Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
As with the other volumes in the New International Biblical Commentary series, this one is based on the New International Version and is designed for readers who have had little or no formal biblical training. The book makes no mention of the original languages, and the discussion of major interpretive issues involved in these books is limited. The commentary on each group of verses is written in readable paragraph form. Each chapter closes with a section entitled “Additional Notes,” which includes relevant technical information for those who desire a deeper examination of the biblical text. The commentary includes two helpful appendixes, one that traces topics by subject and another that identifies those Scripture passages referred to in the book as well as references to early Jewish writings and other ancient writings.
Allen, professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote the commentary on Ezra and Nehemiah. His analysis of individual passages is excellent. He explains difficult passages and provides reliable analyses. Perhaps the best feature of his commentary is his discussions of parallels between each passage and other parts of Scripture.
While Allen’s analysis of individual passages is worthy of note, his somewhat liberal approach to the biblical text prevents this commentary from being truly outstanding. He believes that an editor combined passages from a variety of sources, including the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah. He consistently refers to “Second Isaiah,” a designation that denies the original unity of Isaiah under the authorship of the prophet.
Laniak, associate professor of Old Testament at Gordon Conwell Theo-logical Seminary-Charlotte, wrote the material on Esther. He approaches the book from a literary perspective, consistently analyzing and explaining literary features such as plot, characterization, and narration (point of view). Unfortunately, like Allen, Laniak has fallen victim to the appeal of source criticism. He frequently mentions redactional activity and repeatedly identifies “additions” to the original text made by later editors. Laniak also denies much of the historicity of the Book of Esther. He consistently points out historical “errors” made by the “editors” of Esther. Laniak’s approach contradicts the doctrines of inerrancy and inspiration.
Another weakness of this commentary is the lack of interaction with other commentaries. The authors never quote other commentators and rarely mention alternative views. Although neither author interacts much with other commentaries, both authors do an outstanding job of utilizing early Jewish writings, including the Apocrypha, and other ancient writings, most notably those of Herodotus and Xenophon.