J. Goldingay and P.J. Scalise, Minor Prophets II

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Goldingay, John and Pamela J. Scalise, Minor Prophets II (NIBCOT; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2009). Pp. xiv+392. Paperback. US$19.99. ISBN 9781842276655.

John Goldingay and Pamela J. Scalise have written a helpful, albeit partial commentary on the Minor Prophets which is geared towards, as far as I can gather, the pastor and/or college level student. I say this because the discussions within this volume tend to be unassuming, yet there is enough use made of Hebrew to expect some familiarity with the language on the part of the reader. Minor Prophets II is the second and final work on the Minor Prophets in the New International Biblical Commentary series, covering Nahum-Malachi (the first volume, written by the late Elizabeth Achtemeier, covered Hosea through Micah). The work is divided into two major sections, Nahum-Zephaniah and Haggai-Malachi, each beginning with a general introduction by Goldingay. In addition to these general introductions, a more specific introduction also accompanies each book, Goldingay commentating on Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai, and Scalise treating Zechariah and Malachi.

The contribution of the New International Biblical Commentary, and thus by extension this commentary, is to engage in what the editors (Robert L. Hubbard Jr. and Robert K. Johnston) call “believing criticism.” To use the editors' words, believing criticism does not “follow a precritical approach that interprets the text without reference to recent scholarly conversations” (p. xi), nor pursues “an anticritical approach whose preoccupation is to defend the Bible against its detractors” (p. xii), but rather seeks an approach which “marries probing, reflective interpretation of the text to loyal biblical devotion and warm Christian affection… [exhibiting] a firm commitment to modern scholarship with a similar commitment to the Bible's full authority for Christians” (p. xii).

Goldingay's part is well written, easy to understand, and full of historical insight which is often cross-referenced with Jewish history elsewhere in the canonical texts of the Old Testament. Each book is thus treated in sequence as a discrete witness in its own right, making referential associations when necessary. Naturally, however, such an approach rejects more recent attempts at viewing the Minor Prophets as a single unified work, in which the proper context of each witness is not necessarily its historical context, but its location in the book of the Twelve (notwithstanding the variety of orders in the ancient witnesses). Thus, theological discussion treating themes throughout the Twelve, book-to-book linkage, redactional intentionality, etc., is sparse. For example, Jonah has little to no bearing on reading Nahum, and interpretation of Haggai is unaffected by Zechariah (contra, for example, the Meyers schema).[1] That Haggai and Zechariah are treated by different authors belies any assertion to the contrary (again, Goldingay treating Haggai and Scalise treating Zechariah). I would not go so far as to say that Goldingay does not acknowledge the suitability of canonical placement, however. In his discussion of Zephaniah, for example, he acknowledges the prophet likely preceded Nahum and Habakkuk chronologically, yet that in light of the subject matter of Zephaniah's surrounding books in the MT, the book is nonetheless appropriately situated (p. 93). One other point to highlight is Goldingay's ability to engage higher criticism—which is not surprising for this commentary series since a “believing criticism” approach seeks to do as much. Redactional and kindred issues are often raised, but when a consensus is lacking, Goldingay finds a way to circumnavigate the discussion in order to move forward in interpretation of the text.

As for Scalise's section, she too like Goldingay is attuned to the historical matters at hand. Although her treatment of the background of Zechariah and Malachi is short, she wisely selects subject matter that is most relevant for interpretation. I also received the impression that she appears to be more willing than Goldingay to embrace and interact with recent holistic theories on the Twelve. For example, although Zech 9–14 may consist of multiple oracles written by different authors over varying points in time, it is nonetheless intended to be read after Zech 1–8 in light of its canonical placement. The works of Rex Mason and Brevard Childs are called upon here which successfully show the coherence and integrity of all fourteen chapters of Zechariah (pp. 183–84). Noteworthy too is Scalise's acknowledgement of the function Malachi plays in its position as the last book within not only the Book of the Twelve but also the entire Prophets section of the Tanak, as well as the last book of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible—a juxtaposition which, at least from the New Testament's perspective, provides a nice transition to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the promised Elijah (p. 317). However, concerning the appearance of the משא in Mal 1:1, which also occurs in Zech 9:1 and 12:1, no interpretive or theological significance is found. Finally, Scalise's view on the messianic conundrum in Zech 3 is that the forthcoming messianic figure is not Zerubbabel. She avers Zech 3:8–10 in fact suggests that, “The audience of the book knows that messianic hopes had not been fulfilled in Zerubbabel” (p. 221). The implication then is that some future figure is still in view. Discussion here is surprisingly thin, but there are thorough treatments of the varying views on this issue available elsewhere. However, brief mention of interpretive problems here along with bibliographic suggestions for further research would have been helpful, lest an amateur read this commentary without grasping an awareness of the complexities at hand.

In short, Goldingay and Scalise's work, although not ideally divided—I would much rather see Haggai-Malachi treated by one author—ultimately is a helpful work for those needing a concise introduction to the books of Nahum-Malachi. Its background discussions are insightful, and it is not afraid to engage and appropriate critical scholarship. Finally, I would also be remiss to not mention (especially of Goldingay) the fine grasp the authors have on Hebrew poetry and the rhetoric of the prophets, which too will prove to be helpful. Still, those seeking advanced study and an exhaustive treatment of the issues should look elsewhere.

Robert C. Kashow, Dallas Theological Seminary

[1] Carol Meyers and Eric Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1–8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AncB, 25B; Garden City: Doubleday, 1987). reference