The Bible stands in a category of its own among world literature. How you view the Bible, however, depends on what spectacles you are wearing. Like statistics, the Bible can be used to prove almost anything. As a result Bible commentaries are notorious for giving the author's particular angle on the Bible as if it is the only viewpoint. In the case of The Oxford Bible Commentary the angle is objectively academic. John Muddiman and John Barton are the pair of Oxford dons who have put together the latest weighty book of Biblical scholarship. Happily, they are aware of the limitations of academic comment and don't pretend the book is more than it is.
Contributing scholars are mostly British and American and most of them come from a mainstream Protestant background. The articles are therefore polished, precise and professionally pedantic. No one can fault the meticulous scholarship and wealth of detailed content. That's just what you want from a hefty Bible commentary. On the other hand, what can strike you when dipping into this tome is how slippery Biblical scholarship has become. At the turn of the last century Biblical criticism shot fundamentalism full of holes, but the new generation of scholars have now shot the certainties of old-fashioned Biblical criticism full of holes. As a result the articles exhibit an odd mix of solid content with honest supposition, guesswork and shoulder shrugging. This actually makes the book better. It's refreshing to read academics who admit their uncertainties. Their honesty allows some questions to remain open-ended, and that's exciting for any serious Biblical student. -- Dwight Longenecker [via]