A review of Andrew Hill's, "Malachi," by Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R.
Hill, Andrew E. Malachi. The Anchor Bible, 25D. New York: Doubleday, 1998. $37.95 hc. xliii + 436 pp. ISBN 0-385-46892-X.
In the introduction to this recent addition to the Anchor Bible series Hill declares that his is an attempt at an “encyclopedic approach.” His desire is to present a modern supplement to the two volume work of A. von Bulmerincq (1926, 1932), which he calls “the benchmark for exegetical commentaries on the book of Malachi” (p. xi).
In many ways the author has succeeded in providing his readers with an uncommon wealth of detail. Some of the valuable features offered by Hull include a glossary of theological, literary, and grammatical terms (pp. xxv-xxxi) and a set of fourteen pertinent photographs and diagrams. The introductory material probes areas not commonly dealt with in commentaries. For example, there is a lengthy discussion on the status of each of the ancient versions and their similarities and differences (pp. 3-10), a listing of the quotes of and allusions to Malachi in the New Testament (pp. 84-88), and an interesting description of the liturgical use of this prophetic book within Judaism and different traditions within Christianity (pp. 88-91). The volume closes with four appendices (pp. 391-414): von Bulmerincq’s Categories for Dating Malachi (a listing of scholarly positions), Typological Analysis of the Postexilic Prophets, Intertextuality in the Book of Malachi, and Vocabulary Richness in the Book of Malachi.
Another remarkable item in this work is Hill’s forthright declaration of his theological convictions and its impact on his textual work (The author teaches at Wheaton College, a well-known evangelical liberal arts institution of higher learning.):
By conviction I accede to the classification “conservative” (or “evangelical”) biblical scholar… By “conservative,” I mean that approach to the study of the biblical documents that recognizes among other things the tradition of the divine origin of the Scriptures (…), a decided reluctance to emend the Masoretic Text (MT) apart from convincing evidence to the contrary (and hence a tendency to downplay speculation concerning the multiple redactional levels detected in the MT), and a preference for ‘substantiating’ rather than ‘reconstructing’ biblical history… (pp. xii-xiii).
Quoting B.S. Childs, he later adds:
Rather, I prefer to understand the Bible as normative Scripture that “no longer functions for the community of faith as a free-floating metaphor, but as the divine imperative and promise to a historically conditioned people of God whose legacy the Christian confesses to share.” (p. 23)
He utilizes, therefore, what he would label a “believing criticism,” which is open to appropriating critical tools yet without compromising an orthodox appreciation of the Bible and that also has as its primary aim to ascertain the authorial intent of the text. Thus, while championing the integrity and authenticity of this prophetic book, he can hold as well that the superscription (1:1) and the closing lines (3:22-24; Eng 4:4-6) are secondary additions. His commitment to the canon also encourages him to read passages within the context of the entire Bible, though especially within the Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi corpus. Hill’s evangelical convictions, however, do not lead him to be insensitive to Jewish concerns, which would read Malachi against a different theological and communal backdrop. For instance, in addition to the description of the Jewish liturgical usage mentioned above, throughout he cites Scripture as OT/HB (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible) and is aware of discussions within the rabbinic literature.
This commentary follows the usual format of the series: a new translation of a passage, followed in turn by introductory observations (often of a form critical sort), technical textual notes, and more synthetic comments. Hill’s research has been extensive. Sometimes, however, the amount of detail motivated by his passion to be comprehensive can be intrusive and confusing, as the reader’s attention gets diverted by long parenthetical lists of passages or scholarly views. Sustained argumentation can be disrupted, and a sense of continuity lost. The fact that the format does not put the verse headings in bold also hinders quick reference use of this detailed volume.
Besides the issue of formatting, I would add two more quibbles. First, a more extensive interaction with recent sociological approaches (such as that of Hoglund) to the Postexilic period would have enriched the discussion of the historical setting (pp. 51-76). His is not too very different from more classical approaches. Second, although Hill professes that he will follow “that type of rhetorical criticism that emphasizes both the literary architecture and artistry as well as the human drama of the biblical literature” (p. 22), one can feel shortchanged at times by the lack of extended discussions of these literary features. Perhaps the format problem rears its head here again: the details block out a better grasp of the whole.
All in all, this commentary is a gold mine of information for those who interested in studying the book of Malachi. Not all will agree with every interpretation or with particular stances (such as his view on the dating of the book earlier than most, pp. 77-84), but all will benefit from the labors of this scholar, who has such a deep appreciation for the message of this prophet.
M. Daniel Carroll R.
Professor of Old Testament