March 1, 2015
This month I passed a landmark, one admittedly I set for myself, but substantial non-the-less: I completed my commentary on Romans. Some 170,000 words of an effort to explain the message God committed to Paul and the latter communicated by way of a letter to the church in Rome.
I was especially taken by a number themes which combine, I think, to form the backbone of the letter.
First, the apostle's repeated juxtaposition of God's righteousness with man's; the former granted by grace and the latter sought through human effort; the former valid, compelling and steadfast, the latter illusionary and fleeting.
Second, Paul's theology of glory - lost through sin, promised by grace, secured by sacrifice and realized by the Spirit. In many ways, glory represents the whole of salvation: God's image in man, distorted and renewed, with man sharing in God's glory.
Third, Pauls' repeated insistence that the Gospel was ever meant for the salvation of individuals from all nations, and that the church must reflect that universality in its constitution, hope and conduct.
Fourth, Paul's very close connection between the experience of salvation and the longing expectation of sanctification, leading to a conscious striving.
Fifth, the consistent distinction Paul implies and which obviously informed his think about the law between the civil and ceremonial aspects and the moral, the form of no avail, the latter the form of holy aspirations created by the Spirit in the heart of those justified.
Sixth, the very careful manner in which Paul exegetes the Old Testament, where he exegetes it, and the freedom with which he uses Old Testament language. Clearly, Paul had thought long and hard about the message of the Old Testament. He has thoroughly imbibed its theology and THAT was the substance of his Olf Testament references, rather than typology or other more fanciful interpretational methods.
Seventh, of course, with so many others before me, Paul's emphasis on and confidence in grace.
Working on Romans has been a feast of delights. In many ways, I am sorry to have completed this project while, of course, excited about moving on to others.
I also received editorial comments on my translation of Matthew, have reviewed those and benefited from many of them. It was encouraging to note that there were no major issues raised. My linguistic editor basically knows nothing of the New testament beyond the modern Hebrew translation created by the United Bible Societies -- a faulty translation on a number of important accounts. A good number of the comments offered were the product of that translation. But I had also lowered the language level more than is necessary, avoiding common conjugations and certain terminology that, once adopted, rendered my translation far more readable.
One issue on which I am sure we will yet have extended discussion has to do with passages in which people, including our Lord, are speaking. There are times when the language is plebeian, spoken rather than literary. The practice commonly is to lift the terminology to a higher literary level, especially when Christ is quoted. Matthew did not choose to do so and, I contend, neither should we. Our task is to translated, not to edit.
I have now turned to work on commentaries on Obadiah and on Nahum. Introductory to Obadiah, I am writing a review of the history of Edomite-Israelite relations, and a history of the destructions of Jerusalem in biblical times. These two are necessary in order to try and identify the period in which Obadiah prophesied as well as -- more importantly -- the meaning of some of the prophet's statements.
Obviously, the Introduction will be longer than the book it serves to introduce...
I hope to complete these two projects prior to my departure for the USA in June, and to translate and modify my commentary on Colossians so as to serve the needs of an Israeli readership. Colossians is one of the very few works I wrote in English rather than translating them from Hebrew.
The English version is due to be published in May of this year by Crossbooks. HaGefen is presently editing my Jonah and Micah (in Hebrew) while awaiting my Obadiah. The first and the last of these three are to be published in one volume. Micah will be published separately.
Toward the end of April or the beginning of May we hope to move to our new, downsized residence.