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Scott Tunseth interviews the Fortress Commentary on the Bible editors!
Q: What do you think makes this two-volume commentary distinctive?
A: The uniqueness of this commentary, for me, is in the attempt to address contemporary issues that are raised by biblical passages. This undermines the normal modus operandi of biblical commentaries, which have often been written as though the world around them does not exist and is not of import to the interpretation of the Bible.
A: This commentary not only presents top-notch, accessible analysis of biblical texts in their historical context, but also provides students with diverse material on the ways in which these texts have been interpreted through the course of history, as well as how to understand their relevance for today’s global world.
A: The uniqueness of this two-volume commentary is in its recognition of the complexities that are involved with being an engaged reader of the Bible. The commentary provides a powerful tool for exploring the Bible's multilayered meanings in both their ancient and modern contexts.
Q: How would you describe the process that has been used to develop the commentary?
A: It has been an open and consultative process throughout, one in which the needs of the various audiences served by academic resources on the Bible have been taken seriously. There has been a clear sense that what we are aiming to do is produce a work with a voice that is at once distinctive and empowering.
A: The most important aspect of the process, in my estimation, is the visioning of the project. The field of biblical studies is—and has been—saturated with biblical commentaries. Fortress has done an exemplary job of finding a relevant niche for this new project.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered in your work as editor?
A: Getting academics to think of contemporary issues beyond the interpretative fights within the intradisciplinary discourse of biblical studies.
A: Because biblical scholars aren't necessarily trained in the history of interpretation, writing content for “the interpretive tradition” has been a challenge for some. This learning edge has made me even more aware of how we biblical scholars tend to jump from the ancient context to the contemporary. Sometimes without realizing it, we discount interpretations in other parts of history and culture.
A: The greatest challenge has been providing editorial feedback that is measured and suggestive. Good editing requires, in my opinion, the ability to read at times “through the words, between the lines, and beyond the paragraphs” of an entry: to appreciate not only what an author has written, but to sense what she/he may have been intuiting or feeling in the process of writing. Having so done, my task is to offer advice on how better to make the encounter between reader, Bible, and expositor as rewarding as possible.
Q: What positive surprises have you experienced along the way?
A: Our writers draw from a wealth of scholarly work that interprets the Bible with ethical and theological questions in the foreground. That there is such good work in this area is a happy surprise.
A: My contributors have been very insightful, particularly in the level of the commentary that deals with the text in contemporary discussion. They desire to wrestle with how this ancient text affects and is affected by social, religious, and political issues that we must reckon with in our day.
Q: How do you envision this commentary being used, and by whom?
A: One of the exciting things about the commentary will be its versatility, which comes from considering the Bible through a number of complementary angles: its historical context, the interpretive traditions that have shaped our understandings of its texts, and how the Bible can speak to the modern world. Whether you are a researcher seeking the historical setting behind a text, a professor who is looking to go deeper into a passage with your students, a clergyperson who wants to take your sermons or Bible studies to the next level, or an interested reader who wants to get more out of the Bible, I think this commentary can address all those needs.
A: I see it being used in academic and ecclesial settings by Bible scholars, seminary students, pastors, and laity. I also envision it being of interest to those in the field of religious studies whose research focuses on how sacred texts in various faith traditions are read and deployed.
A: My immediate response would be folk in ministry. This is an invaluable tool for people in the pulpit. However, with the ongoing evolution of biblical studies, I also see this as a very valuable project for graduate students and scholars who are inclined to think about subjectivized readings of Bible. This hermeneutic project takes flesh and blood readers seriously and contributes to the destabilization of strictly historical-critical readings of Scripture.
Q: What will this commentary show us about the state of biblical scholarship today?
A: I hope that it will show biblical scholarship to be responsive to the world in which we live.
A: The commentary will show how a vigorous discussion of these texts among contemporary ethicists, pastors, and teachers can provide deep insights for addressing contemporary ethical and political challenges.
Q: How has working on this project made a difference in your own teaching and research?
A: In doing the two commentaries on Ruth and 1 & 2 Kings, my own teaching and research have been enriched by what I have learned in the history of interpretation for these texts and how they can contribute to the contemporary context.
A: It has encouraged me to reimagine the vocation of the Bible scholar and to expand the cohort of voices and points of view that my own scholarly work seeks to acknowledge. The image of the community meal to which all are invited—i.e., a fellowship with an “open table”—is one that increasingly shapes my vision of research and teaching. This commentary is a literary and hermeneutical embodiment of such a gathering.