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Jonah (SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible) Hardcover – 31 Oct 2008
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From the Inside Flap
Praise for previous volumes in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible"The significance of these commentaries and the series [they] inaugurate [is] manifold, because they promise not only to serve as a means for sifting the wheat and chaff of much recently accumulated hermeneutical theory but also to offer the commentary a place at the theological table it has had difficulty attaining in modernism. . . . [Acts] is a tour de force of the history of doctrine, as [Jaroslav] Pelikan draws in his lifetime to remark upon a vast panoply of subjects."--Steven J. Koskie, Journal of Theological Interpretation
"[In Matthew, Stanley Hauerwas] continually draws Matthean motifs together with similar features in the rest of the Bible and shows where subsequent generations found the basis for their doctrinal reasoning. . . . This commentary serves readers admirably by connecting the points that lie between the first and twenty-first centuries and by reminding readers that Matthew's Gospel has played a deep, broad role in centuries of theological reflection."--A. K. M. Adam, Christian Century "[Peter] Leithart has done an admirable job [in 1 & 2 Kings]. . . . He demonstrates a breadth of reading and knowledge of theological matters and brings that knowledge to bear upon the book of Kings. . . . For the biblical scholar, this volume is a fitting reminder that the text should be read holistically and theologically. . . . For the pastor, Leithart's commentary will provide a succinct summary of each chapter or section that is most helpful in preaching through the book. For the theologian, Leithart has shown how even the book of Kings makes weighty theological statements based upon a text-imminent, Christian reading of the book. Moreover, for all, it is a delightful read."--Randall L. McKinion, Review of Biblical Literature "[Acts] serves as a rich storehouse of information on historical theology, providing [Jaroslav Pelikan] with the opportunity to expound on the intersections of Acts with the major teachings of the church. . . . The book will be of great value to all who are interested in the reception history of Acts and in theological interpretation of biblical texts."--Shelly Matthews, Catholic Biblical Quarterly "What's nice to see is that the individual commentators have been allowed to retain their own voices in this series; [Stanley] Hauerwas is as delightfully irascible and hard-hitting as ever. . . . Hauerwas attends to the Gospel chapter by chapter, teasing out theological themes while resisting the temptation to create a systematic Christology. He draws on theologians like Barth, Augustine, Origen and especially Bonhoeffer, whom he quotes and paraphrases often, as well as New Testament scholars and eclectic writers like Wendell Berry. Insightful and provocative, Hauerwas adds a valuable theological perspective to the Gospel of Matthew."--Publishers Weekly --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
From the Back Cover
The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible enlists leading theologians to read and interpret scripture creedally for the twenty-first century, just as the church fathers, the Reformers, and other orthodox Christians did for their times and places. Jonah is the sixth volume in the series. This commentary, like each in the series, is designed to serve the church--through aid in preaching, teaching, study groups, and so forth--and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible."Phil Cary has given us a sparkling commentary on Jonah, one that in its combination of literary and theological acumen is true not only to the aims of the Brazos Theological Commentary series but also to the spirit of Jonah itself."--R. Kendall Soulen, Wesley Theological Seminary Praise for previous volumes in the series "The comments that [Jaroslav] Pelikan has to offer on each point [in Acts] are truly valuable, insightful, and clearly articulated, a masterful treatment from a true master of his discipline. . . . [The series editors] have invited a diverse range of theologians and historians of theology to this project: We await with anticipation the wide range of offerings that are sure to emerge."--John Behr, Pro Ecclesia "[Stanley Hauerwas's] considerations that connect Matthew to a contemporary audience are well-crafted, insightful, and cannot be dismissed easily. All will appreciate the conviction, clarity, and profundity with which he writes. . . . While most commentaries strive to connect contemporary readers to the first century, Hauerwas also gives heed to Matthew's vast interpretive history, a noteworthy achievement. . . . Anyone wishing to become acquainted with theological exegesis should consider this volume. Hauerwas offers a fresh perspective on Matthew that is aberrantly insightful, colorful, compelling, and powerful. Well-written, fast-paced, and accessible to laity, Hauerwas delivers thoughtful and thought-provoking conversation."--Thomas Seat, Princeton Theological Review General editor: R. R. Reno (Creighton University)
Series editors: Robert W. Jenson (Center of Theological Inquiry)
Robert Louis Wilken (University of Virginia)
Ephraim Radner (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto)
Michael Root (Catholic University of America)
George Sumner (Wycliffe College, University of Toronto) --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre. See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
the Christian Scriptures and you want to investigate the profound connections
between the two in the Book of Jonah, you must read this book!
If you want to better understand how all of us can be reconciled to God,
then this commentary is the book to read.
It is the most enjoyable and revealing book about God's purposes that I have
ever read. Phillip Cary shines a clear light on this special story. Thank you!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
How could there be even a question.
Not even through with this commentary and I am captivated by the many insights. Maybe because I see many of the same things in Jonah, I am geared to like it. But it is the way that Phillip Cary puts things, expresses the flow of the Text, it makes it worth the price of the book all by itself. Clear, precise, in-depth, but accessible at any level. I have stolen many a "Carian" quote to communicate (from the pulpit) this delightful book of Jonah.
Quite frankly, even if I encounter some bad theology, at this point the commentary has been soooo valuable, that I would just have to excuse it. :)
Oh, of course, I would have to point out the fallacy or conundrum, but the book would still be worth the purchase price and then some. Which tells you that I am not even done with the book and have been so impressed (compared to so many others), that I had to come give it 5 stars. Glad to see 7 of us are in like accord!
I have only read one other Brazos Series Commentary. I was sorely disappointed. This Brazos Commentary on Jonah is the model they need to duplicate. I have had 20 years of higher education teaching experience, this commentary is scholarly but VERY approachable. I have now had a few years in pastoral ministries, and as a Pastor, this is a gold mine.
Quite frankly, the few things that can be added to this commentary are best served by journal articles and special studies. No, this book is the real deal. It is informative, indightful, well thought out using a minimum of words to communicate...this book could have easily mushroom to twice the size...but not a word was wasted. Did I learn anything new? Yes! Surprisingly. After 20 years of repeated study and reading multiple commentaries, Cary is a gifted exegete. Bit frankly, it is that you find the best insights now all in one book that makes this stand out.
Yes, there are a few spots that I think Cary claims too much. But, these are few. The whole of the commentary is without equal.
I think you will not blush even if you pay list price (I did, since I wanted it in Logos), but it is an absolute steal for Amazon Kindle. This is one of the MUST READS if you are going to preach through JONAH... and you SHOULD preach through JONAH!!!!! :) Enjoy.
Cary approaches Jonah with both literary and theological sensitivity, pointing out relevant storytelling and rhetorical features, bringing the rest of the Christian canon into conversation with the text, and reflecting on how the book of Jonah might have challenged those who first encountered it. He also explores ways in which Jonah can continue to challenge Christian readers today.
Unfortunately, some studies of Jonah get tangled up in questions of historicity to the degree that the heart of the story—the expansive depth of God’s patience and mercy—can be missed. While some read Jonah as a historical narrative, there are a number of reasons for thinking that this is a misunderstanding of Jonah’s genre. Regardless of one’s position on the historicity of Jonah, though, most readers can hopefully agree that the main focus of the story is on the nature of God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Getting Sidetracked from Nineveh
Nineveh is spoken of in the past tense in Jonah 3:3, and the tone of the narrative as a whole is consistently larger-than-life (the wind is a “great wind,” the storm is a “mighty storm,” Nineveh is called “that great city” etc.) (pp.46, 107). The story’s structure also drives towards the open-ended, audience-oriented question at the end of the narrative, rather than focusing on what happens in the rest of Jonah’s life. Because of literary and rhetorical features like these (along with others), many Old Testament scholars consider Jonah to be an extended parable of sorts, written in the aftermath of the Babylonian exile. Hence, R.W.L. Moberly describes the book as “somewhat like the story of Job: an exploration and portrayal of moral and theological issues in memorable narrative rather than abstract form” (2013, p.187). A post-exilic dating of Jonah is actually pretty important for Cary’s interpretative approach:
To turn this story into a historical account of the prophet being sent to a city that is not yet the capital of Assyria would disrupt the parallel on which the whole book is based… what the book of Jonah aims to get us thinking about is the situation faced by the Judeans with respect to Babylon, the capital of the empire that has swallowed up Judah, as it is illuminated by the situation of Jonah with respect to Nineveh, the capital of the empire that swallowed up Israel. (p.36)
Literary Elements in Jonah
While his judgments about genre and dating are fairly conventional, Cary’s “Israelogical” interpretative approach to the figure of Jonah struck me as a bit more speculative, though interesting to be sure. By Israelogical, Cary means understanding Jonah to function in the narrative as a representative symbol and image for the people of God. He argues that “we cannot see how Jonah represents Christ, the church, and Christians without seeing how he represents Israel and Judah” (p.19). This allegorical kind of approach leads Cary to, for instance, interpret Jonah’s being swallowed up by the great fish in the stormy sea as an image of the Judeans being swept off into exile by the Babylonians:
Jonah swallowed up by a sea monster is an image of the Jewish people in exile… singing the songs of Zion even in the belly of the beast… To meditate on Jonah swallowed up in the depths is therefore to think of the Jewish people alive in exile.” (p.77)
I’m intrigued by Cary’s argument, especially since this approach sheds potential light on how the book of Jonah may have addressed the communal concerns of its original readers and hearers. However, it’s an interpretive angle that I haven’t come across very often before—at least in relation to Jonah—so I (and possibly other readers) would have benefited from more extended engagement with the Jewish and Christian history of interpretation in order to place this reading in wider context.
At various places throughout the commentary, Cary brings up the surprisingly humorous and ironic nature of Jonah. Structurally, the book is divided into two main halves, and he observes that in both of them, “Jonah is a blessing to the Gentiles despite himself” (p.17). In 4:2, Jonah quotes Israel’s fundamental conviction that God is gracious and merciful, but he brings it up, not in praise, but as a complaint regarding what elsewhere is cherished as a beloved confession of Israel. Another ironic feature of Jonah’s story worth bringing up is the ambiguity of the final word in the Jonah’s declaration, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4, NRSV). Roughly speaking, it means to overthrow or overturn, but Cary tells readers, “To overturn can mean not only to overthrow and destroy but also to turn over, turn around… [and] The turning can be for bettor or for worse” (p.109). Looking back in light of how the story turned out, it may be that God ironically gave Jonah more hopeful news than the prophet ever realized.
The Parable of the Gourd
Cary’s treatment of God’s extended conversation with Jonah in chapter 4 is another thing that makes his commentary notable. At one level, the significance of this episode in the narrative seems fairly obvious. Jonah is angry about God’s mercy toward the people of Nineveh, and God calls Jonah out on the absurdity of having deeper pity for a plant than a sprawling city filled with people. True as that reading is, Cary interprets this final section as being primarily concerned with the situation facing the Judeans returning from exile. Of course, this interpretive strategy is in line with his general approach to the figure of Jonah.
After making his (brief) announcement in the city of Nineveh, Jonah settles himself outside of the city, makes for himself a booth,, and waits to see “what will become of the city” (4:5, NRSV). God produces a plant/gourd that provides shade and protection over Jonah while he waits. There is disagreement over how to best translate the Hebrew word for this plant, but Cary helpfully observes that the point isn’t to determine the exact species and discover what the fruit it produces: “the story wants to focus our attention instead on how it grows and how it protects Jonah” (p.143). In a number of biblical passages, plants (and their shade and protection) are used as images of salvation and of protection from enemies (p.143). Isaiah, for example, speaks of a shoot that unexpectedly sprouts up from the stump of Jesse (11:1). Cary suggests, “There is reason to think that Jonah’s gourd also represents the line of David, a matter of no small concern to the original readers of this book” (p.143). If the gourd represents the messianic line of David, then it is no surprise that Jonah takes great joy in it. However, the gourd eventually withers:
After being rescued from a kind of national death in their Babylonian captivity, which was like being brought up from the depths of Sheol… postexilic Jews had to face a yet more serious threat to their own existence: their anger, shame, and despair over the loss of the messianic line. The parable of the gourd and the book of Jonah as a whole is the LORD dealing with precisely this issue. (p.154)
Jonah has pity on the gourd, wishing for it to live and not die. God asks Jonah why he shouldn’t feel the same way about Nineveh, and if we take up Cary’s line of reasoning, the book as a whole asks why the returning Judeans shouldn’t feel that way about the Gentiles, including those living in Babylon. Looking at Jonah’s situation retrospectively, from the hermeneutical perspective of the cross and resurrection, Cary writes:
[U]nbeknownst to Jonah, God’s pity for the gourd goes deeper than Jonah’s. Through the lineage of Zerubbabel, he offers up his only begotten Son to become a son of the night and to perish as a son of the night, and then he gives life to the dead, bringing him up from a place deeper in the darkness of Sheol and nonbeing than even Jonah knew. The concluding question of the book of Jonah implicitly connects this deep and hidden divine pity, which is the great mystery of the parable of the gourd, to the overt pity for the Gentiles that Jonah finds to be such a great evil. (p.157)
Exploring Jonah alongside Cary means discovering that, when read in canonical context, Jonah’s mercy for the gourd turned out to be more closely connected to God’s mercy for the Gentiles than Jonah, or anyone else, could have ever guessed.
Cary’s commentary is a thought-provoking and happily interesting volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series. He brings the story of Jonah to life and gives readers much to contemplate as they work their way through it. Though he makes use of historical-critical scholarship, he also addresses the more existential and theological questions raised by the text. Cary’s commentary also gives readers a fruitful example of what it looks like to read Scripture with a developed biblical and theological imagination. Lastly, his work gives evidence that those who consider Jonah to be an extended parable still have a deep and abiding love for Scripture.
While I have some reservations about Cary’s rather allegorical interpretive tendencies, I’m intrigued by them, and his Israelogical reading is quite interesting. In the end, this is the second volume in this commentary series that I’ve read (the other one was on Colossians), and both have given me illuminating conversation partners in the reading of Scripture. My appreciation for them continues to grow, and I think it’s safe to say that Cary’s commentary on Jonah won’t be the last one I enjoy.
Other Works Cited
Moberly, R.W.L. Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.