Bargains: Harper Commentary and Dictionary

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Jan 29 2016 11:46 AM

I noticed the following:

Harper’s Bible Commentary $13.99

Harper's Bible Dictionary $15.99

These are older resources but well worth a look with something to offer for a quick glance. It covers the Apocrypha so that is a bonus. And while the commentary may at times seem brief if taken in with it's referring articles in the dictionary can prove very insightful.


2:1-12, The Coming of the Magi.

 The story of the Wise Men is like a “haggadah,” i.e., a story made up from biblical materials to make a theological point ( Haggadah). Such ot passages as Num. 24:17, Ps. 72:10-11, and Isa. 60:1-7 have contributed to the composition. In fact, these texts continued to influence the tradition after Matthew’s time, so suggesting that the Magi become kings as well as wise men ( Wise Men), a point Matthew himself does not make. Luke (2:15-20) also knew of a tradition of homage to the Christ child. Coupled with the memory of an unusual astral phenomenon around the time when Jesus was likely to have been born, the materials were thus at hand for the development of Matthew’s story. Chap. 1 had stressed Jesus’ origin in Israel. The Magi story opens the possibility of mission to the Gentiles, thereby reassuring the Jewish members of Matthew’s community that the recent development of a gentile mission, however suspect to some stricter Jewish Christians, was in fact foreshadowed in Jesus’ birth.

 James Luther Mays, ed., Harper’s Bible Commentary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 952.


Haggadah (hah-gah-dahʹ; Palestinian Talmud: ‘Aggadah’), the interpretation of the historical and religious passages of Jewish Scripture that are not legal in character. Haggadic texts often supplement the biblical narrative. A rich variety of Jewish ‘retelling’ of the tradition comes under the category ‘Haggadah.’ Chronicles is sometimes described as a ‘historical midrash’ (i.e., commentary) on the earlier historical writings. Hellenistic Jewish historians such as Josephus and Philo and writings such as the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls all contain a wealth of haggadic material. Many stories and legends came to be told about such central figures in Israel’s history as Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. 

Some nt examples of haggadic material about Moses show that its writers were familiar with such traditions. 2 Tim. 3:8 gives the names of the Egyptian sorcerers defeated by Moses, namely, Jannes and Jambres. Several writers refer to a tradition that the Law was given by angels rather than God (Gal. 3:19; Acts 7:53; Heb. 12:2). The water-giving rock is said to have accompanied the children of Israel on their journey (1 Cor. 10:4). Jude 9 refers to a legend that the archangel Michael and Satan struggled over the body of Moses.

Unlike the strict logic of legal interpretation, Haggadah could give free play to the imagination. Haggadic expositions are not bound to the previous tradition. However, the story had to remain within the bounds of what was acceptable to the religious community. See also Halakah. P.P.

P.P. Pheme Perkins, Ph.D.; Professor of Theology (New Testament); Boston College; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

 Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 366.

Wise Men

wise men, sages who appear in the biblical traditions within the context of an international wisdom movement (on Egyptian, Persian, and Babylonian wise men, see Gen. 41:8; Esther 1:13; Dan. 2:12); the term applies also to the Magi in the infancy narrative of Matt. 2:1-18. 

Wise men espoused wisdom in Israel in at least three settings: the tribe, the court, and the school. In each case, the wisdom shared was generally practical, concerned with knowledge about the principles governing the world and the life of the individual. The usual form of instruction was the proverb. Wisdom was based on reason rather than revelation, but reason enlightened by piety, for ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prov. 9:10). According to Deut. 1:13-15, wise men were selected for the tribes in the days of Moses to provide instruction in the law and from their own understanding and experience. A professional class of wise men developed (Jer. 18:18; Isa. 29:14) along with priests and prophets. Some served at the royal court to guide rulers and to preserve (as scribes) the sacred traditions (Jer. 8:8-9; 18:18). Finally, professional wise man provided instruction in schools they established (Ecclus. 51:23). Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon are thought to have been composed by professional sages. The preeminent wise man in Israel’s traditions was Solomon, whose ‘wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east’ (1 Kings 4:30). Occasionally, the traditions speak of the ‘wise woman’ (2 Sam. 14:2; 20:16).

The Wise Men, or Magi (from the Greek root meaning ‘magic’), who appear in Matthew are said to be ‘from the East’ (2:1), which could mean Arabia, Mesopotamia, or elsewhere. They are portrayed as astrologers, since they are guided by the star (2:2), and as Gentiles, since they do not know the scriptural prophecy concerning the location of the Messiah’s birth (2:2-6). Popular traditions have portrayed them as three in number, although Matthew does not say so, because of the three gifts (2:11), and as kings in light of Isa. 60:3, although for Matthew they are astrologers. Later, postbiblical, traditions have also supplied names (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar). Epiphany (‘manifestation,’ January 6) is the annual celebration, based on this account, of the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles, of whom the Wise Men are considered the first to pay him homage. See also Astrologers; Epiphany, Feast of; Proverb; Stars, Star of Bethlehem; Wisdom. A.J.H.

A.J.H. Arland J. Hultgren, Th.D.; Associate Professor of New Testament; Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary; St. Paul, Minnesota

 Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 1137.


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GaoLu | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jan 29 2016 1:39 PM

I have both and agree they are worth having, and at a very reasonable price.

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