Monday, June 1, 2015

2 Samuel and Colossians - Brazos Theological Commentary (Brazos Press)

The Brazos Theological Commentary series is an ongoing work by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. The books are being published in no particular order, as far as I can see, and it also seems that they will only address the 66 books from the Protestant Bible and omit what some consider Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical, i.e., Tobit, Judith, etc. That fact is a bit disappointing, but with ecumenical commentaries, it's rare people buy the whole set, and instead pick and choose volumes from people of their faith background, i.e., Catholics will buy Catholic volumes. Today, I will be reviewing the latest two releases in this series 2 Samuel and Colossians.

Fr. Robert Barron, the author of the commentary on 2 Samuel, needs no introduction. He has reached celebrity status in more than the Catholic realm. Through the use of breathtaking videos and popular culture references, he has made the Catholic faith understandable, accessible, and approachable to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. One cannot ignore the fact that he is actually a brilliant theological mind, which he puts on display in this commentary of the often forgotten Old Testament book - 2 Samuel. Fr. Barron's commentary style is not verse-by-verse, where he analyzes every word for meaning. Instead, he focuses on five overall themes found in the book of 2 Samuel and how each chapter displays the particular theme. The themes are as follows:

1. David Comes to Power
2. Priest and King
3. David and Bathsheba
4. A Sword Will Never Leave Your Home
5. Toward the Temple

While reading this commentary, I was enlightened so much on what I had misread or just glossed over in my past reading of 2 Samuel. Fr. Barron does an excellent job of explaining terminology and phraseology that would have been used for the time, and in doing so, the passages actually started to make sense. He also does a nice job of explaining difficult to understand passages. For example, I always wondered why it was such a sin for David to take a census of the people. Fr. Barron explains that it is the act of a tyrannical king looking to reassure himself of his might and power. The most interesting chapter to me was Chapter 11 where David's story completely turned around with Bathsheba. In this chapter, he explains the sin of David and the shrewdness of Bathsheba. In this chapter, I learned that I had been completely blaming David for what happened and painting Bathsheba as innocent victim. This is not the case. The only victim in all of this was Uriah who was everything David should have been.

After reading through this commentary, I have a greater understanding of the book of 2 Samuel. It is not just some dry historical text, but a deep and beautifully written work that touches on the idea of priesthood; kingship; bad fathering and bad kingship; and the noncompetitive transcendence of God. Fr. Barron explains all of this and more in a manner that is appropriately profound yet easily understood. There are Catholic references in this volume as well as patristic references (like St. John Chrysostom), but it is not just a commentary for Catholics. I honestly wish he would have worked on both 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel in this series, but I guess I will have to buy 1 Samuel and see how the style and scholarship compares to this work. If you are looking for an excellent commentary on 2 Samuel, this one is 5 stars!

Colossians is one of St. Paul's shortest Epistles, and it was also written while he was in prison. The general consensus is that he was writing to correct errors found among the converts in the church of Colossae, such as false forms of worship, avoiding certain foods, and mortification of the flesh. Seitz, the commentator argues otherwise. When I received this commentary on Colossians, I was expecting a roughly 100 page book. The book was in fact 200+ pages, and it left me wondering, "How can you write that much on a four chapter book?" For starters, this is a verse-by-verse commentary, and anytime you analyze every verse in a Biblical book, you give yourself room for plenty of words. There are also many excursuses or narrative digressions sprinkled throughout the book. Seitz divides Colossians into the following sections:

1:1-2 Formal Introduction and Salutations
1:3-8 Paul and Associates Give Thanks
1:9-14 Our Prayers for You and Our Common Destiny in Christ
1:15-20 Hymn to Christ from His Scriptures
1:21-29 Christ's Reconciliation and Paul's Vocation
2:1-7 Striving Mightily for You
2:8-23 The So-Called Conflict at Collosae
3:1-17 Putting on the New Life in Christ
3:18-4:1 In Deed
4:2-18 Goodbye

There were two features of this commentary that I found interesting. The first is that Seitz read Colossians in the context of all of St. Paul's Epistles and the entire Canon of Scripture. The other part I found interesting was that Seitz ignored the Colossians heresy and focused instead on this being a shift from Paul the missionary apostle to Paul the letter-writing apostle. The former I greatly appreciated, and the latter I found disappointing. To completely ignore the heresy seems imprudent. This wasn't the best commentary I have read on Colossians, nor was it the best commentary in Brazos' series. If you are looking for a more traditional commentary, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a different perspective on this Biblical book to compare with other commentaries, pick it up. 3.5 stars.

These books were provided to me for free by Brazos Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found these reviews helpful, please click here and/or here and hit Yes!