When I was in college and grad school friends and I would often joke about whether books or food were a higher priority. Sure, it was funny, but every once in a while there was something that actually turned the conversation serious. Some of us literally (I speak to my shame) cut corners on money for pizza, burgers, laundry, etc. to buy something for our library. It was Ramen time.
There are few resources I’d say are so valuable that I’d eat Ramen noodles for a few weeks to cover it. One is DDD (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible). Another just hit pre-pub at Logos. It’s something we’ve talked about internally for years that I never thought I’d see. New Testament scholars have asked us many times to produce it, but it was a daunting task. I’m still a little surprised it’s actually taking shape.
I’m talking about the six-volume Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (“Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and the Midrash”) by Hermann Strack and Paul Billerbeck. You’re probably thinking, “Really, Mike? A six-volume commentary in German?” Yep. Now here’s the kicker: Logos has paid to have it professionally translated into English.
This set is in a league of its own — sort of a holy grail for NT studies. It is a massive collection of material from the Talmud and Midrash material applied to the contents of the New Testament in commentary form. Strack and Billerbeck how these ancient Jewish sources intelligently inform our reading of the New Testament in its Jewish religious context. Though a lot of scholarship has been done on Second-Temple Judaism since Strack and Billerbeck published their work, nothing has come close to replacing it.
Here’s how one scholar, Wayne Grudem, summed it up:
This reference work is unique in the entire world. It is the only work that has ever compiled, verse by verse, such extensive background quotations from Jewish literature around the time of Christ for every passage in the New Testament. But until now, it was only available in German.
With this resource in English, we no longer have to depend on commentators who confidently claim (sometimes incorrectly), “The rabbis at the time of Christ taught this or that,” because now all the relevant quotations from this vast and diverse rabbinic literature can be quickly found here in one place—and in English rather than the original Hebrew.
And in digital, searchable, indexed form, I might add.
For anyone interested in New Testament research, it’s time to start boiling the water. Get it on pre-pub while you can.