New Interpreter's Bible?

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fr.paul | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Nov 9 2020 11:42 AM

Dear Logos Users,
I would like to ask you if it's worth spending 523,15$ *(with academic discount) for the "New Interpreter's Bible" Set, or I should let it go? I already have Navarre and the NICOT/NT sets. I'm looking for a useful commentaries also to the deuterocanonical books.
The second thing that I would like to ask is if anyone knows if this Set (NIB) was discounted before? Maybe during March Madness or on any other occasion? As a student, I'm looking forward to saving my money. On the other side, there is a temptation to have useful resources...
I would appreciate your kind opinions!

I really appreciate any help you can provide.

Posts 5318
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 9 2020 12:13 PM

I do not remember seeing the NIB on sale before... I have used it for over 20 years and find it very useful punching well over it's weight in both size and price. I have said it before and say it again here I wish every lover of the Bible could own it. I find it very informative with great insights in the reflection section. Like all commentaries it has stronger and weaker spots but the weak spots are still very good. Since the deuterocanonical books are of a particular interest I will share with you the treatment from Sirach's close I just read a few days ago. While not the strongest example I do believe it will show you what this series has to offer. Please note this particular section has no reflection section which is peculiar for the series...

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SIRACH 51:1–30, A PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING, A HYMN OF PRAISE, AND AN ACROSTIC POEM ABOUT WISDOM

Commentary

51:1–12. The first twelve verses of this chapter comprise a prayer in which Ben Sira employs traditional language to give thanks for deliverance from an unspecified threat. The prayer is sufficiently general to be used by almost any worshiper. An anthological style draws on the language of biblical psalms to recount the author’s subjection to verbal abuse, his descent into the abyss of despair, and his remembering the Lord’s mercy. Addressing Yahweh as “my father” (אבי ʾābî), Ben Sira begs God not to forsake him. The prayer concludes with the declaration that the Lord listened to the plea and acted on behalf of the supplicant (cf. Pss 17:9; 30:3; 55:9; 116:8). In a study on the poetic structure of this declarative psalm of praise, Di Lella identifies six stanzas and isolates instances of artistic balance or correspondence, inclusion, chiasm, breakup of stereotyped phrases, rhyme, and parallelism.261

The dual epithet for God, “Lord and King” (v. 1), together with “Father” (v. 10) recall common expressions in ancient Jewish prayers, e.g., “Our Father, our Sovereign” in the prayer by that name, in “Great Love,” and in “The Eighteen Benedictions,” where the clauses begin with “Our Father” and “Our King” alternately.262

A litany of praise follows this prayer in ms B, but it does not appear in the Greek, the Syriac, or any translations based on them. Moreover, the Greek text has a title for the entire chapter, “The Prayer of Jesus, son of Sirach,” which applies only to vv. 1–12. Although the litany does not appear to have been written by Ben Sira, it dates from before 152 bce, when the Hasmonean Jonathan received the high priesthood as a reward for supporting Alexander Balas of Syria (cf. 51:12 ix, which implies that Zadokites are still in control of the priesthood). Di Lella conjectures that a member of the Essene community at Qumran wrote the psalm and inserted it into a copy of Sirach that found its way into a cave near Jericho and eventually into the hands of Qaraites, who made copies that were discovered in the Cairo Geniza between 1896 and 1900.263

Like Psalm 136, this psalm contains the refrain “for his mercy endures forever” in fourteen of the sixteen verses (cf. Pss 106:1; 107:1; 118:1, 29 for the same expression). The language is entirely biblical (“the Guardian of Israel” in Ps 121:4; “who fashioned everything” in Jer 10:16; 51:19; “the Redeemer of Israel” in Isa 49:7; “who gathered Israel’s dispersed” in Isa 56:8; “who rebuilt his city” in Isa 60:13; “who makes a horn to sprout for David’s house” in Ps 132:17; Ezek 29:21). Similarly, the divine epithets in 51:12 x–xii derive from the patriarchal narratives—the Shield of Abraham, Rock of Isaac, Mighty One of Jacob.

51:13–30. An alphabetical poem about wisdom concludes the book of Sirach, as in Prov 31:10–31—even though Ben Sira never uses the noun “wisdom” in the poem. Verses 13–21 describe Ben Sira’s search for wisdom, and vv. 22–30 contain a personal appeal to others to follow his example. A copy of this poem has been found in a scroll from Qumran (11QPsa) containing lines א (aleph) through כ (kaph; ll. 1–20). In the translation by J. A. Sanders, this poem is interpreted as an erotic text,264 and various scholars have offered alternative readings.265 An erotic understanding of personified wisdom certainly exists in Proverbs 8 and Wisdom 7, however one views Ben Sira’s acrostic.

The poem tells how a young Ben Sira determined to cultivate wisdom from youth to old age and how wisdom gave herself to him as he pursued her paths and set his heart on her. As reward for faithfulness, he received a gift of eloquence (cf. Isa 50:4), which equipped him to teach others. He thus invites people to come to his house of learning (ms B has “into my house of instruction” [בבית מדרשׁי bĕbêt midrāšî]; Di Lella claims that both the Greek and Syriac texts demand a reading of “into the house of learning” [בבית מוסר bĕbêt mûsār] and sees a play on words based on סור [sûr, “to be remote”]).266 Ben Sira’s language about money, reward, and thirst may be purely metaphorical, like Prov 4:5–7; Isa 55:1–3; Amos 8:11. Too little is known about education in second-century bce Israel to ascertain whether one should assume that Ben Sira received payment for instructing students.267

The final two verses nicely juxtapose the complementary theological concepts of grace and merit. Remembering the Lord’s mercy, one ought to do good works and await a reward in God’s own time. In this short statement, Ben Sira effectively combines religious and social teachings.

The Hebrew manuscript closes with a long subscript stating that the work has reached its conclusion and identifying its author as Simeon, the son of Jeshua who is called Ben Sira. It adds: “The Wisdom of Simeon, the son of Jeshua, the son of Eleasar, the son of Sira. May Yahweh’s name be blessed from now unto the ages” (cf. Ps 113:2).

261 Alexander A. Di Lella, “Sirach 51:1–12: Poetic Structure and Analysis of Ben Sira’s Psalm,” CBQ 48 (1986) 395–407.

262 W. O. E. Oesterley, The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912) 346.

ms manuscript(s)

B Codex Vaticanus, fourth-century manuscript of LXX and parts of the NT

263 Skehan and Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, 569.

11QPs Psalm Scroll from Qumran Cave 11

a Psalm Scroll from Qumran Cave 11

א Codex Sinaiticus, fourth-century manuscript of LXX, NT, Epistle of Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas

ll. line(s)

264 J. A. Sanders, The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave II (11QPsa), DJD 4 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965) 70–85; and The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1967) 112–17.

265 J. Muraoka, “Sir 51:13–20: An Erotic Hymn to Wisdom?” JSJ 10 (1979) 166–78; and C. Deutsch, “The Sirach 51 Acrostic: Confession and Exhortation,” ZAW 94 (1982) 400–409.

ms manuscript(s)

B Codex Vaticanus, fourth-century manuscript of LXX and parts of the NT

266 See Patrick W. Skehan and Alexander A. Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira, AB 39 (New York: Doubleday, 1987) 578.

267 Cf. Pirqe ’Abot 4:9.

 James L. Crenshaw, “The Book of Sirach,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, vol. 5 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004), 863–867.

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and here is one from wisdom which is more typical of the NIB in general Commentary followed by Reflection.

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Wisdom 4:7–20, The Death of a Virtuous Youth

Commentary

4:7–15, The Righteous Are Pleasing to God. The final diptych contrasts the death of a virtuous youth with the prolonged life of the wicked. Just as children in ancient Israel were a sign of great blessing, so too was a ripe old age considered to be a blessing (Gen 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; Exod 20:12; Deut 4:40; Judg 8:32). Old age was presented as a sign of wisdom and as a reward for right conduct in the sapiential traditions as well (Job 42:17; Prov 3:1–2; 10:27; 16:31; Sir 1:12). Again, as with the case of the barren, the author has not shrunk away from choosing an image that ordinarily evokes tragedy and misfortune to propel the reader to seek out the deeper source of human dignity. What is truly disastrous is not a brief life lived out with integrity, but a long life filled with the perpetration of injustice.

An early death was considered a great calamity; it was a curse one wished only on enemies (Ps 109:8). But viewed from the perspective of virtue, an early death may even signify a blessing. The author is advocating the same change in perspective as in the case of the violent death of the just and the fruitless lives of the righteous. From the point of view of justice and integrity, what appears tragic is only a stage in further growth.

The author argues that an honorable old age is not something that can be established by external signs of age, such as gray hair. Neither can it be measured by number of years. Rather, an honorable age is achieved in a life of innocence, understanding, and inner maturity (vv. 8–9). The idea of progressive internal growth is portrayed through the images of “a life become pleasing to God” (v. 10) and “coming to perfection in a short time” (v. 13).

Pushing away even further the interpretation of an early death as necessarily tragic, the author goes so far as to consider the early death of a virtuous youth to be an expression of divine favor (vv. 10–15). This certainly is a novel position within the biblical writings. More than likely, the idea was facilitated by the popular axiom in Greek and Roman literature, “He whom the gods love dies young.”36 It is parallel to our own popular expression, “The good die young.” The Wisdom author is adapting this idea in the light of the Enoch stories in Genesis and Sirach. Two links to the Genesis account of Enoch (LXX) exist in the Wisdom text: The idea of Enoch’s pleasing God and the idea of transference: “Enoch was pleasing to God, then he was found no more, for God transferred him” (Gen 5:24). Notice that in the Hebrew Bible the opening phrase reads, “Enoch walked with God …” unlike the Greek text, which Wisdom employs. Sirach makes a similar reference to the Enoch account of the Greek version of Genesis in the hymn that honors the ancestors: “Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up, an example of repentance to all generations” (Sir 44:16 NRSV; cf. Heb 11:5).

The particular nuance attributed to God’s pleasure in the case of the virtuous youth’s being removed from the world is that of saving the youth from evil and calamity. God has taken up the virtuous youth, who has achieved maturity early, lest the future corrupt him (vv. 11–12). This idea was also present in Greek, Roman, and rabbinic literature: “For who knows but that God, having a fatherly care for the human race, and foreseeing future events, early removes some persons from life untimely.”37

The Wisdom author stresses God’s motivation of care and love in the early death of the virtuous youth. As with the case of the tragic and violent death of the just in the first diptych, people misinterpret the untimely death as tragic and void of divine care (v. 15). But from a perspective of justice and virtue, even events of seeming tragedy are interpreted in the light of God’s grace, mercy, and providence.

4:16–20, The Righteous Youth and the Aged Wicked. The conviction of the wicked frames the second half of the diptych. At the outset, the righteous ones and the just youth are said to condemn the ungodly and the prolonged age of the unrighteous (v. 16). In the conclusion, the lawless deeds of the wicked will convict them to their face (v. 20). The author stresses the quality of judgment in the righteous youth. It is the youth, ordinarily not renowned for judgment, who will condemn the aged, who are commonly associated with wisdom, for their wickedness.

There are biblical precedents for the image of a wise youth who criticizes the wicked or foolish people who have the respect that belongs to elders. In the book of Job, Elihu defends his right to speak out because the source of wisdom resides in the breath of God and not in length of years. As a younger man, inspired by the Spirit of God, Elihu is critical of his elders for not responding effectively to the laments of their friend Job (Job 32:6–9). Qohelet speaks of the advantages of a poor and wise youth over an old and foolish king (Eccl 4:13). God is said to have aroused Daniel, a youth with a holy spirit, in order to confound the wicked elders and liberate Susanna from false judgment (Sus 45).

The author’s judgment against the wicked is expressed in apocalyptic language. This language anticipates the similar expression of the formal judgment that occurs after the wicked’s confession (5:17–23). In part, the language of destruction may have been inspired by Isaiah’s judgment on the downfall of the king of Babylon (Isa 14:3–21). The Lord “will laugh” the wicked to scorn; they will become “dishonored corpses”; they will be “dashed, shaken,” and “left utterly dry” (vv. 18–19). At the time of reckoning, the lawless deeds of the wicked will convict them.

The issue of appearance versus reality is applied to the case of the virtuous youth who dies an early death. Although it appears to be a tragedy, such a death need not be interpreted as a calamity or disaster. On the contrary, from the perspective of virtue and maturity, such a death may be a sign of God’s special favor. People may see such events and not understand their true meaning or take such ideas into consideration (v. 15).

A number of images are taken up by the author from the original speech of the wicked and the previous diptychs in order to dismantle the reasoning of the wicked and counter their false accusation of the just. The wicked wanted to see whether the claims of the just were true, and so test him to the end (2:17); now the wicked will see the end of the wise and still not understand (v. 17). Just as the righteous were to become active and govern nations and peoples in the first diptych (3:7–8), so too the just and the righteous youth condemn the wicked in the third diptych (v. 16). Just as the children of the wicked become witnesses against them at the time of accounting in the second diptych (v. 6), so too the lawless deeds of the unrighteous convict them at the day of reckoning in the third diptych (v. 20).

By taking up another image of disaster and tragedy—namely, that of the early death of a virtuous youth—the author is countering the wicked persons’ adulation of youthful pleasures (2:6–9) and their negative judgment on the transience of human life (2:1–5). In this way, all three diptychs counter the judgment and exhortation to injustice that reflect the wicked’s approach to life. And this they do in reverse order as they appear in the wicked’s speech.

During the sifting of appearances and reality, the author systematically uncovers the true meaning of the violent death of the just, the final fruitfulness of the barren woman and the eunuch, the special divine favor shown to the virtuous youth. The first diptych refutes the challenge of the wicked, who project the shameful death of the just one to be a confirmation of the validity of their stance toward life. The second diptych counters the wicked’s decision to make might their right and to oppress those who are weak, the poor, the widow, and the elderly. The third diptych on the wise youth refutes the negative view of the wicked’s judgment on physical death, which had led to their initial exhortation to evasive youthful pleasures. The interpretation of physical death plays a critical role in the author’s refutation of a style of life that justifies injustice. The entire reasoning process of the wicked falls apart and prepares the reader for the day of judgment, when they will confess the error of their ways and their sin.

Reflections

1. The author’s declaration of the blessedness of the wise youth who has died is not meant to be an answer to someone who is grieving the loss of a child or young friend. The death of a young person increases the poignancy of the loss of life, the waste of human possibilities, and the transience of life. Precisely for this reason, the author chose this common enough experience of human affliction to heighten the appreciation of a life of virtue and justice. Far from being an ultimate tragedy, even a short life can be considered a full life if it is measured by integrity and not by the ordinary standards of human strength. By looking behind the appearance of loss, in the case of a youth who has died, the author celebrates the power of virtue, justice, and inner maturity.

2. Wisdom and virtue can be found in the most unlikely places. The author holds up the example of a virtuous and wise youth in contrast to the wicked elderly in a manner that challenges our ordinary perspectives on wisdom and virtue. Wisdom and virtue traditionally are associated with the tried, the experienced, and the aged. But it is more important to assess the acts and judgments of human beings in the light of wisdom and virtue than it is to assess their appearances and places in society. Christ would proclaim a similar change in perspective in even more drastic terms: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt 21:31 NRSV; cf. Luke 18:9–14).

3. In the context of the author’s refutation of the wicked’s argument, the image of the death of a youth calls into question an absolutely negative judgment of the loss of youthful energies. The wicked regard the experience of the loss of life so negatively that this judgment justifies their escape to youthful pleasures. If youthful pleasures are pursued simply to evade the limitations and afflictions of life, they will never completely satisfy the desire for communion. Communion and integrity can be achieved even when youthful energies are diminished to the point of death.

4. The negative interpretation of an early death is mitigated by two realizations. The first is communion with God. God’s faithfulness to the promises of the covenant has elicited the faith in an afterlife (4:15). The communion that is envisaged between the youth that has died an early death and God depends not so much on the immortality of the human being as much as on the enduring covenantal relationship. This communion is realized through the virtuous life of a youth that has been found pleasing to God.

The second is the idea of the inner maturity of virtue, whereby the essence of life reaches its completion. What is critical for the author of Wisdom is the inner life of virtue. The failings and shortcomings of life in their physical contours—even including early death—pale in comparison to the dignity of a life lived out with integrity.

5. The appearance of wisdom and achievement of the aged is not to be confused with virtue. As with the earlier cases of the tragic death of a virtuous person and the apparent fruitlessness of a barren person, the author calls for an examination of the true nature of human strength and wisdom. What appears to be a tragic loss of life in the case of the wise youth indeed is not. Presumably the author could have chosen other figures to signify human strength, such as people of wealth or those with educational and political might. Instead he uses three extreme examples of human misfortune to highlight with clarity the significant values of virtue and justice for determining the dignity of human beings. The true failures, tragedies, and disasters in life are not what the wicked think they are. Moral vacuity expressed through a life of evasive pleasure, exploiting the weak, and perpetrating violence brings on a death and destruction that is far more devastating than the experience of mortality, which all human beings encounter.

36 Menander 425; cf. Plautus Bacchides IV.816.

LXX Septuagint

NRSV New Revised Standard Verion

37 Plutarch Consolatio ad Apollonium 117D. David Winston provides several sources in rabbinic, Roman, and Greek literature that give expression to this idea, developed by the Wisdom author, whereby God “removes” those who are at the prime of their virtuous life, lest they change their minds. See David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon, AB 43 (New York: Doubleday, 1979) 140–41.

NRSV New Revised Standard Verion

 Michael Kolarcik, “The Book of Wisdom,” in New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, vol. 5 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004), 477–481.

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I did want to add in that Sirach is well done, but I personally find the commentary on the appendix (Sirach 51) to be a bit thin and of course it has no reflections

-Dan

Posts 130
Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 9 2020 12:44 PM

fr.paul:

I'm looking for a useful commentaries also to the deuterocanonical books.

Hi. This you definitely get with the NIB.

fr.paul:

The second thing that I would like to ask is if anyone knows if this Set (NIB) was discounted before? 

Not to my knowledge. Maybe it's got something to do with the publisher, Abingdon (this is pure speculation on my part).

I bought the NIB-series last year. What you get is an ecumenical, very proficient, somewhat critical commentary set. Similar to EBCR, but not evangelical in all. Different kind of hermeneutical approaches varying from book to book. Many famous exegetes. And  one thing good about it in Logos is that even as a set it shows as though it were one book (makes skipping from one book to another much simpler in the guides, prioritization etc. is easier.

Worth every penny, if you ask this lutheran pastor.

Logos 9 Anglican Diamond, Logos 9 Lutheran Diamond

Posts 58
fr.paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 9 2020 2:35 PM

I am profoundly thankful for your insights. Seriously, thank you so much for your help! Yes

Posts 2884
Mike Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 10 2020 11:59 AM

The New Interpreter's Bible is far better than the old Interpreter's Bible in that it has included some evangelical scholars.  it is much more balanced, overall.

So, if one is Wesleyan in theology, I do think it is worth having.  My favorite commentary series is one you already have - the NICOT/NT set.  But it has far more scholars from a Calvinist tradition than from a Wesleyan tradition.  (Of course, it does have John Oswalt on Isaiah.)

The main reason that I say the NIB is worth having is this:  N. T. Wright on Romans!  

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

Posts 5318
Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 11 2020 10:52 AM

Mike Childs:
The main reason that I say the NIB is worth having is this:  N. T. Wright on Romans!  

While I like romans...

Volume 1 alone is pure gold among my favourites are (looking through the list i wanted to pull dozens off but restrained myself):

  • Genesis: Terence E. Fretheim
  • Exodus: Walter Brueggemann
  • Leviticus: Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
  • Psalms: J. Clinton McAnn Jr.
  • The Book of Isaiah 1–39: Gene M. Tucker
  • The Book of Isaiah 40–66: Christopher R. Seitz
  • The Letter to the Hebrews: Fred B. Craddock
  • The Book of Revelation: Christopher C. Rowland

-dan

Posts 46
Paul Strickert | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 11 2020 11:07 AM

I agree with Dan about Vol. 1.  It is superb.

Posts 1522
Josh | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 11 2020 11:27 AM

I've been eyeing this for a LONG time. I have never seen it for sale - which is why I have sadly never picked it up.

Posts 5497
SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Nov 11 2020 7:15 PM

Josh:

I've been eyeing this for a LONG time. I have never seen it for sale - which is why I have sadly never picked it up.

Maybe it will show up later this month... not all Black Friday deals have been revealed yet....

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