Any commentary recommendations for the Apocrypha?

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Ronald Quick | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Oct 1 2011 9:39 AM

I have a number of "regular" commentaries series - but those that include the Apocrypha are few and incomplete.  I currently have three:

A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Apocrypha by Peter Lange - Includes most of the books in the NRSV, but there have been passages I have wanted more information on that are not commented on at all.

The Ancient Christian Commentary Series - I like this series, but am not very impressed with the Apocrypha volume.  I'm guessing that this is because the early church fathers did not comment much on the Apocrypha.

The Commentary on the Apocrypha of the Old Testament by R.H. Charles does not have all the Apocryphal books included in the NRSV.

Any recommendations?

Thanks.

EDIT:  I forgot - I also have a few individual Apocryphal books for the UBS series and the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.  Both are good in the books they cover.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 1 2011 12:58 PM

Anchor, Hermeniea and NIB all have some Deuterocanonical volumes.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Hapax Legomena | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 1 2011 1:03 PM

The Harper's Bible Commentary covers them all.  http://www.logos.com/product/203/harpers-bible-commentary

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 2 2011 10:15 AM

New Interpreter's Bible covers all the Catholic Books of the Apocrypha, and seems to do an overall better job in my opinion than Anchor. Harper's is ok but far too brief, but it covers all the books in the NRSV Apocrypha. New Interpreter's Bible lacks 1/2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, and 3/4 Maccabees. Here is an example of  of the NIB coverage of Apocrypha. The NIB is still in gathering interest mode but it is almost to prepublication. One unusual thing about this is NO PREPUB Pricing, which means that if you preorder it you can cancel it and then reorder it through a payment plan with no penalization. I would never try to encourage people to preorder something they do not want but cancelling and ordering through payment plan is not being deceptive, I don't think.Please consider supporting this resource (lol as much as i try to convince people of it;s worth you would think i had stock in Abingdon or something, but it really  is just my most used set and can't wait to have it in Logos. http://www.logos.com/product/8803/new-interpreters-bible

-Dan

TOBIT 13:1-17, TOBIT'S PRAYER

 

COMMENTARY

Chapter 13 is the last and longest prayer in this book of prayer.111 It can be considered in two parts: (1) Tobit's praise of God's justice and mercy and gratitude for his healing (vv. 1-8) and (2) Tobit's meditation on the new Jerusalem (vv. 9-18).112

13:1-8. These verses comprise the prayer of an individual who has been delivered from the deepest distress and affliction (see 3:2-6). The prayer is couched, however, in general terms and phrases that draw from the wealth of biblical prayers. Thus, like the prayers of Hannah (1 Sam 2:1-10) and Jonah (Jonah 2:30-10), it becomes a prayer of thanksgiving for all who are delivered from distress.

In this way Tobit himself becomes a model for his people Israel. He can bear witness that the God who chastises also shows mercy, that the One who leads down to the darkness of Sheol also leads out into the light. He can also assert that the God who has scattered the people will again gather them. For this reason, Tobit calls his kindred to turn to God and join in his praise.

This prayer has elements of both the songs of thanksgiving and the hymns. As in songs of thanksgiving, the memory of Tobit's own affliction and deliverance is very near. He expresses his intention to give thanks and praise to God. However, no detailed description of his distress appears. The general phrases concerning God's deliverance resemble the hymn, as do the repeated calls to give praise and the list of reasons for praise.

Just as the story of Tobit's life exhibits the basic principles of deuteronomic theology in narrative form, so also this prayer exemplifies much of deuteronomic theology in the language of prayer. The concept of joy permeates Deuteronomy (e.g., Deut 12:7; 14:26; 16:11; see Tob 13:1, 7). The theory of retribution is a deuteronomic concept (Deuteronomy 28:1). If the people obey God, they will have long life in the land; if they disobey, they choose death and doom (Deut 30:17-20; see Tob 13:5). The living God gives people a choice between life and death (v. 1). Deuteronomy exhorts the people to turn back to God with their whole heart and soul (Deut 30:2, 10; see Tob 13:6). In Deuteronomy, Israel is required to worship God in the place the Lord chooses—that is, Jerusalem (e.g., Deut 12:5, 11, 14). In his youth, Tobit was faithful to the cult in Jerusalem (1:6-8). Now confident of a return from exile, he exhorts his people to praise God again in Jerusalem (v. 8).

Weitzman uses the allusion in Tobit 13:1 to Deuteronomy 32:1 (cf. Tob 13:2 with Deut 32:39; Tob 13:6 with Deut 32:20) to link Tobit 12:1–13 with Deuteronomy 31:1–32, the farewell speech and song of Moses. He concludes that the biblical allusions in the book of Tobit move from the beginning of the Pentateuch (the betrothal scenes from Genesis, the similarity between Raguel and Abraham, the Joseph story) to its end (Deuteronomy). He also notes that the allusions all come from scenes that take place outside the land of Israel. The farewell speech and the Song of Moses occur just before the people's entrance into the land. Thus the biblical allusion to the whole Pentateuch reinforces the content of Tobit's life story and his song. Tobit's life is lived according to the Torah from beginning to end. His song promises that the banishment from the land of Israel will soon end.113

After the title, the first section can be divided into four strophes: (1) invocation and call to prayer (vv. 1b-2); (2) reasons for praise (vv. 3-5); (3) call to conversion (v. 6a-h); (4) Tobit as example of one who praises God (vv. 6i-8). Strophe 1 is a general, third-person statement concerning God. Strophes 2 and 3 are in the second person, directed to the hearers. Strophe 2 begins and ends with a statement about being scattered among the nations. Strophe 3 has an inner unity owing to the repetition of “whole heart,” “whole soul,” “whole voice.” It ends with an echo of strophe 1 (“bless,” “king of the ages”). Strophe 4 is Tobit's own, first-person declaration of praise. He repeats the notion of God's kingship from strophes 1 and 3. The whole poem is bound together by the repetition of the key words of blessing and praise: eujloghto6v/eujloge6w (eulogetos/eulogeo, “bless”) in vv. 1 and 6; ejxomologe6w (exomologeo, “give thanks/acknowledge”) in vv. 3, 6, 8; uJyo6w (hypsoo, “exalt”) in vv. 4, 6-7.

The second section of Tobit's prayer (vv. 9-17) can be considered in four units: (1) the call to Jerusalem, vv. 9-11; (2) curses and blessings, vv. 12-14; (3) Tobit's own prayer, vv. 15-16d; (4) the new Jerusalem, vv. 16e-18. The division is based on content. The poetic structure is not clear, and the lengths of the units vary. Each unit contains a call to praise God (vv. 10, 13, 15, 18).

The key word “bless/blessed” recurs frequently in this second part of Tobit's prayer (eulogeo in vv. 10, 13, 15, 18; eulogetos in vv. 12, 18). Two repeated terms connoting the breadth of the prayer are “all” (pa'v pas; see also vv. 4-5) and “forever/ages” (aijw6n aion; see also vv. 1, 4, 6). All who are captives, all who are distressed for all generations will be comforted (v. 10). All who despise, hate, revile, destroy, overthrow Jerusalem will be cursed (v. 12). All the children of the righteous will be gathered together (v. 13). All who grieve over all Jerusalem's afflictions will behold all its joy (v. 14). All of Jerusalem's walls will be built of precious stones; it will stand as God's house for all ages (v. 16). Its light will shine to all the ends of the earth, and people from all the ends of the earth will come to give praise (v. 11). All its houses will sing, “Hallelujah,” as God is praised for all the ages (v. 18).

The hope for the new Jerusalem is everlasting. God will cherish the distressed within it for all generations forever (aion). Those who stand in awe of Jerusalem will be blessed forever (v. 12), and those who rejoice over it will see its joy forever (v. 14). Jerusalem will be rebuilt as God's house forever (v. 16), for God is King and Lord of “forever” (vv. 10, 13), whose name will be blessed forever and ever (vv. 11, 18).

Tobit's description of Jerusalem as the hope of the future reflects the vision of Israel's prophets. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with precious stones (Isa 54:11-12) and will be the source of great light (Isa 60:1-3), which many nations will come to see (Isa 60:1-14; see also Mic 4:2; Zech 8:22). Those who love Jerusalem will rejoice (Isa 66:10, 14), while those who do not serve Jerusalem will be destroyed (Isa 60:12). In the prophets' glorious vision of the future, the scattered will be gathered again (Isa 35:1-10; 52:1-12; Jer 31:7-14), and the blind will be restored to sight (Isa 35:5; 42:16; 58:8, 10). The new Jerusalem upon which Tobit builds his hope is the one the prophets have described.

In Tobit's final prayer, his personal character traits are raised to a public and national level. He, an ordinary man, a model of the true Israelite, is willing to present himself as an example for his people. His trust in God's justice and mercy is strong enough not only to support his own life, but also to demand an equal trust from his nation. His love of Jerusalem flows through his whole life, allowing him to identify with it to such an extent that he can recognize its sorrow as his sorrow, and hope for its joy as he has known joy. His awareness of his responsibility to make public proclamation in thanksgiving for God's gifts to him (see 12:6-7, 18-20) leads him to call all his people to join in his hymn of grateful praise. Even as he recognizes that his life is dependent on the pleasure of God (see 3:6), he knows that his life makes a difference. He is set up as an example, and he is called to exhort and instruct not only his son and his grandchildren, but all the kindred of his nation and finally all humanity (vv. 8, 11).

13:1a. Tobit wrote his prayer with joy. The concept of joy occurs frequently in the book of Tobit: He complains that because of his affliction he has no joy (5:10); God brings joy to Raguel and Sarah by means of Tobiah (8:16, 20); joy returns to Tobit (11:15-16) and to all the Jews of Nineveh through God's mercy (11:17-18). The prayers are particularly filled with expressions of joy: Raguel's (8:16-17) and Tobit's (13:1, 7, 10-11, 13-14).

13:1b-2. Tobit begins his prayer with eulogetos (“blessed”). This word begins four other major prayers in the book: Sarah's (3:11); Tobiah's (8:5); Raguel's (8:15); and Tobit's (11:14). Tobit praises the living God and, as Raphael had exhorted him, calls his people to praise God before all other living beings (see 12:6). He proclaims that God and God's kingdom are eternal (see 3:11; 8:5, 15; 11:14).

In the second verse of his prayer, Tobit announces the theme of the whole prayer: God is just in everything, both in chastisement and in mercy. This theme appears throughout the book. The earlier prayers ask God for mercy (3:15; 8:7, 17); the later prayers praise God for righteousness in both punishment and mercy (11:15; 13:2, 5, 9; cf. 14:5).

God's power and presence extend to all places. Nothing can escape the One who leads down to Sheol/Hades and back again. In his counsel to Tobiah (4:19), Tobit reminded his son of the power of God. Tobit knows of it from his own experience. He considered himself as good as dead (5:10), but God's mercy restored him to the light (11:14-15). These ideas appear frequently in other biblical prayers as well—for example, the Song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:6), the prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2:3, 7), and some psalms (e.g., Pss 30:4; 86:13). The idea is echoed also in the book of Wisdom (Wis 16:13, 15).

13:3-5. Each strophe of this poem builds on the preceding one. In the second strophe, the general statements of strophe 1 concerning God's righteousness and power are applied specifically to exiled Israel. Tobit is an example for the exiled nation, which also seems as good as dead (see Ezek 37:1-14). Thus the second strophe begins with a summons to the dispersed Israelites to praise God among the nations where they have been scattered. Even there they remain in God's hand, and they must proclaim God's greatness before all the living (12:6; see Deut 32:3; Sir 39:15). Proclaiming God's deeds among the nations also is a frequent theme in the psalms (see Pss 9:12; 96:3; 105:1).

Who do they proclaim? Their God is the Lord, the eternal God (see Pss 18:32; 40:6; 71:19; 77:14). This God is “our Father.” The concept of God as the father of the people Israel begins with Exod 4:22: “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (see Hos 11:1; Jer 31:9). The title “my father” appears in Jer 3:4 and Sir 51:10. However, most references to God as “our Father” appear in prayers of the post-exilic period (Isa 63:16; 64:7; see also Sir 23:1, 4; Wis 14:3).114

Israel, however, has not been exiled simply for the purpose of proclaiming God before the nations. The people must recognize God's righteousness in their chastisement (see 3:2-5). God as father disciplines disobedient children (see Prov 13:24; Sir 30:1), but will again have mercy and gather them together (see Ps 104:46; Jer 23:3; Ezek 36:24).

13:6a-h. The third strophe builds on the second. Since it is God who chastises and has mercy, exiles and gathers, Israel can hope for mercy only by turning to God. This is the great prophetic cry of bwv (sûb, “turn”; e.g., Isa 31:6; Jer 3:12, 14, 22; Hos 14:2-3). When Israel turns, God, too, will turn (Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7); never again will God's face be hidden (see Ps 30:8).

Israel, however, must act in wholeness and in truth (see 4:6; 14:9). With open eyes, Israel must see God's action, bless God's righteousness, and exalt the One who rules over all times and places (Pss 145:13; 146:10). Again Tobit is the example. He walks in truth and righteousness (1:3). Both his eyes and his heart have been opened to God's light (11:13-15, 17). He praises God's righteousness (3:2).

13:6i-8. In the final strophe of the first section, Tobit declares his own praise of God. He, the true Israelite, gives himself as an example to the nation. He has called Israel to praise with four imperatives: “acknowledge/give thanks” (exomologeo) in vv. 3 and 6; “recount/show” (uJpodei6knumi hypodeiknymi) in v. 4;115 “bless” (eulogeo) in v. 6; and “exalt” (hypsoo) in vv. 4 and 6. He repeats two of these verbs and a related verb in his own recital of praise: “acknowledge/

give thanks” (exomologeo) in v. 6; “declare/show”

(dei6knumi deiknymi) in v. 6; “exalt” (hypsoo) in v. 7. He who has suffered adversity praises God and proclaims God's greatness. He who has called Israel to declare God's majesty before the nations himself declares God's strength and majesty before his own sinful nation, Israel.

Tobit repeats the call to turn and act in righteousness. In words echoing the “perhaps” of Joel 2:14, he declares his confidence in God's mercy (see also Amos 5:15; Jonah 3:9). Perhaps God will relent and act mercifully (lit., “do alms” [poih6sei ejlehmosu6nhn poiesei eleemosynen]).

Three linked words of the book appear in these last two strophes. If Israel acts in “truth” (ajlh6qeia aletheia, v. 6) and “righteousness” (dikaiosu6nh dikaiosyne, v. 6), the Lord of righteousness (dikaiosyne, v. 6) will show “mercy” (ejlehmosu6nh eleemosyne, v. 6) to them. The book itself is framed by an inclusio of these three words (1:3; 14:9; see also 3:2).

Tobit ends the first section in the same spirit of joy with which he began. He concludes this prayer made “in the land of his exile” by calling for prayer “in Jerusalem” to the God who rules all space, “the king of heaven.”

13:9-11. In the first unit of the second section, Tobit suggests that the pattern of his own story offers hope to Jerusalem, destroyed and depopulated. He repeats the terms “afflict” (mastigo6w mastigoo) and “have mercy” (ejlee6w eleeo) from his general description of God and from his call to the exiled Israelites (see vv. 2, 5). He refers to God as “King of the ages” and “King of heaven,” echoing his initial statement about God and his final petition (see vv. 2, 7). He emphasizes again the need for righteousness (see v. 6), and just as he called the exiled Israelites to give thanks and bless God, so, too, now he calls the city to do the same.116

The theme of retribution undergirds the unit. The powerful God, King of the ages, who punished Jerusalem for wickedness, will restore the city and its righteous citizens. Restoration comes, however, not only because of the renewed righteousness of the people, but also because of the mercy of God. The central concern of the section is introduced: Jerusalem, God's holy city, must be restored and the Temple rebuilt. Then the Israelites will be comforted, and all nations will be drawn to the city to worship God. The theme of joy continues to permeate the prayer.

13:12-14. The second unit begins with curses and ends with beatitudes. The list of curses varies in the textual witnesses. The Qumran text 4QToba and the Old Latin offer the fullest text:

Cursed be all who despise you and revile you;

cursed be all who hate you

and speak a harsh word against you;

cursed be all who destroy you

and pull down your walls.117

Anyone who has destroyed Jerusalem in the past or who does so in the future comes under this curse.

Cursing does not dominate the unit, however—blessing does. The beatitudes that end the unit are anticipated in v. 12 with a blessing on those who stand in awe of Jerusalem. In GII, the same term used for “fear” of the Lord (oiJ fobou6menoi6 se hoi phoboumenoi se) is here applied to God's city. (In GI, the blessing is for those who “love” the city [oiJ ajgapw'nte6v se hoi agapontes se].) The city is then called to rejoice over the people who will be gathered again within it to bless God (see vv. 3-5, 10, 18). God is named “Lord of the ages” (see “King of the ages” in v. 10).

The beatitudes balance the curses, and the theme of joy recurs. Along with a threefold exclamation, “Happy are (maka6rioi makarioi),” is a threefold statement of joy: Those who rejoice (carh6sontai charesontai) in Jerusalem's peace and those who once grieved over its afflictions now will rejoice (charesontai) and behold Jerusalem's joy (cara6n charan) forever.118

13:15-16d. In the third unit Tobit breaks in as the singer of the prayer. Here the call to praise is to himself (“my soul” [hJ yuch6 mou he psyche mou]). He calls himself to bless the Lord, “the great King” (see “king” in vv. 6-7, 10 and “kingdom” in v. 1). His reason for praise echoes the reason he has given to Jerusalem: The city will be rebuilt as the house of God (see v. 10). He speaks a beatitude over himself, a prayer that his descendants will see the restored city and themselves give thanks to “the King of heaven” (see v. 7).

13:16e-17. The fourth unit is a description of the new Jerusalem. The name of the city is repeated four times, as if Tobit cannot let go of the delight of its name (see “name” in v. 11). The promise of rebuilding from vv. 10 and 16 is fulfilled in Tobit's vision. Gates, walls, towers, and streets will be made of gold and precious stones. As if answering the call to prayer, even the gates and the houses will sing hymns and cry out, “Hallelujah” (see Ps 24:7, 9).

Tobit ends his prayer just as he began it, with a call to praise: “Blessed be God . . . for all ages!”119 This call is addressed to the new Jerusalem, wherein God's name will be blessed forever.120 Jerusalem remains the place where God has chosen to set the divine name (see Deut 12:5, 11).

REFLECTIONS

1. Tobit believes that, just as his suffering mirrors that of his community, so also his healing is a sign of hope for it. Christians have been taught that together we are the body of Christ, that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Cor 12:26 NRSV). It is impossible for Christians to celebrate eucharist without being joined to one another. In the Liturgy of the Word we tell the story that gives us a common identity. We recite the creed that expresses our common belief. As we pray in petition for those in need and in thanksgiving for those who have been blessed, we acknowledge that their pain and joy are also ours. We share the meal that expresses the sharing of our lives. If we eat and drink without discerning the body (i.e., Christ in one another), we eat and drink judgment on ourselves (see 1 Chr 11:29). Finally, we are set forth to live the mystery we have celebrated: our oneness in Christ Jesus.

2. In Christian theology the new Jerusalem is also the hope of the future. The book of Revelation describes a glorious city in which “there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (see Rev 21:4). The glory of God will be its light (Rev 21:23); the river of life-giving water will flow from God's throne (Rev 22:1). God will be so present there that a temple will no longer be needed (Rev 21:22). There all the faithful will see God's face and praise God's name forever (Rev 22:3-4).

The new Jerusalem is an image of the life that awaits God's faithful people. The reality of this new life is impossible to describe. “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard” what God has prepared (see 1 Cor 2:9). We know two things: This new life has been won for us by Christ, and our delight will be the sharing of God's presence with one another.

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fgh | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 25 2011 9:27 AM

I've posted a Suggestion thread about Commentaries on the Deuterocanonicals and OT/NT Apocrypha. Please feel free to add to it.

"The Christian way of life isn't so much an assignment to be performed, as a gift to be received."  Wilfrid Stinissen

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