The New Interpreter's Bible is a twelve-volume series, updating the popular Interpreter's Bible from a few decades ago. There are several key features common to all of the volumes of this series. First, each includes a two-column, double translation of the Biblical text (NIV - New International Version, and NRSV - New Revised Standard Version) arranged by topical unit or story. Then, they provide commentaries that look at the passages as a whole, as well as verse-by-verse. Third, interesting Reflection pieces that relate the passages to each other, to history, and to current concerns occur at the conclusion of each passage. Fourth, introductory articles for each book are provided that discuss transmission, historical background, cultural setting, literary concerns, and current scholarship. Finally, there are general articles about the Bible, each Testament, and various types of literature (Narrative, Gospel, Wisdom Literature, etc.) are provided to give general placement and knowledge about the text overall.
The list of contributors, editors, and consultants on the project is a veritable Who's Who of biblical and theological scholarship, representing all major traditions and schools of thought liberal and conservative. Leander Keck, of the Yale Divinity School, is the primary editor of the series.
The volumes were published individually, and can be purchased individually, which is a good thing, given that they are a bit expensive. But for any serious biblical scholar, preacher, student, or enthusiast, they are invaluable.
The fifth volume of the New Interpreter's Bible is the volume that contains the Wisdom Literature tradition in the Hebrew Scriptures. After an introductory essay concerning Wisdom Literature, the volume continues with the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiates and the Song of Songs, as well as the apocrypal books of Wisdom and Sirach.
Raymond C. Van Leeuwen of Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania, provides a commentary on Proverbs. W. Sibley Towner of Union Theological Seminary in Virginia looks at the book of Ecclesiates. Renita Weems of Vanderbilt Divinity School addresses the Song of Songs. Michael Kolarcik, SJ, of Regis College, Toronto looks at the apocryphal book of Wisdom, and James Crenshaw of Duke University finishes the volume with a commentary on the book of Sirach.
Richard Clifford of the Weston School of Theology provides a general introduction to Wisdom Literature. In this article, Clifford examines parallels with Wisdom traditions in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, and finds evidence in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the rest of the Levant in some abundance. He continues by examining the social context, the main structures and teachings, and later developments in Judaism and Christianity based upon Wisdom traditions. 'The wisdom books remind readers that one must take hold of life as both gift and task, that there are many possibilities but also profound limits, and that honest observation and fidelity to one's experience of life can put one in touch with a wondrous order whose source is God.'
The books of Wisdom and Sirach are called apocryphal because their status is not canonically clear within the Christian tradition. They are not contained in the official canon of the Hebrew scripture, and so Protestant tradition has tended to leave the books out of the Old Testament. However, these texts were included in the Septuagint, the primary Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures in the ancient world, and so the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches consider the texts canonical.
High praise goes to the general editorial staff for working with such strong authors/scholars, that their work fits together well as part of this set while retaining their individual characteristics (much like the writers of the Bible itself!).
--Other volumes available--
The following is a list of each volume in this twelve-volume set, and the contents of each.
Volume I: General Articles on the Bible; General Articles on the Old Testament; Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus
Volume II: Numbers; Deuteronomy; Introduction to Narrative Literature; Joshua; Judges; Ruth; I & II Samuel
Volume III: I & II Kings; I & II Chronicles; Ezra, Nehemiah; Esther; Additions to Esther; Tobit; Judith
Volume IV: I & II Maccabees; Introduction to Hebrew Poetry; Job; Psalms
Volume V: Introduction to Wisdom Literature; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs; Book of Wisdom; Sirach
Volume VI: Introduction to Prophetic Literature; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Baruch; Letter of Jeremiah; Lamentations; Ezekiel
Volume VII: Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature; Daniel; Additions to Daniel; Hosea; Joel; Amos; Obadiah; Johan; Micah; Nahum; Habakkuk; Zephaniah; Haggai; Zechariah; Malachi
Volume VIII: General Articles on the New Testament; Matthew; Mark
Volume IX: Luke; John
Volume X: Acts; Introduction to Epistolary Literature; Romans, I Corinthians
Volume XI: II Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; I & II Thessalonians; I & II Timothy; Titus; Philemon
Volume XII: Hebrews; James; I & II Peter; I, II & III John; Jude; Revelation