Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 5:2 (Spring 1988) p. 80
Books By The Faculty
Exodus, Word Biblical Commentary, by John I Durham. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987. 501 pp. $25.95.
A commentary can be designed to do many things. At its best it will include a fresh translation of the text under study, provide bibliographic sources for those wishing to do further research, engage in an ongoing discussion with contemporary scholarship, and seek to interpret the text within the theological matrix in which it is found. On these and other counts, Durham’s work on Exodus must be judged as a resounding success.
One of the greatest strengths of this volume is the translation of the Masoretic Text. Durham’s knowledge of and sensitivity to the Hebrew language is evident throughout the work. Indeed, Durham himself considered the translation of the text as his “... primary and central assignment” (p. xxix). His translation of the text and the accompanying critical notes alone are worth the price of the book. While a working knowledge of Hebrew (and Greek) is necessary to appreciate fully Druham’s contribution, any informed student of the Bible can benefit from this commentary. Anyone seeking to work directly with the Hebrew text of Exodus would especially be advised to consult Durham’s work.
A second strong feature of the book is its bibliographic entries. Standing at the beginning of each section, the bibliographies contain a wide assortment of secondary material, primarily in English and German. Not only do these sources indicate the wide breadth of the research by the author, they also enable a student at a glance to acquire a feel for the publications available for his or her own study. While Durham does not claim that the bibliographies are exhaustive, they do provide a wealth of material.
For those readers who are most interested in the teaching values in Exodus, or in the “theology” of the book, Durham has also provided helpful insights. In fact, a major strength of the book is the seriousness with which the author takes the final form of the present text, which places his work in line with the recent emphasis on canonical approaches to biblical interpretation (cf. B. Childs). Durham is well aware that many traditions flow together in Exodus, but he emphasizes the unity that the redactor(s)/compiler(s) made of the sources available to him (them). Thus he avoids the trap of many earlier commentators who sought to divide the whole into its constituent parts (particularly J, E, P). This approach also enables Durham to sidestep the thorny historical issues raised by the book and concentrate instead upon the theological unity which he believes was imposed upon the bits and pieces of the traditions at the disposal of the compiler(s). For Durham, the center of this theological ...
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