Friday, July 31, 2009

Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary

I recently consulted Ben Witherington's contribution in the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary Series: Matthew: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. I don't intent to offer anything much of review of his commentary here, but rather to say something about the commentary series itself. I had not before consulted a commentary in this series and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered. The commentary is laid out well and visually engaging. It has pictures, maps and sidebars with historical and theological information. The commentary includes a CD that contains the text of the commenary which is indexed and searchable. The editors express that they intend to combine "credible biblical scholarship, user-friendly study features, and sensititvity to the needs of a visually oriented generation of believers". I'd say they have achieved their aim.

As for Witherington's commentary on Matthew, I will say that it presents a largely classic evangelical perpsective on the higher critical issues, although he does not think Matthew the tax-collecter and disciple of Jesus was responsible for the Gospel in its final form. His primary contribution to Matthean scholarship is to show the prevasive sapiential character of the First Gospel. He contents that wisdom traditions are not simply present in Matthew, but are central to the presentation of Jesus identity.


Tony Siew said...

Dear Joel, I used Witherington's Matthew commentary in my class on the Gospels recently. I find Smyth & Helwys Series very good precisely for those features you highlighted. I particularly enjoyed reading the commentaries on Ezekiel, Revelation and Mark's Gospel in the S & H series.

Jason said...

I think the series is certainly appealing and thus engaging for readers. I'm curious to know if this is something of a future trend in publishing texts on Scripture. It seems to work particularly well for commentaries.

I've spent a little time in BWiii's commentary though and did not find the content terribly helpful or stimulating. The same publisher offers Reading Matthew, by David Garland, which is cheaper and in my estimation worth a good deal more as a commentary for Matt.

Michael J. Gorman said...

As you may recall from an earlier post, Mike, I used Mitch Reddish's commentary on Revelation with my Duke class last spring, and it was fantastic for all of the reasons you name--and more. Obviously, insightful historical, literary, and theological exegesis of the text is the most important aspect of any commentary, but there is so much more that can and often should be done. Smyth and Helwys should be better known and more widely used.

andrea said...

Joel maybe the Romans commentary would fit in Dr Birds case for this student :)

John Anderson said...


Good to talk with you again. You may find it interesting that I am currently working with Bill Bellinger at Baylor on the Smyth and Helwys Psalms commentary. I proofed everything, located all the images, and even wrote a few of the sidebars myself. We are waiting to hear back form Sam Balentine on any revisions or clarifications. But it has been an enjoyable (though frustrating, at times -- I'm glad people enjoy the images, because they can be a bugger to find!) experience.

We also used Witherington's Matthew volume for the course on Matthew I took with Charles Talbert. I wasn't convinced by Witherington's assertion that this sapiential character pervades the gospel, but you may remember from my SBL paper in Boston (which will hopefully be accepted for publication!) that I did find some good things Witherington had to say. He was 'half-right' on the women in the genealogy, at least!

It is a good series, indeed. And it has been delightful to be able to see the ins and outs of publishing with them, through Dr. Bellinger.

Jason said...

I Maggie Odell's volume on Ezekiel in the S&H series very useful when I preached through Ezekiel. On first glance the series seemed lightweight, like an undergraduate textbook, but the content was quite solid and the illustrations (including literary ones!) were a tremendous resource for me as a preacher. My big beef is that the enclosed CD doesn't make illustrations (such as maps, architectural sketches, pictures of artifacts) available as standalone images that can be projected while teaching.