Friday, June 24, 2011

‘Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther’ by Gary V. Smith, with Philip W. Comfort, General Editor – Book Review

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I am enrolled at Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. I have taken a few semesters off, but plan on taking a class in the fall. During my hiatus, I have been reading plenty of books! One that is in the scholarly category is ‘Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther’ by Gary V. Smith, edited by Philip W. Comfort.

Here is a synopsis of this book series:

The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary provides students, pastors, and laypeople with up-to-date, evangelical scholarship on the Old and New Testaments. It’s designed to equip pastors and Christian leaders with exegetical and theological knowledge to better understand and apply God’s word by presenting the message of each passage as well as an overview of other issues surrounding the text.

Here is the biography of the author:

Gary V. Smith is professor of Christian Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He has taught at Union since 2004. Prior to coming to Union, Dr Smith taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City Missouri from 1998-2004. For two years he served as the Interim Academic Dean at the Seminary. Prior to coming to Midwestern, Dr Smith taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Bethel Theological Seminary in St Paul, Minnesota from 1983-1998. Prior to coming to Bethel Dr Smith taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Winnipeg Theological Seminary from 1973-1983. For two years he was the Interim Dean of the Seminary.  
Dr. Smith did undergraduate work at Wheaton College and received his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology in 1965, the Master of Arts from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1968, and his Doctor of Philosophy from Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Languages in Philadephia in 1973. He has completed academic research in Jerusalem, Israel and in Cambridge, England.
Dr Smith’s areas of expertise include the Old Testament Prophets, especial Amos and Isaiah, plus the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. Dr. Smith has published Amos, Broadening Your Biblical Horizons, An Introduction to the Hebrew Prophets: The Prophets as Preachers, Hosea, Amos, Micah in the NIV Application Commentary.
Dr Smith and his wife Susan live in Jackson, Tennessee. They have two children and five grandchildren.

In the General Editor’s Preface, Mr. Comfort explains the structure of this commentary:

The commentary itself has been structured in such a way as to help readers get at the meaning of Scripture, passage by passage, through the entire Bible. Each Bible book is prefaced by a substantial book introduction that gives general historical background important for understanding. Then the reader is taken through the Bible text, passage by passage, starting with the New Living Translation text printed in full. This is followed by a section called “Notes,” wherein the commentator helps the reader understand the Hebrew or Greek behind the English of the NLT, interacts with other scholars on important interpretative issues, and points the reader to significant textual and contextual matters. The “Notes” are followed by the “Commentary,” wherein each scholar presents a lucid interpretation of the passage, giving special attention to context and major theological themes.

One of my favorite books in the Bible, as I think it may be for a large section of women, is the book of Esther; so I will be focusing on that book here. Here is the beginning of the Introduction:

The Life of Esther demonstrates that God can use women in powerful ways to change the course of history. This young orphan girl went from having almost nothing to becoming one of the most powerful women in the Persian world. Finding herself in the midst of a major crisis, she boldly stepped forward to confront and defeat the evil man Haman. Esther’s story illustrates how a woman’s wisdom, patience, courage, and availability can bring hope to many. She took the opportunity to stand in the gap to save her people from certain death, and she met the challenge. With the backing of a praying community of supporters, she accepted a difficult role and put her life on the line to save the Jews from genocide. (p. 217)

The Introduction provides details on the following: The Author, The Date and Occasion of Writing, Audience, Canonicity and Textual History, Literary Styles, Major Themes, Theological Concerns, and an Outline.

The Notes and Commentary are very detailed and very informative. We get a more in-depth picture of Esther based on the historical background that is provided. Each verse in each chapter is scrutinized, and we learn a great deal.

This is a wonderful series, strictly based on this book. I have not seen the others, but I assume they are equally high in quality. It is a wonderful complement to the library of the ‘professional Christian’ and to the layman.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Tyndale House and provided by them for review purposes.

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