Volume 39 - Issue 3

Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries: Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament

by Accordance Bible Software

The Anchor Yale Bible—a major critical commentary series covering the OT, NT, and Apocrypha—is now available in digital format on Accordance Bible Software. According to the current general editor John J. Collins, this series “aims to present the best contemporary scholarship in a way that is accessible not only to scholars but also to the educated nonspecialist.” The contributors include male and female scholars from diverse theological perspectives and faith traditions, including Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. Each volume includes an introduction and the author’s translation of each passage within the book. The contributors typically follow the translation with detailed “notes” on text-critical and linguistic issues and “comments” on the structure, meaning, and theological contribution of each passage.

The length, organization, and quality of these commentaries vary significantly from volume to volume. Some are 40–50 years old and reflect critical methods and interpretations that few if any current commentators would share. Mitchell Dahood’s three-volume Psalms commentary (1965–70) is particularly notorious for relying significantly on Ugaritic cognates in his translation and interpretation. His exegesis and translation are also highly uneven and unreliable. For example, at Ps 2:12 Dahood does not translate the command נַשְּׁקוּ־בַר (“kiss the son”) and includes no explanation for this decision. While Dahood appeals to alleged parallels with the Baal Cycle for most psalms, he makes no reference to extensive NT quotations of key passages such as Pss 2:7; 8:4–5; 16:8–11; 110:1. Similarly, E. A. Speiser’s commentary on Genesis (1964) focuses almost exclusively on JEDP source criticism, Hebrew morphology, and Semitic parallels and offers little help to modern interpreters. Alternatively, many of the OT volumes are leading exegetical commentaries on their respective books, such as Jacob Milgrom on Leviticus (3 vols.); Michael Fox on Proverbs (2 vols.); C. L. Seow on Ecclesiastes; Francis Andersen and David Noel Freedman on Hosea, Amos, and Micah; Jack Sasson on Jonah; and Andrew Hill on Malachi. The eight volumes on the Apocrypha (1–2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Ben Sira, etc.) are some of the strongest (and only) full-length exegetical commentaries on these Jewish texts.

While still somewhat uneven, the commentaries on the NT are stronger overall than those on the OT. Very good or outstanding volumes include Craig Koester on Hebrews; Luke Timothy Johnson on 1–2 Timothy and James; Joseph Fitzmyer on Luke (2 vols.), Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Philemon; and Joel Marcus on Mark (2 vols.). Raymond Brown’s two-volume commentary on John (1966, 1970) was considered the authoritative exegetical work on the Fourth Gospel for a generation and is still very insightful. Evangelical readers may be pleasantly surprised to find that the volumes on Ephesians (Markus Barth), Colossians (Barth and Helmut Blanke), 2 Thessalonians (Abraham Malherbe), and 1–2 Timothy (Johnson) assume or defend Pauline authorship. Alternatively, the volumes on Titus (Jerome Quinn), 1 Peter (John Elliott), and 2 Peter (Jerome Neyrey) argue for or simply assume the pseudonymous authorship of these books. J. Massyngberde Ford’s commentary on Revelation (1975) is the weakest of the class, although Yale has recently released a replacement volume by Koester that should in time be available as a paid add-on for Accordance users.

There are several advantages to owning the Anchor Yale Bible commentary series digitally on Accordance (see further the review of Accordance 10 Ultimate Collection in Themelios 38.3 [2013]: 453–55). First, on Accordance, the 87-volume set costs roughly one third of what it does in print—$1,499 versus $4,458. The Accordance version also retails for nearly $500 less than the same commentaries on Logos (reviewed in Themelios 34 [2009]: 226–27). Second, the Accordance set is compact and portable, unlike its print counterpart. The print volumes take up approximately eleven feet of shelf space, and it is challenging to fit more than one or two in a backpack or briefcase. In contrast, Accordance users may access this massive collection anywhere on Mac, Windows, iPad, and iPhone. Third, Accordance digital commentaries offer enhanced usability over print commentaries. Users may type in a Scripture reference to instantly navigate to the relevant translation and commentary. Additional search options include title (key words in a book title or section heading); English content; Scripture (references anywhere in the commentary body); Greek/Hebrew content; transliteration; translation; manuscripts; bibliography; authors; captions (for maps, illustrations, and tables); and page numbers. For example, a search for the translation “rectify” yields sixteen instances where J. L. Martyn distinctively renders δικαιόω and related terms in his Galatians commentary. A bibliography search indicates that eighteen of the twenty-six NT volumes cite Joseph Fitzmyer, while only one (Romans) refers to G. K. Beale. Caption searches for Palestine or Jerusalem lead users to relevant maps (Mark 1–8, ix; Acts, 190) that would be difficult to find going volume by volume with the print edition. Users may also create a custom group of commentaries to enable a single search within that group for a particular Scripture or keyword. This allows the pastor preparing a sermon or the student working on an exegesis paper to locate the most relevant pages in his favorite commentaries with one simple yet powerful search.

Most commentary sets on Accordance are grouped together as modules spanning the entire OT or NT. However, due to the size of this collection, Accordance released the Anchor Bible OT commentaries in four smaller modules arranged according to the English canonical ordering—Genesis–Deuteronomy, Joshua–Esther, Job–Song of Songs, Isaiah–Malachi. This limits the ability to search all OT volumes at once, as is possible in sets like the New International Commentary on the OT and Word Biblical Commentary. The NT volumes are grouped in two modules—Anchor Bible NT and Anchor Bible NT (alternate vol.), which includes only Fitzmyer’s more recent First Corinthians commentary (reviewed in Themelios 34 [2009]: 225–26). The Greek and Hebrew content searches in Anchor yield minimal results since these volumes typically use transliteration, though such searches are quite valuable in other Accordance modules such as Hermeneia and the New International Greek Testament Commentary.

In conclusion, the Anchor Yale Bible series is of decidedly mixed quality but includes many serviceable or superb commentaries that offer readers fresh translations, substantial bibliographies, and careful yet critical analysis of the biblical text. Accordance Bible Software makes this major commentary series more affordable, portable, and usable to users and will particularly interest biblical scholars and graduate students.

Brian J. Tabb

Brian Tabb is academic dean and associate professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and general
editor of Themelios.

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