Deuteronomy is a daunting book for many readers of the Bible, yet it is arguably the ‘theological backbone’ of the Old Testament. In this clear and insightful commentary, George Athas helps contemporary readers to explore Deuteronomy and looks at how the ancient context helps us to better understand this book. He also explains the meaning of Deuteronomy for its original readers, traces the significance of the promises in Deuteronomy through Israel’s history to their ultimate fulfilment in Christ, and considers the enduring message of this extraordinary book for Christians today.
George Athas is the Director of Postgraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Old Testament at Moore Theological College, Sydney. He has previously authored books on Hebrew language and the Bible. He has also taught at Southern Cross College (Alphacrucis) and the University of Sydney. He is married to Koula, and they have two daughters.
Vision Christian Radio interview with George Athas:
George Athas has given us a truly Christian commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy which sets out and explains the book’s historical background, its text, and its place in the canon of Scripture. It is accurate, but not too technical for the lay reader. It is edifying and encouraging. And, in placing Deuteronomy within the Christian canon, it shows why Jesus could say of Moses, 'he wrote of me.' (John 5:46). I can enthusiastically endorse this work as a solid contribution to a significant series of commentaries.
- Graeme Goldsworthy
George Athas’ commentary on Deuteronomy came into my possession just as we were beginning a series of Bible studies on Deuteronomy. And I am so glad that it did. Time and time again as I have turned to it I have found it clear, insightful, true to the text and above all, thoroughly Christian. Each passage is carefully evaluated with regard to original audience and socio-historical context with the result that the text is well explained in its own terms. But there are also additional comments about the significance of the text in relation to later Old Testament tradition-history–the re-telling of the text for later generations of Israelites–as well as clear and helpful reflection on the relationship to and application of Deuteronomy within the New Testament. Furthermore, the clarity of expression and judicious use of explanatory notes makes the commentary a valuable tool for those who don’t have formal training but who do have opportunity to teach the Bible at local church level. As with all commentaries, not everyone will agree with every perspective or conclusion of the author. But speaking personally I found the commentary a great help in understanding and explaining a very important but sadly neglected part of Scripture
- Dr Mervyn Eloff
Rector – St James' Church, Kenilworth, Cape Town
George Athas, one of Australia’s finest Old Testament scholars, has produced a concise yet deeply considered commentary that combines his considerable scholarship with his superb abilities as a teacher. His aim can be seen in the threefold structure of each chapter: expounding each unit of the text against its ancient setting; tracing its ongoing significance in the subsequent history of Israel; and exploring its contribution to God’s self-revelation in the Lord Jesus. Common themes emerge at each stage.
First, readers will gain a consistent sense of how different ancient Israelite society and its world view were from our own, and how awareness of these differences can help us better understand the text. Scholars differ over the pre-history of Deuteronomy, and not everyone will agree with all of Athas’s suggestions, but his observations on its ancient context are sure-footed and illuminating. Against this context familiar texts, such as the Ten Commandments, are brought to life in fresh and edifying ways. Athas also devotes particular attention to issues that trouble contemporary readers, such as the command to kill the Canaanites, and this adds greatly to the usefulness of this book.
Secondly, by exploring the outworking of each passage in the history of Israel Athas conducts a masterclass in biblical theology. The foundational nature of Deuteronomy emerges again and again, as we see the way it gives meaning to the subsequent events of Israel’s history. And when Deuteronomy is duly allowed to speak as Christian Scripture, we see that while the new covenant in Christ’s blood frees us completely from the jurisdiction of the deuteronomic law, yet at the same time it gains its meaning and significance from that same law. Athas argues consistently that Deuteronomy, though presenting only a partial revelation of God, lays a groundwork for God’s ultimate self-revelation that cannot be ignored if we are to know Christ truly.
One might wish that the commentary had given more weight to some aspects of Deuteronomy’s vision of God, such as his absolute transcendence over every created thing, including the gods of the nations. Nevertheless, the theological dimensions of Deuteronomy as they emerge in Christ are extensively and very helpfully explored, covering a wide range of issues. Of particular value are the nuanced discussions of the relationship of law and gospel, which alone make this commentary worth reading.
- Andrew G Shead
Moore Theological College, Sydney