Review: Deuteronomy (AOTC)

960022Gordon McConville is Professor of Old Testament Theology at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, England. McConville received his Ph.D. from Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and has taught at Trinity College and Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford. McConville is the author of several books, including, Exploring the Old Testament: The Prophets, God and Earthly Power: An Old Testament Political Theology, and Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity. Still, McConville is arguably most well-known for his longtime dedication to the book of Deuteronomy and his subsequent commentary in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary is a moderately sized volume packed with the fruit of decades of devotion. McConville starts with a generous introduction, addressing the standard introductory matters, such as the name of the book, its place in the canon, the distinctive features and interpretations of Deuteronomy, its composition, etc. McConville is critical of the modern scholarly consensus concerning the authorship of Deuteronomy, but makes no defense for traditional Mosaic authorship. McConville is generally viewed as a conservative evangelical scholar, but occasionally (as some conclude concerning the authorship of Deuteronomy) lends a more moderately conservative voice to the discussion (another example of such “moderatism” could be identified in McConville’s dating of Deuteronomy). The introduction is appropriate for the volume and will better position readers for the exploration ahead.

The commentary proper is somewhat technical and dense, and less academic readers may find it to be more complicated than other, similar commentaries on the market. McConville provides a translation of the Hebrew text, notes on various aspects of the text and translation, offers form and structural observations, a verse-by-verse commentary, and explanation. The translation notes are meticulous and those who appreciate the work of translators will find them extremely useful. McConville emphasizes the theology of Deuteronomy and keeps the concept of covenant as the regulating principal of the book. Additionally, McConville does an exceptional job establishing the importance of Deuteronomy for understanding the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible—especially as it relates to the prophetic books. McConville is both clear and engaging, and the keen reader will stand in amazement at his unusual familiarity with nearly every aspect of the book.

I found McConville’s detailed style to be refreshing and reassuring. Refreshing in that it is clear that McConville is deeply devoted and encouraged by Deuteronomy, and finds great satisfaction (spiritually and academically) therein. It’s true that McConville is not the easiest to read. But, the dividends for those who muscle through are worth every re-read. Reassuring in that it is evident that McConville has interacted and engaged with nearly everything on the market by way of the book of Deuteronomy (at least through publication in 2002), and his work has subsequently become formative for new commentaries following in his footsteps. This alone should make McConville closely situated at the top of any student, pastor, or teacher’s commentary list on Deuteronomy. In my opinion, pair McConville with Daniel I. Block (NIVAC) and you will be more than equipped to teach or preach through this imperative book of the Hebrew Bible.

Deuteronomy: Apollos Old Testament Commentary by J. G. McConville is detailed and seasoned with careful exegesis and application. Those preparing to teach or preach through Deuteronomy should see this volume as an easy choice to help them make much of this important book. It will occupy a place somewhere in the top-three commentaries on Deuteronomy for the foreseeable future, and for that reason it should strongly recommended!

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