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The First Testament
In The First Testament, Goldingay tries to defamiliarize the Old Testament. He uses the accurate transliteration of Hebrew names like Iyyob (Job) and Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) and strives to follow the Hebrew word by word. He substitutes “Pact chest” for Ark of the Covenant and “dwelling” for tabernacle to help readers understand their meanings. Yet he rejects traditional words such as “wisdom” and “woe” for odd translations like “Smartness calls, doesn’t she?” (Proverbs 8:1) and “Hey, people who are smart in their eyes” (Isaiah 5:21). Goldingay doesn’t remove ambiguity or Anglicize syntax. His renderings can freshen the text—or make it alien.
“God’s purposes are broader than simply saving sinners,” says Wilson, an Australian who teaches Old Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne. Proverbs shows what a wise individual and godly community should look like. Free of jargon, approachable for the non-Hebrew speaker, and pointedly accurate, this commentary clarifies the text without a single superfluous word. It summarizes the main point of each paragraph and section of the book, sets that point in the book’s (and the Bible’s) broader context, and then gives a paragraph or so on the meaning. Readers of Proverbs will find it refreshing.
The New Testament: A Translation
David Bentley Hart
Hart’s translation of the New Testament sometimes seems to mistake archaism for accuracy. Phrases like “persons of aberrant conduct” (2 Peter 2:18) and “labile souls” (2 Peter 2:14) and bombastic footnotes pushing universalism dot the pages. Its stated goal is to translate without two millennia of theological interpretation in the background, but Hart’s own theological predilections are obvious (e.g., KJV’s “justified by faith” in Romans 5:1 becomes, for Hart, “vindicated by faithfulness”). Still, it’s largely an accurate translation, and Hart doesn’t pretend that the Bible is a product of the 21st century.
1 & 2 Peter: Feed My Sheep
VanDoodewaard (“Dr. Dood” to his students), a church history professor, delivers a compelling commentary on the two epistles of Peter. His prose is dry, but his heart is warm toward Christ and the Word, and he wants readers to love Christ. “Consider how you can grow in serving Him as a member of His holy priesthood,” he implores Christians. “What kind of spiritual sacrifices can you offer up?” This book is clearly one of Dr. Dood’s sacrifices, a meaty offering to his Savior on which God’s people can feast.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy (William Morrow, 2018), a prequel to the Anne books, imagines a young Marilla Cuthbert and explains why she didn’t marry and have children. McCoy portrays Marilla as plucky and fun as she lives with her parents and brother Matthew in Avonlea—but when she’s 13, her mother dies in childbirth and her father sinks into grief. Marilla and Matthew have to shoulder more of the responsibilities for the farm. A subplot involves slavery and the Underground Railroad. The book may appeal more to adults than children.
Douglas Wilson’s Why Children Matter (Canon Press, 2018) is actually a book on child-rearing. Here are two useful takeaways. One, “Love God, love what you are doing, and love the people God gave you to do it with.” That’s worth thinking about. And two, “Remember that God gave Adam and Eve a perfect garden: there was a world full of yes, and there was only one no.” —Susan Olasky