About This Blog

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Jonah" (Kevin J. Youngblood)

TITLE: Jonah: God's Scandalous Mercy (Hearing the Message of Scripture: A Commentary on the Old Testament)
AUTHOR:  Kevin J. Youngblood
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014, (192 pages).

This commentary is a part of Zondervan's series on "Hearing the Message of Scripture" to help readers in contemporary times hear as best as possible what the ancient audience are hearing. It helps readers go beyond word-for-word or technical analysis. It enables readers to sense the rhetorical orientations and the theological underpinnings of the biblical author. That is why "hearing" is a significant posture, considering that the ancient books are meant to be read aloud and received audibly. The three principles used are:
  1. What theological points are taught?
  2. How did the biblical author communicate these points?
  3. How does the message connect with the overall thrust of the Bible?
Using a standard format for the series, each commentary is helmed by an "expert" who has studied or taught the text in a significant way. In this commentary on the book of Jonah, it is the Professor of Bible & Religion at Harding University, Dr Kevin J, Youngblood. Since one of the purposes of this book is to help preachers, I will review this from a preacher's standpoint.

I like the personal engagement Youngblood began by translating the text personally and directly. All translations, whether by version, committee, or group work are by themselves an interpretation already. By working directly with the ancient texts, Youngblood would have removed the intermediate step.

On the Introduction, despite the series' emphasis on rhetorical and theological angles, a good commentary requires good contextual study. I appreciate Youngblood's use of the "canonical, history, and literary" explanations to situate Jonah appropriately. It is one of the 12 minor prophets. It is referred to in the New Testament. It assumes a 8th Century BC era. There is a "Judean Orientation" with a focus on Jerusalem despite the story's key cities in Nineveh, Joppa, and Tarshish. Historical details are sketchy at best suggesting that they are of secondary importance. Youngblood also lets the use of the language suggest that the book is postexilic Hebrew. Key themes and uniquenesses are drawn out such as:
  • the biblical use of retributive justice and divine mercy
  • Poetic language that highlights important details via the rhetorical styles
  • Use of six different literary devices (parallelism; alternating scenes; verbal repetition; symbols; intertextuality; textual information gaps)
  • Chronological structure and format
  • Clearly labeled and marked out plan of each passage.
I appreciate the clearly stated "main idea" of each passage chosen, followed by the literary context explanation. This is crucial especially with the use of rhetorical devices. At the same time, I am also wary of not letting the "main idea" stated hem me into understanding the passage. Maybe, the passage has more than one main idea? Supported by tables and logical flows, this commentary gives preachers a helpful leg up in terms of the exegetical heavy-lifting. Many pastors' schedules are busy and the contextual helps given can give pastors more time to work on the homiletical and the application aspects for their congregations. Youngblood frequently shows the way to understand the passage, often asking questions on behalf of the reader. This makes Youngblood a trusted guide. I like the maps and the clearly labeled sections for each passage. The font changes, paragraphing, the tabular formats, and the brilliant use of shading makes this commentary extremely readable and reference-able.

Well done, Youngblood and Zondervan for another great resource for preaching and teaching the book of Jonah.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment