Summer Book Notes

I

New Testament Perspectives, a fine blog which I saw for the first time yesterday, has an interesting interview with Bob and Bill Mounce about the making of The Zondervan Greek and English Interlinear New Testament, their most recently published joint effort. (Samples here and here.) One of the more attractive features for me is that they depart from the standard “interlinear translation,” offering instead the elder Mounce’s more idiomatic, contextual rendering under the Greek text. Says Bill Mounce:

“Dad wrote (sic) a great translation that isn’t wooden; it is readable and shows young Greek students how translation should be done. It is a great teaching tool. For an interlinear, it is quite dynamic. For example, it does not use the same English word for the same Greek word but translates according to context. Some conjunctions are translated as punctuation, all as it should be. Typographically, when you are reading Dad’s translation, if you just ignore the superscript italicized words the English makes great sense.”

I was unaware of this new volume, so many thanks to Matthew Montonini for securing and posting the interview!

II

Biblioblogdom is abuzz with news and reviews of the NLT Study Bible (sample here). I’m glad to note that I’ve been intimately acquainted with the New Living Translation since its release in 1996: I bought a copy hot-off-the-press, and used it in short order as my teaching text for a Bible study on Acts that I lead that year. I had a rather decent reading knowledge of Greek by then, and I was consistently impressed by how well the NLT rendered St Luke’s narrative—lively, engagingly, idiomatically, and above all, accurately. Eventually I found a copy of the NLT in a “Catholic Reference Edition” including the deuterocanonical books accepted by Roman Catholics; this I have kept close at hand ever since. (And do take note of this, Bible watchers: in stark contrast to the IBS and Zondervan’s apparent resistance to produce a TNIV Apocrypha, Tyndale has already published an edition containing many of these books. Surely they could be persuaded to produce in time a full NLT Apocrypha, as well! In the end, it seems to me that this kind of flexibility on Tyndale’s part is an important reason behind what Rick Mansfield has termed the “rise of the New Living Translation.”)

The NLT appeared in a second edition in 2004, which was further fine tuned in 2007; it is this latter text that is used in the new NLT Study Bible. I have seen neither of these, but I understand that the revisions represent a significant improvement of the translation. Further, according to Sean Harrison, general editor of the NLTSB, the focus of this new study Bible may be described as follows:

“[T]he NLT Study Bible focuses on the meaning and message of the text as understood in and through the original historical context. I don’t see other study Bibles focusing so fully on that. Some study Bibles focus on helping people to accept a particular doctrinal system, while others focus on “personal application.” Others simply provide interesting details about the context, language, grammar, etc., without asking how that information will impact people’s understanding of the text. Still others focus on a particular type of study methodologytopical study, word study, etc. Our goal, by contrast, was to provide everything we could that would help the readers understand the Scripture text more fully as the original human authors and readers themselves would have understood it” (emphasis his).

Needless to say, this all sounds very promising, and one hopes that these goals have been carried out as thoroughly as possible (but note that David Ker, who already has his hands on a copy, finds an unduly devotional bit in the notes to Genesis!). This would be much in the NLTSB’s advantage: a consistent, “hard” emphasis on hermeneutics and exegesis would make this volume useful even to readers beyond Protestant tradition(s) who may appreciate the NLT. In any case, taking advantage of the announcement on the NLT Blog, I requested an advance preview copy; just yesterday I heard from Laura Bartlett at Tyndale, who informed me that she will be sending me one in short order. Many thanks to her for this; I’m already looking forward to sharing my impressions on this volume here.

III

Thanks to the links in Matthew Montonini’s above mentioned blog, I came across Douglas Moo’s Biblical Studies webpage, where I read that among Moo’s future projects is “a commentary on Galatians (for Baker in their BECNT series).” Now, it was my understanding up until now that the Galatians volume in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament would be written, in fact, by none other than the infallible Moisés Silva himself. This would not be the first time a commentary series replaces the author of one of its projected volumes, of course; but I find the change a bit disappointing, given Silva’s lifelong project to write a commentary on Galatians. But of course, the matter may only be that Silva’s manuscript, like Hoehner’s on Ephesians, has grown beyond the editorial limits of the BECNT and will require publication as an independent volume (or volumes). This would undoubtedly be the happier scenario: commentaries by both Moo and Silva would offer rich exegetical fare to their readers, and each book would significantly contribute to the literature on Galatians. Here’s hoping! [UPDATE: There are apparently a few other potentially excellent commentaries on Galatians in the works: Robert Van Voorst, for the Eerdmans Critical Commentary; D. A. Carson, for the Pillar New Testament Commentary; and Thomas Schreiner for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary. H/T: Parableman.]

IV

Daniel, a catechumen in our parish and my good friend, gave me last week his copy of the first edition of Craig Blomberg’s book, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. I’m very thankful for this because, although I dutifully read Blomberg’s book a little over 10 years ago, I didn’t own a copy. I must say that revisiting the book after so many years has been a very strange experience, almost like taking a step back in time. As is well known, this book, published in 1987, embodies the Evangelical critical consensus on the historicity of the Gospels as reflected in the 6-volume Gospel Perspectives (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1980-6), a project of Tyndale House in Cambridge. As such it became de rigueur reading in Evangelical academic circles, and thus it was enormously influential—indeed a mainstay of many a scholarly and ministerial library. However, a great deal has changed—in hermeneutics, in Jesus and Gospel studies, and in Evangelical biblical studies themselves—since the solutions proposed in it were researched and formulated; as a result, many of the arguments now appear stilted or unnecessarily belabored. I was not surprised, then, to find out after looking around a bit that earlier this year IVP released a second edition of this book (with nearly double the number of pages!). I wonder, though, if this revision didn’t come just a beat too late: after all, as Scot McKnight has noted, Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd’s book The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007) seems to have quickly become the “Blomberg” of a new generation. I have not yet seen either of these books, but I would very much like to have a chance to do so sometime in the near future.

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13 responses to “Summer Book Notes

  1. Thanks for pointing out that Zondervan Interlinear. It looks great! I might see if I can get a review copy of that and then one of the ESV Interlinear from Crossway and do a comparative review some time early next year. As you well know, the only interlinear in my library is the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I carely use it, although I have had some fun with the articles in the back of it.

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  2. I heard a while back that there was supposed to be a TNIV with the Apocrypha. I think Sue from Better Bible Blogs mentioned it. I’d be interested to here some follow up on this.

    Bryan

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  3. A commentary on Galatians by Moo for Pillar sounds perfect. I struggled through Longenecker and it was too much for me. He went a lot into the Greek, which I knew would be the case but he did so much so that a non-Greeker like me got somewhat lost in all the intricacies . He also went so much into literary and rhetorical style(s) that it was a distraction.

    Maybe I should have gone for a more introductory or intermediate commentary but I really liked BECNT even though it delves into the Greek quite a bit.

    I’ll be reading Moo’s commentary on James hopefully near the end of the year.
    Jeff

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  4. Nick> Your idea sounds wonderful! A comparison of those two should be a treat and very enlightening. You know, I do wonder why the Mounces didn't do the ESV Interlinear according to this plan–after all, Bill Mounce was the NT Editor for the ESV, and he and his Dad produced the entire first draft of the ESV New Testament! I smell publisher politics at work here. Maybe Crossway wanted the fiction of a "word-for-word" interlinear to show just how literal their translation was, and pass on Bob Mounce's superb translation. (I read through Philippians, and it's phenomenal!) If so, it suck for Crossway–it really does seem like the Mounces' interlinear is the superior publication.

    Bryan> In the words of that great prophet, Paul Simon, all we've heard about a TNIV Apocrypha are incidents and accidents, hints and allegations. And in spite of the interest of some of the CBT members to produce just such a translation, the fact remains that IBS is a confessional Protestant organization whose goal is to distribute the Bible for evangelism and discipleship–and their Bible has 66 books, no more, no less. I think this is a pity. I too would be interested in hearing any updates about this, and whether the situations has changed in any way and ISB would be willing to allow the translation to proceed–but frankly, I'm not holding my breath.

    Jeff> Moo's Galatians commentary will not be for Pillar, but for the BECNT. The one he's writing for Pillar is on Colossians and Philemon. Longenecker on Galatians (and all those WBC volumes, in general) are too much for anyone to take. I, for one, thoroughly dislike them, though I do of course interact with them whenever necessary and own a number of volumes. I find that the plan of the BECNT is much better, and would rather stick to those as much as possible. And even for "hard," technical commentaries, I much prefer the NIGTC to the WBC whenever available. (I mean, Ellingworth on Hebrews? Beale on Revelation? Come on! :-)

    All the best with your reading of Moo on James! I look forward, as always, to gaining insight from your posts as you work your way through it.

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  5. That’s nice to know someone much more educated than me feels the same way about WBC.

    Even though I got those commentary series mixed up for Moo, they both sound like they might be very good. Without reading any reviews I would have a hard time deciding between Moo’s or O’brien’s Colossians. Thanks for the info
    Jeff

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  6. The revised NLT tries to make each Bible verse understandable without reading the context. This certainly can aid in understanding certain verses but it does seem to add to the problem of people viewing verses as if God put the verse numbers there and reading them apart from the context.

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  7. Jeff> Have you given any thought to working through Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us? I think this would be very valuable for you in your work with commentaries. If you get a copy, I'd be more than glad to tutor you by phone, if you wish. Let me know what you think!

    Charles> If this is the case, I'd be very disappointed indeed! One of the strengths of the NLT was precisely moving away from an "atomistic" handling of "verses" in translation. Did you come across any literature from Tyndale spelling out this principle during your time working the Bible section?

    Brian> As I said above, Iyov's was a small round-up, and referenced it not only for the links, but also because of his comments on the Living Torah.

    And by the way, you forgot to link to your own round-up! What’s up with that? ;-) Thanks for the heads up.

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  8. Jeff> Have you given any thought to working through Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us? I think this would be very valuable for you in your work with commentaries. If you get a copy, I'd be more than glad to tutor you by phone, if you wish. Let me know what you think!

    I’ve thought about it but there are so many things I want to learn and read I don’t want to take time away from that to learn Greek. I’m not doing as much reading as I’d like to. But if I change my mind I would definitely take you up on that. Thank you very much for the offer. In any case I should look at the book and see what it entails.
    Jeff

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  9. Jeff> Fair enough! Look it over and tell me what you think. My own thinking is that, taking that bit of time to learn, not Greek, but rather how to use Greek-language based tools, can greatly enhance your reading of commentaries and other exegetical resources. But of course, only you know how much time you have! In any case, the good will offer stands. :-)

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  10. Mr. Vázquez, before I can back out, I would like to take you up on your offer. I got the book from the library and have looked through it.

    I can’t find an email address for you so if you could write to me that would be great. If you don’t have it in this reply you can find it in the graphic near the top right of my blog. Thanks.
    Jeff

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