Biblical Studies vs. Theology. This was the conflict I was introduced to in seminary. I’m not certain how my professors got along in the faculty lounge, but there was always a subtle rivalry between the departments. My Old and New Testament professors suggested—albeit subtly—that theology, as a discipline (if there even was such a thing), was bogged down by centuries of dogma and disputes that obscured the "true" meaning of the Scriptures. All one really needed was the simple biblical text and nothing else. On the other hand, my theology professors insinuated that spending all one’s time in the Greek and Hebrew with concentration on syntax, textual criticism, and the like was woefully inadequate for understanding the biblical message. Honestly, I can't remember any attempt to bridge this gap in approaches to understanding the Bible.
In those formative years, my biblical profs held sway over me, and I developed a distrust for theology in comparison with biblical studies. I admit that I am sometimes still skeptical of systematic theology in particular, but I have grown to appreciate theology in general, especially when presented from a historical perspective.
This division in the disciplines was part of the prompting for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, which we are releasing today for the Accordance Bible Software Library. This recent series, still in process, seeks to recapture the role of dogma in understanding the Bible. In the series preface the writers draw upon the writings of the Early Church in their defense: “Irenaeus assumes that there is a body of apostolic doctrine sustained by a tradition of teaching in the church. This doctrine provides the clarifying principles that guide exegetical judgment toward a coherent overall reading of Scripture as a unified witness.” Further, writes series editor, R. R. Reno, “This series of biblical commentaries was born out of the conviction that dogma clarifies rather than obscures.”
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Robert W. Jensen's Ezekiel volume of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. NIV text available separately.
Unlike many commentary series, the Brazos Theological Commentary is written by theologians rather than biblical scholars in the traditional sense. The guiding theological framework for the perspective of the series is the Nicene Creed, which is arguably the most important doctrinal statement in the history of the church. Individual writers are not held to any particular translation to use as the base for the commentary, and they are not even restricted to format. Some commentators may write verse by verse, while others focus more on a passage at a time. The outlook of the series is purposefully ecumenical in scope. Thus, the Brazos series results in a very eclectic, but extremely readable exposition of the Scriptures.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Jaroslav Pelikan's introduction to Acts in the Brazos Theological Commentary.
Consider this excerpt on Matthew 4 from well-known theologian Stanley Hauerwas. Note his use of biblical content, theology, and historical insight—all intertwined into a cohesive explorationof the temptation of Jesus:
The devil, therefore, thinking that Jesus’s fast might have weakened him, approaches Jesus just as he had approached Eve. Eating may be the devil’s first line of attack because eating gets to the heart of our dependency—a dependency we try to deny. He initiates a conversation with Jesus, as he had Eve, with what seems to be an innocent remark, but a remark designed to create doubt: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1). “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). The trick, of course, that Eve did not recognize is to try to answer the devil on the devil’s own terms. Bonhoeffer observes that Eve’s disobedience began as soon as she assumed that she could answer the serpent’s question on God’s behalf, for the question was designed to suggest that she and Adam could go behind the word of God and establish for themselves what the word entailed. In short, the devil’s question invited them to assume that they were equal with God. Bonhoeffer notes, therefore, that the serpent is a representative of religion because his question is “religious,” assuming that the questioner knows more about God than can be known by a creature (1962, 66–69).
The devil exists as rage, but his rage does not cloud his cleverness. He is crafty. He therefore suggests to Jesus that, if he is the savior of Israel, he should then do what God had done for Israel in the wilderness, that is, provide food. Jesus, who will feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a small number of fish, could turn the stones into bread. But Jesus refuses, quoting Deut. 8:3, which tells the story of how God had humbled Israel by letting her go hungry before sending manna. God says, I fed “you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by the very word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” God is indeed in the business of providing food, but Jesus rejects Satan’s proposal because Satan would have us believe that food and the word of God can be separated.
Christians believe that Jesus is the word that we now eat in his very body and blood in the Eucharist. But that gift, like the gift of manna to Israel, makes us vulnerable to the same temptations that the devil used to encourage Israel to abandon God’s law, to tempt Jesus, and to make the church unfaithful. The very people whom God has gifted with his body to be his witness for all people are constantly tempted to betray that which has been given them. We become, like the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees, leaders who assume that our task is to protect “the people” from the demands of the gospel. We simply do not believe that God’s word, God’s love, can sustain us.
Slowly over the years, I’ve been able to conclude that biblical studies should not and cannot be divorced from theology. The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible should not be seen as a replacement to more traditional biblical commentaries, but I would recommend this series as a necessary addition to them. For a limited time, you can add the Brazos series to your personal Accordance Library at discounted introductory pricing.
Brazos Theological Commentary (22 Volumes)
Regular Price $715
Sale Price $499
The above introductory pricing is good through July 17, 2017 (11:59 pm EDT) and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
Earlier this week, we released a number of new titles related to understanding the Bible. These are significant titles you will want to consider adding to your personal Accordance Library—especially while you can still get them at introductory pricing!
Leland Ryken’s name has become synonymous with a modern literary approach to the Bible. A longtime professor of English at Wheaton College, this series combines four of Ryken’s best titles for understanding biblical content:
- How Bible Stories Work: A Guided Study of Biblical Narrative
- Sweeter Than Honey, Richer Than Gold: A Guided Study of Biblical Poetry
- Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels
- Letters of Grace and Beauty: A Guided Literary Study of New Testament Epistles
These kinds of works are vitally important for proper understanding and interpretation of the Bible as errors often result from misunderstanding the literary genre of biblical writings. And the Bible has multiple genres with different rules for engagement and understanding!
Click/tap the image above for a larger look at Ryken's Reading the Bible As Literature Series (biblical text not included)
Reading the Bible as Literature (4 Volumes)
Regular Price $39.90
Sale Price $31.90
From John Walton and Tremper Longman, How to Read Job joins our other volumes on Genesis, Exodos, and Proverbs for gaining a proper sense of how the Old Testament book of Job should be read and understood.
True story: Less than a week ago my mother-in-law told me she often turns to the Book of Job for comfort when she faces disappointment in life. Now, if she reads Job because he had it much worse than her, that’s one thing; but I doubt that’s what she meant! People often turn to the Book of Job when they are suffering or grieving, but that may not be the best understanding of this book. In fact, the writers address this issue up front in their section “What Is the Book of Job All About?”
It is not uncommon for people to turn to the book of Job when they encounter suffering, but all too often they find the book unsatisfying. They think that the book will explain why they or their loved ones are suffering or why there is so much suffering in the world. They have the impression that the book is about Job and that he is going to provide a model for how they should respond in times of suffering. They expect to learn why God acts the way that he does—why he allows or even causes righteous people to suffer. It is no wonder, then, that they find the book inadequate; their expectations are misguided.
Rethinking how we read the Book of Job should be incentive enough to add this title to your personal Accordance Library. If you don’t already have the other titles in the series, gain your greatest discount by purchasing all four titles together.
Click/tap the image above for a larger look at How to Read Job (biblical texts not included)
How to Read Job
Regular Price $17.90
If you already own the earlier 3-volume bundle, the custom upgrade to the 4-volume bundle will complete the set for you.
Bundle of Four "How to Read" Books
Regular Price $49.90
Sale Price $39.90
Most Accordance users have the excellent Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible since it is included in our Starter Collection. And some of you have also picked up the Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, which offers historical and background information. Now, we have released a third volume, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, and I believe that if you take a closer look, you’ll find it quite impressive.
One-volume commentaries are great for a “first stop” examination of a particular biblical passage. You can get quick understanding and background before moving on to a more in-depth work if necessary. However, most one-volume commentaries limit their coverage to the 66 books of the Protestant (or sometimes referred to as Common) Christian canon. Not so with the Eerdmans Commentary. In fact, to my knowledge, this is the most expansive one-volume biblical commentary available.
As one would assume, the Eerdmans Commentary contains all 66 books of the "Common" canon, all written by well-known biblical scholars. In addition to these, however, this volume contains complete coverage of Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books, including content often overlooked such as 3-4 Maccabees and Psalm 151. And even beyond this, as far as I know, the Eerdmans Bible Commentary is the only one-volume commentary to include 1 Enoch in its coverage!
The Eerdmans Bible Commentary is easily the broadest collection of canonical books (as recognized by different faith expressions) covered in one volume, and a worthy addition to anyone’s personal Accordance Library.
Click/tap the image above for a larger look at Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (biblical and pseudepigraphal texts not included)
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
Regular Price $59.90
Sale Price $47.90
For years, both Jewish and Christian Accordance users have benefitted from the JPS Torah Commentary (5 volumes). Last month, in time for Passover, we released the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah. Now we are pleased to announce three more volumes in the JPS Bible Commentary Series for the Accordance Library. Anyone who studies the Old Testament or is engaged in Jewish studies will want to add these titles to their digital shelves.
Already own the JPS Torah Commenary or the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah? Custom Upgrades to all 12 available are available!
The Five Scrolls or Five Megillot (חמש מגילות) refer to the books of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. The JPS Commentary on the Megillot contains all but Lamentations, which is not yet published. This final installment will be added to Accordance after its release.
The four volumes that are included were written by an internationally recognized team of scholars, all experts on their individual subjects. The volume on Ruth was initially begun by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, who unfortunately passed away before the commentary could be completed. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi completes the volume attempting to use any of the initial author’s notes that were available so as to give her the primary voice of the writing. Other volumes include Adele Berlin’s commentary on Esther, Michael V. Fox on Ecclesiastes, and Michael Fishbane on Song of Songs.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Berlin's JPS Commentary on Esther combined with the Hebrew Bible and JPS w/Strong's in Accordance for Windows.
Those already familiar with the JPS Bible Commentary Series through the five volumes on the Torah will instantly notice a familiar format of introductory material--often with brief essays going into greater depth about the book's theme, history of interpretation and intertextual issues--followed by insightful commentary with gleanings from rabbinic wisdom. Introductions provide not only what one would expect from a professional commentary, but also an exploration of rabbinic traditions on each text.
The commentary itself is extremely accessible as the English translation stands as the primary base with Hebrew phrases transliterated into English. Rabbinic wisdom can be found both in the commentary as well as sometimes in greater detail in the footnotes.
The haftarot (הפטרות) are an ancient part of Hebrew liturgy. These supplemental readings are excerpted from the Prophets (Nevi’im) and accompany each weekly Sabbath reading from the Torah as well as readings for special Sabbaths and festivals.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Fishbane's JPS Commentary on Haftarot combined with Readings & Prayers for Jewish Worship, the Hebrew Bible and JPS w/Strong's in Accordance for Mac.
In the JPS Commentary on the Haftarot, noted Bible scholar Michael Fishbane introduces each haftarah with an outline and discussion of how that passage conveys its meaning, and he follows it with observations on how it relates to the Torah portion or special occasion. Individual comments, citing classical rabbinic as well as modern commentators, highlight ambiguities and difficulties in the Hebrew text, which appears in concert with the JPS translation. The haftarot are also put into biblical context by a separate overview of all prophetic books (except Jonah) that are excerpted in the haftarah cycle.
As with the JPS Commentaries on the Torah and Meggilot, readers will find a familiar format in Uriel Simon’s treatment of Jonah. Simon provides a critical line-by-line commentary of the biblical text, which is presented in its original Hebrew, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks, as well as the JPS English translation. It includes a scholarly introduction, extensive bibliographic and critical notes, and other explanatory material.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Simon's JPS Commentary on Jonah paired with JPS w/Strong's in Accordance Mobile.
More than just giving comment, The JPS Commentary on Jonah also explores theological aspects of the minor prophet (see the section “The Theme of the Book and the History of Its Exegesis” as well as exploring literary aspects and canonical concerns.
Last month, in time for Passover, we released the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah. The Passover haggadah enjoys an unrivaled place in Jewish culture, both religious and secular. And of all the classic Jewish books, the haggadah is the one most “alive” today. Jews continue to rewrite, revise, and add to its text, recasting it so that it remains relevant to their lives.
The product features an extended introduction by Tabory, the classic Hebrew haggadah text side by side with its English translation, and Tabory’s clear and insightful critical-historical commentary.
12-Volume Commentary Set
The three new additions of the JPS Bible Commentary Series for the Hebrew Bible can be purchased by themselves at introductory pricing or in a new 12-volume commentary set.
If you already own the JPS Torah Commentary and/or the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, our Custom Upgrade feature makes certain you never pay twice for titles you already own!
- JPS Torah Commentary (5 Volumes)
- JPS Commentary on the Haggadah
- JPS Bible Commentary : The Megillot (4 Volumes)
- JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot
- JPS Bible Commentary: Jonah