Of course, Tremper knows firsthand about commentaries since he has been an editor and a contributor to many.
“Why write new commentaries?” Tremper outlined seven reasons why commentaries should continue to be written.
- Advances in knowledge (e.g. language, “covenant” in light of ANE treaties, cognate literature discoveries).
- New methods and perspectives (i.e. canonical approach)
- Competing interpretations. There are many perspectives at the table.
- Human finitude. Each scholar brings a distinctive set of skills.
- Community. We come from different backgrounds and we need to read in community.
- Changing contexts. How the text bears on life today.
- Different readerships. Scholars, clergy and laypeople.
The second question Longman asked (and answered) was “Why keep old commentaries?”
- To read in community who have lived throughout history.
- To avoid modern hubris.
And finally Tremper answered, “What type of new commentaries do we need?” This question must address the issues of both content and delivery. Content must be tailored for the scholars, clergy, and popular audience. The popular commentaries should not be avoided or neglected. Scholars should not shun this type of commentary for fear of repercussions (for their career) from “simplifying” content. One difficulty for scholars in writing for clergy may be that it is hard for them to reflect about the modern world because they spend so much time absorbed in the ancient world. More emphasis must be placed on theological interpretation and reflection (two series were highlighted: Two Horizons series and the new Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible).
In particular, Tremper emphasized that there is a need for OT commentaries which have a Christological view to help clergy preach the OT in context of redemptive history.
The future shape of commentaries must include digital formats (even though Tremper said he will always prefer the hard copy himself). Digital delivery will allow wider dissemination, ability to address various levels of audience, and can be more easily updated.