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A review of Old Testament Commentary Survey, 3rd ed. By Tremper Longman.

Nov 29, 2003

Baker, 2003.

It is a great joy to finally have available the third edition of Tremper Longman’s fine review of Old Testament commentaries. It has been a long wait since the 1995 second edition.

Again Longman offers judicious and careful advice on the merits and demerits of a large number of OT commentaries. As with all such comments on the commentaries, there is subjectivism at work, and not all will agree with all of Longman’s assessments. After all, how can one say what is the best commentary on, say, Deuteronomy? It really depends on the needs of the reader. A busy pastor may want something more expository and devotional, while the academic may prefer the more technical and scholarly.

Thus Longman tries to rate the commentaries by what they set out to do, or what the series they are contained in set out to do. Thus he comes up with recommendations that may differ from others. For example, of the 19 commentaries on 1 and 2 Kings, he gives the highest rating (5 stars) to Iain Provan’s volume in the NIBC series. While acknowledging that it is a bit too brief (in keeping with the series), he believes that in terms of accessibility and readability, along with a good balance of literary and theological emphases, this is the best thing going on Kings.

Interestingly, David Bauer, in his An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry (Hendrickson, 2003), does not even give Provan’s volume a mention, in the 21 books he lists. However, John Glynn in his Commentary and Reference Survey, 9th ed. (Kregel, 2003), does mention it, along with 16 other commentaries.

Thus there will always be disagreements in this area, as a lot of differing criteria and measuring sticks are used to make assessments.

One omission from this volume is the section on OT reference works and Hebrew helps. They too, like the commentaries, continue to pour forth at an alarming rate. Thus cuts need to be made somewhere.

But of the three reference works cited here (the other two cover the NT as well), Longman is my first port of call. Unlike the other two authors, Longman is an OT specialist, with several fine commentaries of his own.

Longman mentions in his intro that many people emailed him, urging him to get a revised edition of this work out. I was one of them, and such lobbying has paid off. One hopes to see a 4th edition before another 8 years lapse however!

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