Logos Bible Software has provided me with the opportunity to explore a few of the earlier releases within the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary Series. First, Israel Lokan on Ezra-Nehemiah. Second, Seth M. Ehorn on Philemon.
In the editor’s preface we find that this series comes from a particular confessional perspective: evangelicals who affirm “historic, orthodox Christianity and then inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures.” While acknowledging the human authors they remind readers that Scripture comes “from the mouth of God.” The hermeneutical methodology chosen is based on “the interpretive principles of the Reformation, while utilizing historical-grammatical and contextual interpretive methods.”
I will be honest and admit from the beginning that I find it easier to digest the confession of inerrancy with a canonical hermenutic than with a historical-grammatical. It is one thing to say that the Spirit brought Scripture together in such a way that it harmonizes, relays God’s message, and does so without error (adding various caveats regarding rhetoric, genre, and so forth), but quite another to use the historical-grammatical approach which grounds meaning in the original intent of the human author. I imagine the Apostle Paul affirming that Scripture is without error, but we know he has a hermeneutical approach that included a dynamic relationship with the canonical form of the text. That is all I will say on this matter.
I have never heard of Lokan or Ehorn. That doesn’t mean much since I am not the most wide-read person in evangelicalism, but it does seem me that this series has chosen quite a few people who are newer to biblical commentary series. (See the complete list here.) I recognize Eugene Merrill, John Oswalt, Ronald B. Allen, Walter C. Kaiser, Stanley E. Porter, and H. Wayne House–but I did two graduate degrees at a conservative evangelical seminary where both Allen and House used to be professors. So I do wonder how many people will recognize the authors chosen to contribute to the series?
Lokan’s commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah begins like any commentary from a historical-grammatical perspective. It addresses the unity of Ezra-Nehemiah, its relationship to Chronicles, the proposed historical setting of the narrative, important themes, and so forth. There is a brief discussion on its place in the canon and the relationship of Ezra-Nehemiah (one book or two?) before dealing with matters related to composition. Then there is an introduction where Lokan suggest the author (Ezra the Scribe), the dates (the 460s to 450s), the audience, the structure, and an outline.
Once the text is addressed each section is given a short outline, the Hebrew text is available with textual notes, a translation is given, and then commentary is provided on that section of text. In the spirit of a series that addresses Scripture as the living Word of God there is a section at the end for “Biblical Theology Comments” and “Application and Devotional Implications.” If there is a relevant item worth picturing the commentary provides it. This is a screen shot of the introduction to 4.1-5:
The commentary is well-documented with many sources and the authors do a fine job of handling the text, text critical matters, and so forth. Ehorn’s work on Philemon is a bit briefer. It moves quickly into textual issues, authorship, dates, setting, and background before exploring theological and practical matters related to the book. The section intro –> Greek text –> textual notes –> translation –> commentary flow is the same. Ehorn’s section endings also address “Biblical Theology Comments” as well as “Application and Devotional Implications.”
If you have any questions about these two commentaries (like a key section you’d like you know how the author addressed it) leave me a comment!
Do they happen to weigh in on the debate about about the order the books were written (i.e. Nehemiah’s arrival 445 BC, Ezra’s arrival seventh year of Artaxerxes I or II – before or after Nehemiah)?
Likewise, how do they explain (generally) the apparent anti-Samaritan sentiment (see [Neh 2:10,19-20][Neh 4:1-5],[Neh 6:1-2,10-14,19],[Neh 13:4-9],[Ezra 4:1-5]) or the ‘mixed marriage issues’ ([Ezra 6:21][Ezra 9:1-5][Neh 13:23-27])? (Do they connect any of it to [2 Kings 17:24-41]?)
I will look those things up and let you know.
This volume exhibits all of the weaknesses of the early period of the Anchor Bible Commentary. The primary contribution is the author’s translation and the textual notes, while exegesis of the text is sparse. Once Myers establishes what the text is, he seems to have little concern for what it means. All of this is quite similar to the volumes on Chronicles in the Anchor Bible series. In addition, now that this commentatry is 35 years old, many of the literary and historical assumptions which undergird it are dated. The commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah by Williamson and Blenkinsopp are not only newer, but far superior in content and format. Even the older commentaries by Rudolph and Galling (though they have not been translated into English) are superior to Myers. Anchor has begun producing replacements for many of the earlier volumes. Hopefully, Ezra-Nehemiah is on the list.
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