The Interpreter's OneVolume Commentary on the Bible (William Collins and Sons £5.75)
THESE last ten years have seen a spate of one-volume Bible commentaries, including the new Peake's Commentary, the Jerome, the New Catholic Commentary, and latest of all from America we now have the Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary.
The contributors are mainly from the United States and Canada, and are mainly Protestant, so this commentary will inevitably be regarded as a Protestant counterpart to the J erome.
But at least three of its contributors are Catholic, including Fr. Roland Murphy, O.Carm., one of the editors of the Jerome. At least one other is Jewish.
Like the other works, the Interpreter's contains commentaries on each book of the Bible, including what our nonCatholic brethren know as the Apocrypha, and general articles. These latter are commendably varied in scope, and contain some very good material.
The importance of the Sitz int Leben of the books of the Old and New Testaments is recognised by articles on both the Hebrew Community and the Primitive Church.
Professor J. B. Pritchard, of "Ancient Near Eastern Texts" has, predictably, an excellent article on biblical archaeology, while there is another good article on writing in biblical times. It is refreshing too to read articles on preaching from the Bible and on teaching the Bible to children and to youths and adults.
The commentaries on the individual books I find on the whole disappointing. Though the approach is for the most part up-to-date and balanced, the treatment is often very jejune and lacking in any theological or literary depth.
For instance, the treatment of Isaiah's so-called "Book of Immanuel" shows no appreciation of the dynastic and theological issues involved, and the commentary on John does not begin to do justice to the theological riches of the Fourth Gospel.
The Epistles of St. Paul would seem to be an exception. Their many problems are dealt with at a relatively, greater length, but here more than anywhere else a slight Protestant bias can be detected.
The bibliographies attached to each article do not compare favourably with those in the other recent commentaries, especially the New Catholic Commentary, which is excellent in this respect A pleasant feature of the Interpreter's is the number of illustrations and sketch maps which are scattered about its pages. Views of the Edomite desert make the wanderings of the Israelites easier to visualise; a photograph of a homed altar discovered at Megiddo saves a great deal of explanation in the text and the maps of Paul's journeys, coming in the appropriate places in the commentary on Acts, will be a boon to those not familiar with the Eastern Mediterranean in St. Paul's day.
The commentary is, I feel, intended not primarily for students of scripture, but for the general public, who will find it. a clear and reliable guide, free from technical details, to enable them to read their Bible with understanding and spiritual profit.
Fr. Luke Waring