The Two Horizons commentary is on sale at Accordance for one more day, and in this post I want to give you an example of what you can expect from the 13 volume Old Testament collection.
Here is a list of the contributors to the Old Testament series:
- Genesis, James McKeown
- Joshua, J. Gordon McConville & Stephen N. Williams
- Judges, David J. H. Beldman
- Ruth, James McKeown
- Ezra and Nehemiah, David J. Shepherd & Christopher J. H. Wright
- Job, Lindsay Wilson
- Psalms, Geoffrey W. Grogan
- Proverbs, Ernest C. Lucas
- Ecclesiastes, Peter Enns
- Lamentations, Robin Parry
- Hosea, Bo H. Lim & Daniel Castelo
- Micah, Stephen G. Dempster
- Habakkuk, Heath A. Thomas
Let’s take a look at a few snippets from the series that I have found particularly helpful.
One aspect of the series you might not be aware of is how helpful it can be for topical study. The focus of the series is on theological reflection and not just theological exegesis.
For example, how do we think about the conquest narratives today? The Joshua volume by J. Gordon McConville and Stephen Williams includes several essays discussing issues like this.
141 pages of this volume are dedicated to essays exploring the theological horizons of Joshua. The essays include the following topics:
- Theology in the Book of Joshua
- The Question of the Land
- The Question of Genocide
- God of Miracle and Mystery
- Joshua and Biblical Theology
- Key Themes of the Book of Joshua
- Joshua in Biblical Theology
- Reading Joshua Today
- The Question of History
- The God of Joshua
The authors split up the writing load in these sections and then they write essays in response to one another. These response essays are helpful in that they demonstrate that the best theological reflection is done in dialogue.
I found the discussions of the historicity of Joshua and the brutality of the conquest theme to be particularly careful and nuanced. The authors are honest in recognizing the difficulties, they discuss various options of interpretation, but they also take a clear stance.
The authors emphasize the importance of understanding the genre of Joshua, but they do not want to let go of the accounts’ historicity. In the introduction on “Dating and Historicity,” they write concerning the siege of Jericho,
In the commentary that follows, it is suggested that this is not a straightforward factual account of the battle for a city, rather a demonstration that the people of Yahweh could not be resisted … The book of Joshua can be assigned to a genre of writing widely exemplified in the ancient Near East, namely the “conquest account,” whose purpose was to demonstrate that conquests were successfully undertaken at the behest of the particular nation’s god. Joshua then becomes Yahweh’s and Israel’s version of a kind of literature well known to people at the time. Such accounts were naturally shaped to the purpose of demonstrating the god’s supreme power over events. (p. 5)
Listen to this further explanation a couple pages later:
Even when it is agreed that the Old Testament proclamation requires an actual historical Israel, there remains a work of exegesis and interpretation to judge what kind of historical claim is being made by a particular narrative. (p. 7)
In the post-commentary theological reflection essays, Stephen Williams makes clear that he thinks the author of Joshua is making claims about what happened in reality, in space and time:
It is hard to see how the claim that a significant group of people who worshipped Yahweh entered and partly occupied the land of Canaan by military force is not a core claim, even if we might wish to formulate it a bit differently or add to the core. Is it at least important to maintain this much? I think that it is. If this is fiction, ideology, or whatever without real basis in fact, the grounds for Israel’s claim to know God, as testimony is borne to it in the Old Testament, are surely removed to a very significant degree. And if these are removed, the attitude assumed in the New Testament to the history is questionable; and if this is questionable, the New Testament witness as a whole is questionable … The Old Testament landscape stubbornly resists being cleared of its bedrock historical references. (pp. 212–214)
Now let’s turn to an example of commentary proper. Recently, I looked at about ten of the normal go to academic commentaries on Judges 3:2, and I found David J. H. Beldman’s comments as helpful as any.
The first portion of Judges makes clear that Israel failed to finish the conquest because an idolatrous generation arose after Joshua died. Beldman writes,
However, 3:1–2 provide what seems like another purpose for the remaining nations, namely, to teach the ways of warfare to the generations who had not experienced it. This may seem incongruous with the previous stated reasons for leaving the nations in the land. However, the generation of Israelites in chapter 1 disobeyed God by not conducting holy warfare (as difficult as that is for modern readers), so the subsequent generations would have to learn it, not because they were inexperienced warriors and needed to learn how to fight as such, but so that they might learn to obey God in ways their ancestors failed to do. There does seem to be some irony here. Had the previous generation obeyed the divine directive to conduct holy war against the Canaanites, there would be no need for the subsequent generation to learn warfare. (pp. 69–70)
A Favorite Verse
Finally, a comment from Geoffrey W. Grogan on perhaps my favorite verse in the Old Testament.
Psalm 34:18 – The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
The words “eyes,” “ears,” and “face” suggest the Lord’s concentration on the needs of the righteous, reminding the reader of his goodness (v. 8). His face that shone on the righteous (v. 5 implies) is set against evildoers, who will be denied the long life promised in verse 12. The troubles of the righteous are heartbreaking and crushing, but the God who is close to them hears their prayer. Their troubles are real but limited (vv. 19–20), and it is significant that John 19:36 applies verse 20 to the crucified Christ. Verses 21 and 22 virtually summarize Psalms 1 and 2.
There is a lot packed into this short paragraph:
- The note about eyes, ears, and face suggesting personal attention is insightful.
- The mention of how John cites Psalm 34 with reference to Jesus highlights the fact that Jesus can relate to the “crushed in heart.”
- The last sentence on how Psalm 34 echoes themes of Psalm 1 and 2 is a good insight, too.
Using Stacks in Accordance
Having entire commentary sets in Accordance is fantastic for doing research or sermon/lesson prep. Frequently you are focusing on one passage, but you bounce around to various cross references in your study. Sometimes you want to check out a commentary on those passages as well. Sometimes you find help in a lexicon or a Bible dictionary, too. Accordance makes it easy to keep track of everything you find with their Stack feature.
By highlighting a passage and long-pressing the stack icon on the toolbar (or right clicking the selected text and using the context menu), you can easily gather quotations from a variety of resources.
I create these stacks liberally and then, if I want, just delete them when the project is completed. You can find all your stacks at the bottom of your library.
For more information on stacks, checkout the fantastic Accordance help documentation.
I hope these two posts on the Two Horizons series give you a better idea of what J. Gordon McConville and Craig Bartholomew have in mind when they say the two distinguishing features of the series are theological exegesis and theological reflection.
Accordance provides an ideal way to access the commentary alongside your morphologically tagged versions of scripture and other commentaries and dictionaries. For the next twenty-four hours or so you can pick up the 9 volume New Testament set for $99 and the 13 volume Old Testament set for $125. For someone who regularly ponders scripture and prepares lessons or sermons, I think that price is a great deal and a solid investment.