But what makes the Hermeneia Commentary Series different than any other commentary series? It might be difficult to discern. A quick search for the resource on the internet reveals a publisher-created description that might leave you with more questions than answers.
So, what’s the first step in deciding whether a commentary may be right for you? Check out the authors.
WHO WROTE HERMENEIA
This series has two main editors, one over-seeing the Old Testament contributions and the other over-seeing the New Testament.
Peter Machinist – Head of the Old Testament Editorial Board
Peter completed his undergraduate program at Harvard and then went to Yale, where he finished an MPhil and PhD. He then taught at several universities—Arizona, Michigan, and Munich to name a few. Then, in 1991, he returned to Harvard to teach in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Committee on the Study of Religions, and the Harvard Divinity School.
He recently retired at the beginning of 2017, and is now the Hancock Research Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages. However, he continues to be vastly interested in the cultural, intellectual, and social history of the ancient Near East—the primary reason he led the Old Testament Editorial Board for the Hermeneia Commentary.
Helmut Koester – Head of the New Testament Editorial Board
Helmut was a German-born, American scholar who sadly passed away at the beginning of 2016. He received several large degrees from the University of Marburg, University of Geneva, and Humboldt University of Berlin. Additionally, he was an ordained minister of the Lutheran Church.
Helmut spent his life fascinated by New Testament interpretation, the history of early Christianity, and archaeology. This led him to his final career as the John H. Morison Research Professor of Divinity and Winn Research Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard.
WHY READ HERMENEIA
Based on the bios of the two authors, it’s evident that these men are fascinated with history. This commentary series isn’t going to be application-heavy or relying on tradition. Instead, these men most likely come to the Biblical text like an ancient artifact that needs de-coding. That’s why, in the publisher’s description, there is this caveat:
“The editors of Hermeneia impose no systematic-theological perspective upon the series (directly, or indirectly by selection of authors). Its authors lay bare the ancient meaning of a biblical work or pericope.”
Instead of coming to the text with tradition and theology in mind, Hermeneia looks to the historical context first, and rather strictly. Additionally, the scholars invited to write for this publication come from a variety of cultural and theological backgrounds. That’s a very purposeful decision. Hermenia doesn’t want to portray a certain theological or cultural bent.
This is typical of a more liberal and post-modern approach to hermeneutics, fitting for these authors because Harvard Divinity School holds to a more liberal school of thought.
If you’d like to learn more about the individuals who put together this commentary, head on over to their publisher’s website. That’s how I gathered research for this blog! You can really Google anyone these days.
Then, if you’re interested in seeing all the Hermeneia commentaries that we offer, check out this page of our website.