Friday, June 5, 2009

Deuteronomy by Telford Work - A Review

Many thanks to our former co-worker Eric Karloski who is currently Professor of Old Testament Studies at Life Theological Seminary, Bhubaneswar, India who took the time to write this review for us.

Although I am only two years past my formal education at the master’s level, already there is a deep hesitation in me regarding biblical scholarship. It seems so narrow. I am now teaching in north India at a seminary which is English based, so there are difficulties regarding both how and what I teach. Currently I am teaching a class on the Pentateuch and these difficulties continually arise. I need to address specific themes from the Pentateuch which are necessary for the Christian church in India. I have found that the Indian classroom needs to address application issues far more than the American classroom, and that the Indian classroom needs to address application issues far more than academic issues. Please do not take this as a sign of inferiority, but as a sign of culture. The more I thought about the differences and similarities between the Indian and American churches the more I realize how similar some aspects are. Let’s face it, the American seminary will never have the majority of influence upon the common people as much as we want to try and push for such an ideal!

This is why I want to praise Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible with more applause every time one is released! The newest volume by Telford Work (author of Ain’t to Proud to Beg: Living through the Lord’s Prayer) on Deuteronomy is a masterpiece of combining both academic and application based comments on scripture. Work’s commentary is similar in format to two commentary sets, The Church’s Bible published by Eerdmans (currently only Song of Songs, Isaiah, and I Corinthians are released) and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture by Intervarsity Press. Work’s commentary on Deuteronomy has three things which make it a far better investment than the other two series. First, it combines both academic and application based studies for each passage which are organized under four headings. These headings are Plain (literal and/or historical comments), Faith (Christological comments), Hope (eschatological comments) and Love (ecclesiological comments). Work firmly believes that the Bible is for the edification of the church so commentaries also have to be for the church. This book is a perfect commentary for any small group or advanced Bible study. He even says that if the church claims the whole Bible is inspired for and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16) then the church needs to “put up or shut up.” “It is one thing to call a book biblical, and another thing to treat it that way.” In other words, we have to take Deuteronomy to be just as important as the rest of Scripture. “This theological commentary is a recovery project” as the author says. Work believes that theology has been handed over to modern critical scholarship and the leftovers have been given to the common person who can make no sense of it all, and his commentary seeks to correct that. Second, the book is fun to read and well written! Theology should not be boring. Work makes no apologies for using “I” in his book. But he also makes several apologies (as in apologetics) to his readers who are expecting a similar commentary to all the rest. Third, the book’s price is very reasonable at $29.99.

This book will surely be worth the price, time, and effort not only to study Deuteronomy, but also begin to connect the OT books back into the life of the church!

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