Friday, August 28, 2009

Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

Over the past year or two, I've noticed the publication of several volumes in a new series called the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. R. R. Reno (pictured here) is the series editor. Reno is a professor of theology at Creighton University and authored the Brazos volume on the Book of Genesis.

Of all the commentary sets out there, I have to say this one intrigues me the most. For one thing, you might not always recognize the names of the authors. Most preachers and teachers expect to see commentaries on New Testament books by well-known specialists like Ben Witherington III, Scot McKnight, Gordon Fee, and the everywhere-all-the-time N. T. Wright. If it's a commentary on an Old Testament book, then you expect names like Tremper Longman, Choon-Leong Seow, Terence Fretheim, and John H. Walton. But none of those names show up on the Brazos list.

Something else about this series: when I do recognize an author's name, it's usually someone who's earned his or her reputation in a field next to biblical studies, not in it. For example, the volume on the Book of Acts was written by the late Yale professor Jaroslav Pelikan, who made his mark as an historian of Christianity and the Middle Ages. Pelikan was a great scholar. But he was not a biblical scholar per se. The commentary on Colossians has been assigned to Christopher Seitz, an Old Testament specialist who, to my knowledge, hasn't published much at all in the area of New Testament (but who has always shown an interest in the theological unity of the Christian Bible). The volume on Matthew is by the popular theologian and ethicist Stanley Hauerwas. And Ellen Charry, a theologian who teaches at Princeton, is scheduled to co-author the commentary on the Book of Psalms.

In short, this series deliberately steers off the beaten path. Instead of biblical specialists, it turns to people who are more theologians to say what they will about the various books of the Bible. This comes across clearly in the official blurb:

Leading theologians read and interpret scripture for today's church, providing guidance for reading the Bible under the rule of faith. Each volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible is designed to serve the church--through aid in preaching, teaching, study groups, and so forth--and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible.

It will be interesting to see where this series will go, what impact it might actually make in the way that students of the Bible hear and apply the text. If you need to know the answer to some technical question, there are a handful of resources you can turn to (e.g., Word Biblical Commentary, International Critical Commentary, etc.). But to hear what historian Timothy George might have to say about the Book of James? That sounds especially interesting to me.

So, has anyone out there taken a look at one of the Brazos volumes? What did you think?

15 comments:

Brian Small said...

I've only looked at the Matthew commentary, and frankly speaking, I wasn't much impressed.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Brian,

As you know, Hauerwas is a popular writer. Could you say a little more about what was lacking in his Matthew commentary?

Brian Small said...

It has been a while since I looked at it, but as I recall, there was not much substance to the commentary. There was little explanation of what was going on in the biblical text and seemed to go off on other tangents. I understand that this is a popularized series, but if this commentary was representative of the series, I would look elsewhere.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Thanks, Brian. I'll be sure to look at one in a bookstore before buying. I'm interested to see what Pelikan does with the Book of Acts, how C. Seitz deals with Colossians, etc.

Brian Small said...

Perhaps, if you have a theological library near you, they would have copies that you could look at. These other volumes may be better, I don't know. I will probably buy the Hebrews volume, if and when it comes out, but that is because I buy everything I can on Hebrews. Otherwise, as someone with much more substantive commentaries on my shelves, this series doesn't seem to be worth the money.

Frank Bellizzi said...

The list of forthcoming volumes says that Hebrews will be taken up by David Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian. That should be different if nothing else. We'll see.

Brian Small said...

Hmmm... that could be interesting. I know of at least one other commentary on Hebrews done by an Orthodox writing--the one done by Dmitri Royster.

blogprophet said...

Hello??

anyone home??

you okay?

Frank Bellizzi said...

Hey Brian.

Yeah, I'm okay. Thanks for askin. Just bogged down right now. Or blogged down? Something like that.

chris said...

i just started using the 1 and 2 kings commentary and have found it remarkably insightful. the writer pointed out the irony of Omri and Ahab was their attempt to recanaanise the promised land- what a great insight

chris johnson

Rev. Dean M. Bell said...

I have used the commentaries on Acts and on Jonah, and have found them to be marvelous both as to content (insights, etc.) and to style (easy to read in a way that draws you along further and further--especially Philip Cary in Jonah).

theologywriter said...

I find myself intrigued but slightly mystified by the Leviticus volume, by Ephraim Radner. Though I deeply appreciate Evangelical insistence on the Christological focus of Scripture, this volume seems to find it everywhere, and in highly debatable and even tendentious ways.

Anonymous said...

I have a BA degree in philosophy, which once kept me off jury duty.
It is really hard to comment on your comments because I am not really sure what you are talking about. I have not read any of the brazos commentaries so I don't have anything to add except to say it seems like an interesting concept.

Anonymous said...

Are your words filled with love and grace? Do we build one another up? I am curious about this dialogue? The spirit will reveal to me what I need from whomever. I guess someone here sounds like they know alot...maybe they don't need the spirit of GOD ...just their own intellectual ascent. I am sorry ...I am not so smart. Just a little blown away buy Christian brothers and their words ...putting down others and their efforts no matter how imperfect. I have a great idea guys ...a book from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin ...it's probably out of print but it is about how we use our words ...or our tongue?

Frank Bellizzi said...

Anonymous of 6:42 p.m. (that's as close as we can get to a name): First, there's nothing in the original post or in the comments here that is ugly or mean-spirited. But I notice that your criticisms of others (whom you consider to be critical) comes across as . . . well, critical! In other words, if criticism is out-of-bounds activity, then you ought not to participate in it, should you? Provided that criticism is legitimate, measured, and not egotistical, it can actually be a good thing, and every scholar expects it. Second, I'm sure that Rabbi Pliskin's book is a good one. But if reading and evaluating books is somehow the antithesis of relying on the Spirit of God, then why would you recommend a book to others? You seem to resent scholarship while recommending a work by one of your favorite scholars. I don't understand why you think you should be able to have it both ways on that. As I understand the Bible and my own experience, learning from good books is not the antithesis of understanding the Word of God and relying on Spirit. Instead, all of these can and do go together.