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Southwestern Journal of Theology vol. 47, number 2, Spring 2005 [release delayed until early 2007]. pp. 243-246

The New American Commentary

Prior to the personal computer age, this review heard a professor of preaching advising his students to bring a Thompson Chain Reference Bible when preaching revivals. This handy volume can give answers to difficult questions one might encounter while on the field.

Back then no one ever dreamed of what is possible today: taking an entire commentary on a little CD-ROM to any location on the planet! The New American Commentary (NAC) is a fine commentary, and it all fits on a CD-ROM in the Libronix Digital Library System (LDLS). It can be purchased alone or in a bundled software collection (Logos Bible Software 3 – Scholar’s Library: Silver or Gold).

From the name of this commentary one might expect (and, in the case of this reviewer, wish) that the main Bible text were the New American Standard Version. However, the editors chose the more popular, but also more dynamic (thought-for-though translation rather than word-for-word), New International Version as the standard translation. The series name came from An American Commentary of the late nineteenth century. Scholars who wrote the earlier commentary were committed to the infallibility of scripture. It is thus fitting that the new series carry a similar name, since “all NAC authors affirm the divine inspiration, inerrancy, complete truthfulness, and full authority of the Bible” (vol. 22: Matthew, 11).

The strength and usefulness of this commentary comes first, from the writers’ aforementioned commitment to scripture. Second, it is “unapologetically confessional and rooted in the evangelical tradition” (11). Third, its format allow accessibility to a variety of readers: from the layperson to student to pastor to scholar. Grammatical and syntactical technicalities appear in footnotes rather than in the text: a common practice in many books today, if not necessarily in commentaries. Hebrew and Greek are transliterated in the text, but there are in Hebrew and Greek in the footnotes. Fourth, each volume focuses on the theological unity of the biblical book as well as how the book relates to the rest of scripture. Weaknesses of the set include: (1) as in any commentary series, some volumes are better than others, (2) the paucity of footnotes in some volumes (e.g. 1-2 Chronicles, Mark), and (3) the brevity of some volumes (e.g. Mark, Romans).

Forty total volumes are planned for this commentary; however, some volumes have two books: an A and a B (such as Matthew and John), so the 40-volume ste will ultimately consist of 45 books. The LDLS NAC contains thirty-one books. The five newest books are not on this CD, but they may be purchased separately when released in the electronic format, as can the remaining nine books when written. Eventually, LDLS will re-issue the CD with five books added to it, and the cost will be higher to reflect the additional books. The newest volumes, not on the present CD, are vol. 1b: Genesis 11:27-50:26; vol. 2: Exodus; vol. 21a: Haggai, Malachi; vol. 25b: John 12:21; and vol. 37: 1-2 Peter, Jude. Some notable NAC writers are recognized in the upper echelon of their field such as Douglas K. Stuart (Exodus), Eugene Merrill (Deuteronomy), Craig A. Blomberg (Matthew), and Robert H. Stein (Luke).

What sets this LDLS version of the NAC apart from its paper-and-glue-bound brother? When one appreciates the advantages of having the NAC on a computer, the only reason to buy the book versio is to have an impressive looking library by filling some five fee of shelf space. With the Libronix version, one can: (1) instantly access any NAC volume at the click of a mouse, (2) scroll through a NAC volume side-by-side with the English, Hebrew, or Greek text, Bible dictionary, and other electronic books (if one has other LDLS software), (3) jump by hyperlink from the Table of Contents to any chapter, section, excursus, or appendix in the volume, (4) see the book page number where one is reading in the electronic version (which is how this review can contain page citations), (5) use the locator pane and contents pane to find one’s place in a volume as well as to jump to other sections, (6) cut and paste any amount of material from any volume into one’s sermon or teaching notes, and (7) search any word or phrase in any or all volumes in the series. This last feature is worth its weight in gold!

Search capabilities and text accessibility match or beat anything the reader can do with the printed version – and at a much greater speed. Double clicking on a word in the text brings up its definition in an English dictionary, Hebrew lexicon, or Greek lexicon. Right clicking on a key word allows a quick search of the word in any or all NAC commentaries or other LDLS resource one may own. Hovering a cursor over an abbreviation brings a pop-up box with the full phrase; hovering the cursor over a footnote number brings a pop-up box with the full reference. When the cursor hovers over a scripture reference, a pop-up box gives the full verse. This handy pop-up feature works even when the specific reference is not given in the text. For instance, in vol. 38 1, 2, 3 John, there is a parenthetical phrase: “see comment on these verses” in text addressing 1 John 5:18-20a (211). Hovering the cursor over this phrase brings up a pop-up box with the text of its referent: 1 John 3:4-10.

No one dos a word search in a printed commentary due to the limitations of this medium. The normal routine is to read what a commentary says about a particular passage of scripture. However, with the LDLS NAC, word and phrase searches are easy to accomplish. The following search results were on Logos 2.0 using a Pentium 4, 3.00 GHz processor, with 1.5 GB of RAM, using Windows XP. Most searches took under eight seconds. “Antinomian” has 9 occurrences in 5 volumes; “Maccabeus” appears 18 times in 8 volumes. “Son of God” occurs 384 times in 23 volumes; “Son of Man” appears 540 times in 20 volumes. All 31 volumes contain “covenant” (3,773 hits), “God” (28,403 hits) and “the” (430,494 hits)! Yes one may search any word or phrase.

Unfortunately, in works like the NAC that use much transliterated Greek and Hebrew, there is no easy way to search for all inflected forms of a particular transliterated word. A separate seach for all variations of the inflections is required. Sometimes a wildcard search will catch them; sometimes not, as in a search of all instance of Christos (Christou, Christo, Christon, etc.). A wildcard search (Christ) will include other words such as Christ, Christology and Christological in the findings. Christo also brings unneeded word variations in the results.

However, while the searchability of the LDLS NAC is invaluable, one likely will also use this commentary in the old fashioned way. After reading comments on a particular passage of scripture in a printed commentary, one might highlight certain lines, add comments to it, and then type parts of it into sermon or teaching notes. This LDLS version makes marking the text, writing comments in it, and cutting and pasting sections of it into sermon or teaching notes a breeze. The reader may highlight the electronic text in any of fourteen colors (although the darker colors make the text difficult to read), looking like highlighter marks on a printed page. Attaching comments anywhere in the text as a pop-up note is quick and easy, and there is a choice of four icons to use on the note button to depict the type of note. The notes and highlighting are save don the computer hard drive, and the writer may revise or delete them at will. One may tag any note as a hyperlink for quick access.

The LDLS NAC is a faithful reproduction of the print version, which means errors in the print edition will be repeated in the LDLS version until Broadman and Holman gives them revisions. Electronic revisions are easy for LDLS to update and disseminate the people at LDLS avoid acting as second editors, but they do report typographical errors to B&H as they find them. Here is a sampling. In vol. 8: 1-2 Kings, there are three styles of abbreviations (spelled out, abbreviated with a period, and abbreviated—the latter style being the correct NAC style): “’an act of submission (19:18; II Kings 1:13; Isa. 45:23).’ This whole worship experience has been overwhelming for the priests (1 Kgs 8:10-11)” (147). In vol. 19b: Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, there is the British spelling (out of place in the New American Commentary) “the neighbour [neighbor] towns” (51, n. 34). Vol. 38: 1, 2, 3 John, has an out-of-place rough breathing mark after ho in the transliteration ho presbuteros (22).

There are other electronic versions of the NAC available: for WORDsearch7, Bible Explorer, and Bible Navigator software programs. However, none of these products has the number of books that are available in LDLS format (6,700+), which offers over thirty full commentary sets, including Word, ICC, NICOT, NICNT, NIGTC, Pillar, Hermeneia, and the Baker Exegetical Commentary. [Unfortunately, NICOT and NICNT are not available for Logos Bible Software at this time.—Logos ed.]

The computer requirements for running any LDLS product are 500 MHz Pentium III (1GHz Pentium III recommended), 128 MB RAM (384 MB recommended), Windows 98/Me/NT4.0(SP6a)/2000/XP, CD-ROM or DVD drive, 550 MB hard drive space, 800 x 600 display (1024 x 768 recommended), and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later.

The NAC is an excellent up-to-date, highly applicable conservative commentary which will benefit any student, teacher, pastor, or scholar. The LDLS NAC makes a great product even better with its portability, searchability, versatility, and affordability (slightly over one half of the retail print cost).

James R. Wicker
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

©  2007 by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Used by permission.