The Book of Deuteronomy has received a significant amount of attention by Old Testament scholars in recent years, and rightly so. It clearly is of monumental importance to the issue of the composition of the Pentateuch and, more importantly, it occupies pride of place as a systematic exposition of ancient Israel’s theology. This does not mean that every new treatment of the book can be justified or adds to the understanding of Deuteronomy, but the book under review satisfies both expectations.
McConville has distinguished himself in Deuteronomic studies, having authored Law and Theology in Deuteronomy (Sheffield: JSOT, 1984); Grace in the End: A Study in Deuteronomic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993); and Time and Place in Deuteronomy, with J. G. Millar (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1994). In addition he (with this reviewer) translated Deuteronomy for the New Living Translation (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1996). He represents the best in British evangelical scholarship, an approach that tends to embrace certain moderately critical views usually eschewed by American evangelicals but that is in touch with current biblical and theological issues. He writes, “It will be clear that the commentary, though it is critical of the consensus opinion, does not defend Mosaic authorship.” One could wish for a more forthright position than this, since one’s view of the authorship and dating of the book cannot be divorced from the book’s full meaning.
Apart from this caveat the commentary is an extremely clear and well-reasoned exposition of Deuteronomy. Each section begins with a translation followed by notes on the text, literary form and structure, comment, and explanation. The last of these is particularly helpful in collecting the whole discussion together into a summary with special attention to the theology and application of the passage. The textual notes interact with all the manuscript and versional variations of any consequence and are generally reliable in their assessment of the evidence. The comment section is skimpy in places but much of this is redressed by the complementary explanation summaries at the end of each major unit. The thirty-page bibliography is abreast of most of the important literature of the past half-century of Deuteronomy scholarship.
Of all the recent commentaries on Deuteronomy McConville’s should be on every serious student’s short list.