Let's get this one over the top!

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Don Awalt | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Aug 16 2013 2:59 AM

Berit Olam is an excellent commentary series, I have a few of the books in hard copy.  Please consider adding this to your collection!

I do have a question about this - I wonder why the Exodus book of the series is not included here?

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 4:20 AM

I am not familiar with this series. Tell us more what you like about it and how it differs from other commentaries.

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

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Don Awalt | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 4:29 AM

Logos had a blog on it, you can read that here.

My likes are fairly simple, it was used in seminary and it is very thorough in its contextual background and linguistic commentary. It also seems to be very heavily oriented on the Hebrew/Jewish background that Christianity came from. I feel like it complements other commentaries well because the orientation is a little different and one might pick up a thought or reflection from it. (I like WBC a lot if that offers some insight).

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 5:19 AM

Don Awalt:

Logos had a blog on it, you can read that here.

My likes are fairly simple, it was used in seminary and it is very thorough in its contextual background and linguistic commentary. It also seems to be very heavily oriented on the Hebrew/Jewish background that Christianity came from. I feel like it complements other commentaries well because the orientation is a little different and one might pick up a thought or reflection from it. (I like WBC a lot if that offers some insight).

Thanks for sharing this. I had not read that blog before.

Using adventure and community to challenge young people to continually say "yes" to God

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Deacon Steve | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 5:25 AM

I'm in.  Yes

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Milford Charles Murray | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 5:37 AM

Don Awalt:

Logos had a blog on it, you can read that here.

My likes are fairly simple, it was used in seminary and it is very thorough in its contextual background and linguistic commentary. It also seems to be very heavily oriented on the Hebrew/Jewish background that Christianity came from. I feel like it complements other commentaries well because the orientation is a little different and one might pick up a thought or reflection from it. (I like WBC a lot if that offers some insight).

Peace, Don!              Thanks!              I'm in also!                        Actually hoping it's not delivered too soon so my finances hopefully can catch up a wee bit!                             *smile*

Philippians 4:  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand..........

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Adam Rao | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 6:33 AM

It's an excellent series!

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Evan Boardman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2013 10:41 AM

Looks good. I'm in.

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Don Awalt | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 31 2013 5:24 PM

This one is almost there - an excellent Old Testament resource. Please consider it! There are MANY reviews of the series on the Internet, here is one of the Lev, Numbers, Deu book from Society of Biblical Literature, a site I trust (I have Genesis and Exodus in hardback and really enjoy them):

Stephen K. Sherwood’s commentary on the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and
Deuteronomy provides a distinctive approach to the final forms of these three books of
the Pentateuch. In this volume of the Berit Olam commentary series, Sherwood reads
these texts from the perspective of narrative criticism. He argues that the law of Torah is
not only embedded within a narrative framework but itself functions as a form of
narrative discourse.


The key to this distinctive approach lies in his perception of the incomplete nature of the
laws that are promulgated and the extensive use of character discourse in these texts.
“These discourses are part of a story and contribute to the characterization of their
speakers” (xi). As Sherwood sees it, the discourse of instruction defines the
characterization of YHWH as lawgiver, Moses as prophet, and Israel as a people. The
setting of these texts in the wilderness prior to Israel’s entrance into the land of Canaan
points to the liminal quality of the narrative. The wilderness experience is one of
liminality between the promise of the land and the entrance of Israel to claim that
promise. It is the experience of liminality in the wilderness that provides a narrative
moment from which to look at the past and prepare for the future.

In his general introduction Sherwood emphasizes that this volume reflects only on the
literary aspects of the text and establishes the foundation for his claim of the narrative
character of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. His methodology is atomistic rather
than integrative. One example of this is found in his plotting of the number of times a
name occurs to demonstrate that the narrative of the three texts focuses on the characters
of YHWH/Elohim and Moses. The plotting of the name occurrence shows that YHWH/
Elohim is the primary character/speaker in all three books. It also shows that Moses’
name hardly appears in Deuteronomy, whereas the name “Moses” occurs frequently in
the book of Numbers. The schematic presentation of this information receives little
discussion beyond stating that “these three books are in every sense books of theology—
works of narrative art in which the main character is YHWH/God” (xvi). I question
whether or not the frequency of the appearance of the names of YHWH/Elohim and
Moses is sufficient to define the books as theological, narrative, or legal texts. Further
discussion of the significance of these differences would have helped the reader
understand how such information supports his argument for narrative art.
The introduction to each of the individual books provides the skeleton on which to hang
the discussion of the various narrative elements noted. The most useful part of this
section is the discussion of how often the book appears in the worship lectionary and the
listing of the quotations and references to the texts that are found in the New Testament.
When the incidence of use in Christian worship is compared with the extensive listing of
New Testament references and quotations, Sherwood provides scholars and preachers of
the New Testament with a concrete demonstration of how the Torah functions as the
foundation of much of the description and characterization of the New Testament. A
discussion of the relationship between the use of these texts in Christian worship and the
use of these texts in the New Testament itself may have led to a fuller discussion of the
narrative function of these books in the early Christian period.


The rest of the introduction to each book is composed of series of lists and graphs.
Sherwood notes particular verbal forms, nouns, and phrases that are characteristic of the
text and graphically displays where particular narrative elements are to be found. The
discussion of the narrative characteristics of the books, such as narrative time and
narration time, the manipulation of past, present, and future in the plot development, and
the narrative tensions explored in the texts, are straightforward. Characterization is
demonstrated by particular words and deeds through which the character is self-depicted
as well as the words and traits that are used by other characters to express their
experience of the character. YHWH, Moses, and the narrator are the primary characters
in all three books. Sherwood lists the particular actions and speech characteristics of each
without much commentary on what these aspects contribute to the depiction of the
character or to character development. Symbols and images found in the text are also
listed without demonstrating how they contribute either to the character or to the plot of
the narrative itself.


One of the most interesting discussions in the introduction to each book is the discussion
of the manipulation of knowledge and the various reading positions that can be taken.
Again these are listed, but here there is some discussion of how the manipulation of
knowledge leads to dramatic tension. Sherwood discusses the consequence of knowledge
in the context of sin against the holiness of God as the focal point of narrative tension in
the book of Leviticus. The manipulation of knowledge within the text and for the reader
is his best support for the thesis that the book of Leviticus can be read as a narrative.
Whereas in the book of Leviticus the character of God is elevated by God’s knowledge of
sin, in the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy the primary elevation in terms of
knowledge occurs with the reader’s knowledge that Israel’s enemies will be defeated.
The notes on the actual text are sparse and text-critical. In most cases they do not add
much to the argument that Leviticus and Numbers can be read and understood effectively
as narrative texts. As a series of speeches made by Moses just before Israel enters into the
land, Deuteronomy expresses narrative tension in the retelling of the past and anticipation
of the future. More could have been said about the extensive use of speeches in all three
books as a narrative element.


This commentary is useful as a resource on the text and for categorizing particular
narrative aspects of the books. It is useful for giving the reader some new ways of
thinking about aspects of narrative within these three texts. Yet, as Sherwood himself
says of Leviticus, this commentary is “not a page turner” (4). This volume provides an
anatomical description of a body, its skeleton, sinews, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
However, there is no breath, no nephesh to bring the body to life. It is not enough to say
that Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are narratives. The mere presence of narrative
elements does not make the text function as narrative. What is needed is to demonstrate
how these elements work together to create a narrative world and to create distinctive
characters that are changed by the narrative tensions of the text. Sherwood provides an
accounting of the narrative elements of these books, yet he fails to persuasively argue for
reading these texts as narratives rather than as law. It remains for these dissected
elements to be woven together and filled with the breath of living texts.

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