VALUABLE COMMENTARY FOR BIBLE TEACHERS
The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible, published by Cambridge University Press. The Wisdom of Solomon by Ernest G. Clarke (£2.20) The Book of Jeremiah by E. X. Nicholson (£3.,20) Deuteronomy by Anthony Phillips (£3.401
The commentary. on Wisdom in this series is his Professor Clarke of aroma; like all the series it k designed for "use in schools and colleges of education. and for the minister and Liyman." Professor Clarke writes simply. and succeeds in his attempt to explain the background of the author.
There is general agreement with his thesis thin the author was a Hellenistic Jew who sought to show his own coreligionists and the surrounding pagan Greeks that. both in its dogmatic and moral principles and in its.wonderful piston. his race had nothing to he ashamed of and Moreover was in filet superior to the pag-an culture tind philosophyy. ()I' tile latter.
Ilk purpose was as much directed to recalcitrant and lapsed Jews as to their Greek compatriots. The Jews badly needed a "publicity agent" who would remind them of their great history and their duty to the God of their forefathers this is his proclamation.
Commenting on the text of the New English Bible. Professor Clarke shows this practical effort and explains the remarkable integration of the more abstract thought-forms of Greek minds with the more practical Hebrew expression. whether in prose or poetry.
This he does well, but one must remember that this hook
has been considered as mmemismietd In Protestants since the so-called Reformation, It is
of eourse included in the list canonised by the Council of Trent. Therefore (he would call this a "key-word") when he does not find some text of the author in those parts of the Bible he accepts, he is constrained to say that the author is unbiblical in his terminology.
Another defect, I hough 'not a great (Inc. is that he several times makes such statements as that a particular fact cited by the author is nut supported by n■ evidence. whereas the fact that the author states it is at least evidence from the Bible that it existed, or was generally thought to exist.
The inspiration of the Bible does not extend to irrelevant fact or local history, geography or custom. but it is at least evidence that what is stated is generally helieved, or that the author has discovered it in his source material.
With these reservations, almost necessary. because the commentator misconceives the nature of the hook as an inspired work of the Old Testament. his simple commentary is helpful though he is somewhat "complicated" in his Greek exegesis. having regard to the people to whom his otherwise excellent commentary is addressed. The writer has read it with profit to his understanding of the living problems of the Hellenistic Jews.
Dr. Nicholson's commentary on the first 25 chapters of The Bonk of Jeremiah in the New English Bible makes easy reading. and he gives us an insight that clarifies the text. showing that God demands fidelity and will not tolerate that "adulterywhich describes those who worship pagan gods and man•made 1•specialls dues Ciod. through his prophet. deride the folly of worshipping a hit of wood and of expecting that it can help you. During the 40 years of his life of prophecy, leremtah was forced to live an austere and celibate life:greatly favoured by God. lie vas consistently rejected hs his own race and suffered ofissteally, as well as men tails, I lie trials visited upon hiin hy those whom God wished to persuade through him to repentance.
Our Lord would later refer to such rejection of a prophet as not unusual. The text is in% a hly moving, whether it he a prose narration or cast in poetic
form. Its deeper meaning is high-lighted consistently by the learned commentator. If his commentary has a fault, it is that he is a little too willing to accept the possihility of editorial intervention. and even interpolation, than is perhaps warranted.
This is a common fault or intensive scriptural scholars, who cannot accept any marked variation in mood and expression in the author they have so deeply. studied. One would hesitate hi let them loose on Shakespearian texts!
AI the same time. the writer freely admits that often Dr. Nicholson's intuition is acceptable. for there is a sort of intuitmn that comes to all who are permeated with the personal and political environment of their subject. Jeremiah has had a "bad press", but he does show, not merely that God will tolerate no other gods. but also that Ilis merciful love for His om U is indeed infinite, surpassing anything that we could achieve or understand.
This hook can he read. with the help of the Dean of Pembroke College. Cambridge. \Vial profit in every crisis of Faith and in all the trials which beset those who aspire to a life of union with Christ.
Dr. Phillips's commentary on Deuteronomy is an excellent introduction to this hook. From it %ye can realise the natural union Of documents which represent the Hohist outlook of the Northern Kingdom and the
it h wist teaching and its documentation in Judah. more properly perhaps. to he called, the South.
Pohlink rightly says: "The books of the Bible arc significant for our Faith only because they are the Word of God and this is what the dogmatic doctrine of inspiration tells us. When, where, and how these books came into heing may he of no consequence for our fait h
and the same may he true of the historical criticism that casts light on these matters" tfitimately theOld Testament must be seen and can he seen rightly only in the light of Christ's revelation. As Vatican li says "the plan of salvation. lormold by the sacred authors. recounted and explained by them. is found as the true word of God in the books of the Old Testament: these hooks. therefore, written under divine inspiration. remain permanently valuable."
Dr. Phillips has enabled eve ry one ill understand the background of Deuteronomy. His explanatory commentary is aissays relevant and his comincills on the text. and even on the few
testual difficulties. is always helpful.
The warnings of the prophets that if Israel deviated from the I ;iyy of God. dire retribution fall on her were fulfilled In the Exile: and later it was the urge of the teaching, of this part of the Torah that further deviations would incur like punishment.
The historical setting. so admirably unwrapped by the comment:nor, shows us that this hook is not just an expression of the I ;Lis. but rather a continuous exhortatory sermon or series of sermons, urging Israel to obedience to God's Law. and warning them that if they break this Covenant. they do sn al the risk of great suffering.
Nevertheless God. who is immutable. is ever willing to receive them hack On one con dition namely that thcs turn hack to [Inn repent:111El he Ten Commandments. written in the form of a treaty or COVerlarll. are the basis of all.this law. Israel often forgot them in her foils its. indeed, many do today.
Dr. Phillips has written a useful commentary, and it may be added that all this series is valuable For (hose who teach and learn in colleges and in pastoral preaching and instruct ion.
Each volume has a good index which is of considerable LISC in cross-references. and though this one has maps. the others reviewed could he usefully extended by their addition.
Dom Peter Flood, O.S.B.