Friday, 23 August 2013
Esther and Daniel by Wells and Sumner
Brazos Theological Commentary on the BIble
Samuel Wells & George Sumner
Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2013.
Hbk, £19.99/ $32.99, 256pp.
This volume is a welcome addition to the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series. This series lies somewhere between exegesis and exposition. As the title suggests the theological issues are to the fore and this provides a fresh approach.
Samuel Wells, rector of St Martins-in-the-Field, London, takes a narrative view of Esther. Some commentaries concentrate on the leaves of a tree, Wells focuses on the forest. This is no atomistic approach. In his opening chapter he uses the terms farce, burlesques-style, a study in improvisation to describe it. This is no dry and dusty tome. He brilliantly opens up Esther and shows the book to be both far fetched and existentially urgent.
Wells is author of Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics and he also sees elements of improvisation within Esther. Intriguingly, he sees the key question of Esther as "How to navigate the dangerous waters of exile, between the two extremes of spineless assimilation and fruitless resistance?"
George Sumner is professor of World Mission at Wycliffe College, Toronto, and so inevitably and intriguingly the missional elements of Daniel are highlighted. As he writes in the introduction: "There is no missiology without Christology (and vice versa), even as there is no Christology without staurology." He, as does Wells, provides a Christological perspective on the text. He sees Daniel as a single coherent work - despite its redactional history. He takes a "circulatory system" approach, where a major artery runs directly from Daniel to Revelation and he rightly interprets the two books in relation.
Sumner does not suffer from chronological snobbery and he freely uses Calvin, Jerome, Melanchthon and others to help make sense of the text.
There is a subject index and a useful scripture index.
Of the making of commentaries there seems so end. So what fresh insights does this volume offer? The strength is that Wells provides a drama-tic setting to Esther and Sumner brings missional insights to the understanding of dabble. Both authors take seriously the Christological and canonical settings of the books. The weakness is that there is no common format. But then, perhaps that is a strength - each author is free to do what they would like and thus play to their strengths.
This series is certainly one worth considering when buying a new commentary.