Whether you see the Bible as the living word of God, or as a highly significant document from the ancient world, or as one of the classic works of world literature, The Oxford Bible Commentary will put in your hands everything you need to study and understand the biblical text.
Here is a monumental, line-by-line critical commentary on the Bible, covering all the books that appear in the NRSV. An essential reference work, this definitive book provides authoritative, non-denominational commentary written by an international team of more than 70 leading scholars from various religious backgrounds. Incorporating the latest research, the contributors examine the books of the Bible in exhaustive detail, taking a historical-critical approach that attempts to shed light on the scriptures by placing them in the context in which their first audiences would have encountered them, asking how they came to be composed and what were the purposes of their authors. The Commentary includes a general introduction, extensive introductions to both testaments and the Apocrypha, and briefer introductions to the particular books, plus an essay with commentary on important post-biblical Jewish and Christian literature. Each article concludes with a bibliography that points the reader toward the most important supplemental works in English, including major reference works, introductions, and so forth.
A truly stunning work of biblical scholarship, The Oxford Bible Commentary will be an invaluable resource for pastors preparing a sermon, for students, for those in study or discussion groups, and indeed for anyone--whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox Christian--who seeks a clearer perspective on a text that has been held in reverence for thousands of years. The OBC features a Logos Library System CD-ROM that, once unlocked, gives the reader access to its text and that of the New Revised Standard Version Bible. The CD is fully compatible with all Logos products.
The Bible stands in a category of its own among the world's literature. How you view the Bible, however, depends on what spectacles you are wearing. Like statistics, the Bible can be used to prove almost anything. As a result Bible commentaries are notorious for giving the author's particular angle on the Bible as if it is the only viewpoint. In the case of The Oxford Bible Commentary the angle is "objectively academic." John Muddiman and John Barton are the pair of Oxford dons who have put together the latest weighty book of Biblical scholarship. Happily, they are aware of the limitations of academic comment and don't pretend the book is more than it is. Contributing scholars are mostly British and American and most of them come from a mainstream Protestant background. The articles are therefore polished, precise, and professionally pedantic. No one can fault the meticulous scholarship and wealth of detailed content. That's just what you want from a hefty Bible commentary. On the other hand, what struck me from dipping into this tome is how slippery Biblical scholarship has become. At the turn of the last century Biblical criticism shot fundamentalism full of holes, but the new generation of scholars have now shot the certainties of old fashioned Biblical criticism full of holes. As a result the articles exhibit an odd mix of solid content with honest supposition, guesswork, and shoulder shrugging. This actually makes the book better. It's refreshing to read academics who admit their uncertainties. Their honesty allows some questions to remain open-ended, and that's exciting for any serious Biblical student. --Dwight Longenecker, Amazon.co.uk
I spent an hour in the bookstore looking at commentaries, trying to decide which one to get, and I ultimately decided on the Oxford because 1) it seemed the most comprehensive, 2) it was physically larger than its competitors, 3) it contained commentary on all of the Apocryphal books included in the NRSV translation, 4) it avoided the indefensible Fundamentalist stance which insists that the Bible is 100% factually true - choosing to be objective rather than preachy, and 5) it was bound in signatures stitched with thread, like a proper book. Reason 5 may seem superficial, but if I am spending more than $50 on a book, I want it to last. I don't want the pages to start falling out 5 years from now.
I haven't read the whole thing. I've only studied the Apocrypha so far, and overall I am pleased with it but I have noticed a few tendencies which I am inclined to regard as flaws or weaknesses:
1 - a tendency on the part of the commentators to waste a lot of space retelling the text. I didn't come here for a paraphrase of what I already read in my Bible. I came here for you to give me information about its historical & cultural context, its theological significance, and any irregularities or curiosities that may be hidden in the text (such as variant readings from different manuscripts, ambiguities in the original language, etc.)
2 - a tendency to refer the reader to another scholarly work for information. For example, page 783 in the commentary for 2 Esdras, I am told "for the textual problem in this verse see Hayman (1975: 54 n.35)" This strikes me as extremely lazy on the part of the commentator to mention that there is a textual problem, and then say nothing about it but merely direct the reader to another source. Suppose I don't have access to Hayman? I think that in a book with a nearly $80 cover price you could have at least given me a sentence or two covering the gist of Hayman's argument. I'm displeased by this - I feel like I'm missing something.
3 - it would have been nice if the book had chapter and verse indicators at the top of each page (like EVERY Bible has) so you can find specific sections more easily. Few people read the Bible straight through from front to back, and fewer still will do so with a Bible commentary. The more likely scenario is: you're reading your Bible, you come across a passage that raises a question in your mind, you grab your Commentary to get some clarification ... and you spend ten minutes flipping through pages to locate the section that discusses the passage in question, because the page headings only tell you which BOOK you're in, not chapter and verse. For a reference book, this absence of navigational helps is rather appalling.
These do seem like trivial complaints though, and to be fair, I am still in the "first impressions" stage. I have turned at random through the rest of the book and most of it seems to be top-notch scholarship and quite fascinating, so I'm sure that as I use it I will grow to like it more.
If you want a very short overview of some (not all) Bible verses, this is for you. If you desire a fundamental commentary that goes out of its way to be "religiously correct," this one's for you. If you need a commentary geared more toward simplistic, short, opinionated comments nearly devoid of scholarship, this one is for you.
This book is a gold mine if you have interest in the Bible. It is very helpful with understanding specific scriptures and learning about the people of it's time.
Here's the problem with liberal scholarship for the conservative student: you're not going in looking for theological enlightenment, because liberal scholars tend to devalue the objective truth value of the documents. So what's left in terms of value is to understand the liberal theories, explanations, etc. That said, a one-volume commentary isn't always sufficient for this.
The people who contributed to this represent a pretty good piece of liberal Christian intelligensia. And I'm not saying the book isn't useful - it is. It's just that I find it most useful as a tool for understanding how the other half thinks, and to that end, it's not deep enough. Still worth having in your library, I guess.
I was looking for a source of detailed biblical information that is scholarly, and without nuance towards any particular persuasion. This commentary has met my needs admirably. While it may have been written with the needs of the practicing clergyman in mind, for a lay person like myself it's not difficult to read. Indeed for me it has provided a totally new level of biblical insight. I've been most impressed and can recommend it to anyone who wants to extend their biblical knowledge.
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