiah and Oswalt. Oswalt’s Isaiah commentary is one of my favorite single commentaries on any biblical book. Isaiah is difficult, and readers genuinely need help understanding the text. While teaching through the book, I would regularly point people toward Oswalt for help. Sure, there are more succint treatments out there, but Oswalt’s volumes would answer my questions more often than the others.
To provide another example of what an NIC introduction looks like, Oswalt’s two volumes begin with seventy-five pages discussing the title, background, unity of composition, date and authorship, occasion, canonicity, Hebrew text, theology, problems in interpretation, analysis of contents, an outline of the book, and closing with a bibliography.
With a book like Isaiah, it is often difficult to track with the flow of the discourse. Apart from the rich commentary itself, I have regularly benefitted from Oswalt’s detailed outline of the Isaiah. The outline itself spans five pages.
While some might not agree with Oswalt’s arguments regarding the authorship of Isaiah — he argues for a single author — the book pays close attention to the text, the literary structure, the flow of the argument, and the book’s theological contribution to the canon. These are, I think, the issues for which most people turn to commentaries.
Oswalt’s commentary stands out because his writing is so clear. Here’s one example, an extended quote, from comments on Isaiah 2:12–17:
It seems extraordinary that many commentators have difficulty seeing anything but a literal reference here (so Cheyne, Skinner, Gray). It is hard to understand why God should be against anything in nature merely because it is strong or tall. The various attempts to explain this view are all strained and all verge upon the figurative (cedars of Lebanon used to build great buildings, nature under punishment for mankind’s sin; cf. Delitzsch, Cheyne). Clearly, what God opposes is human arrogance and pride. It is these which the prophet is attacking (vv. 9, 11, 17, 19–22; cf. Mauchline). Moreover, Isaiah regularly uses nature, and particularly trees, in a symbolic way (1:30; 6:13; 9:9 [Eng. 10]; 10:33–11:1; 44:14; 60:16; cf. also Ezek. 31:1–18 for an extended figure). There is thus every reason to see the passage as figurative (although not allegorical, where each element must represent one specific thing). The prophet has chosen a number of items that visually represent the spiritual condition of Israel. Kaiser has suggested that he has visualized a windstorm, accompanied by an earthquake, sweeping down from the north (God’s home, 14:13; cf. UT, 51:iv:19–20; ANET, p. 133), and reaching all the way to the southernmost anchorage at Elat. All that is great and impressive is knocked down. So it will be with human pride on the day when the Lord acts. As surely as the wind uproots the trees and knocks down the ship, as surely as the earthquake moves the mountains and cracks the walls, so will the terror of the Lord remove all human pomp and pretension.pages 126–127
Tremper Longman on Ecclesiastes
One of the first text books many college and seminary students read is John Walton’s Survey of the Old Testament or Tremper Longman’s Introduction to the Old Testament. These two books are classic, evangelical text books, and so many will be intruiged to see that Longman is the author of the NIC Ecclesiastes volume.
Longman’s introduction covers fifteen topics in fifty pages.
Reading through an introduction like this in digital format is ideal on an iPad. The iPad screen provides plenty of space for reading with Accordance’s multi-column view and clicking on references to look at the text in the original language.
Longman’s commentary is written with a balance of argumentative rigor and devotional insight. For example, listen to his closing words:
The book of Ecclesiastes must in the final analysis be understood by the modern reader in the light of the full context of the canon. For the Christian that context includes the NT. For this reason, now that we have looked through the book as a whole, I commend the rereading of the introduction, particularly the sections that concern the theological message of the book. The idea is presented there that Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to Qohelet’s conclusion of meaninglessness under the sun. Jesus emptied himself of his divine prerogatives to subject himself to the world “under the sun” in order to free us of the chaos to which God subjected the world after the fall into sin (see Gal. 3:3 and Rom. 8:18–27).page 284
Accessing NICOT in Accordance
One of the easiest ways to access NIC in Accordance is to simply triple click on a Bible verse reference to amplify straight to the commentary. On MacOS, a triple click on Ezekiel 1:1 takes you directly to volume one of Daniel Block’s fantastic Ezekiel commentary. This is yet another example of a magnum opus in the NIC series.
Another simple way to quickly access commentaries in Accordance for MacOS is to use the info pane.
I usually prefer a two column layout with texts on one side and lexicons on the other. When I want to take a quick look at a commentary and not necessarily read extensively, adding the info pane from the “Add Parallel” shows me which resources comment on the verse I’m looking at. As I scroll, the info pane automatically updates. Long-holding on one of the book cover images gives me a pop-up, which though not full screen is helpful for quickly reading a commentary on one particular verse.
I think NIC is the best overall commentary for most people, and Accordance is a fantastic platform on which to access it. When you are thinking of investing in a series like NIC, quality control is very important. Accordance regularly release updates to their modules to correct occasional typos that slip in during the digital production process. If there is one software company that consistently demonstrates concern for quality control, it’s Accordance.
Currently, Accordance is having one of the best sales they have ever offered. This Eerdmans sale offers some of the deepest discounts I’ve ever seen. All 19 volumes NICNT are on sale for $299, and the 29 volumes set of NICOT is $399. The entire NICOT/NT set is $599 at 60% off. If you are on the fence and such a large purchse is difficult to do all at once, Accordance offers payment plans making the deeply discounted sale price even more affordable.
In the next post, I’m going to take a look at the NIC commentary on one particular verse and compare it to other major commentary series.