Friday, January 15, 2010

Uncle Ben's Book Blog: Calvin on Habakkuk and Zephaniah

This is just to note that I have also read these two commentaries this week. As before, I highly recommend Calvin's commentaries for sequential reading. According to Richard Muller, Calvin;s commentary work was more influential in the 17th century than were the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Today, of course, it is the other way around, even in conservative Reformed circles. Certainly most Biblical scholars know of Calvin's commentaries through citations or particularly notorious quotes by other commentators. There's little evidence that today's biblical scholars, even evangelicals, actually spend any time reading Calvin's commentaries, which is to their shame.

You can see why the 17th century scholars would have been attracted to Calvin. He's clear and concise, covering Habakkuk in about 180 pp, and Zephaniah in about 130 pp. Compare that to 416 pp in the Anchor Bible Commentary on Habakkuk. He's attentive not only to issues of language and history, but to theology as well. He has, as might be expected, a fine discussion of Hab 2:4 and whether it is faith or faithfulness that is required of the just. He's also sensitive to the NT use of the prophetic material. As with the Micah and Nahum commentaries his primary concerns are ecclesiological and Christological.

For all these reasons, he ought to be read by today's interpreters, and it is to our shame that he often is known in our circles more by reputation than familiarity.

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