Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 17:1 (Fall 1999) p. 69
The Book of Ecclesiastes, by Tremper Longman III, in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, edited by Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998. Pp. xvi + 306.
To paraphrase one of the final statements of Ecclesiastes, “The writing of commentaries is endless, and excessive devotion to them is wearying to the body.” However, the volumes of The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, as they are published, are welcome additions and make helpful contributions to every student of the Old Testament. Longman’s commentary on Ecclesiastes is a stellar example of the careful work of an outstanding scholar brought to bear on every word of the text of a biblical book.
Tremper Longman’s work is always worth reading. Longman is a relatively young scholar who has facility in the cognate languages of the ancient Near East and is an astute literary critic (see his Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation). He is also an evangelical.
The Book of Ecclesiastes has several strengths. First, it is a commentary on every verse of the text of Ecclesiastes, based on Longman’s fresh translation from the Hebrew. The commentator also deals with textual variants, the treatment of which supplies readers with helpful information on which to base interpretive decisions. However, he is appropriately cautious in accepting any emendation to the Masoretic Text. He does not argue for a specific date for the writing of Ecclesiastes, but he does not believe the book is Solomonic.
This is not a commentary for those who are looking for a quick sermon outline or an illustration for Sunday’s sermon. However, every expositor who preaches on a text in Ecclesiastes should carefully work his way through the translation and interpretation of every word. Before one preaches on what the text means (theology), or what the text means to me (application), one must determine what the text says, and it is at this point that Longman’s commentary is most helpful. The reader of his work is exposed not only to Longman’s ideas, but to the translations and interpretations of scholars all the way from the Targums, through Gregory Thaumaturgos and the church fathers, through Jerome and the Middle Ages, to James Crenshaw and others in the modern era. One of the greatest strengths of this commentary is the breadth of Longman’s references to the diverse literature on Ecclesiastes.
Longman’s greatest contribution to the study of Ecclesiastes is his unique perspective on the authorship of the book. Longman’s doctoral dissertation was
FM 17:1 (Fall 1999) p. 70
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