7 Questions on Zechariah in the NICOT Commentary Series
Mark J. Boda (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at McMaster Divinity College.
He has authored 12 books, edited 19 volumes of collected essays, and written over 100 articles on various topics related to the Old Testament and Christian Theology. Key areas of interest include Old Testament Theology, prayer and penitence in Old Testament and Christian Theology, Babylonian and Persian Period Hebrew Books and History (Jeremiah, Lamentations, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi), the Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) and Judges.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Zechariah?
Zechariah was the set text for a Prophets course I took with Raymond Dillard nearly 30 years ago. I was preaching in a church at that time and did not have time to prepare new material for my sermons, so took advantage of my study in that course to preach through Zechariah. My doctoral dissertation at Cambridge was on Ezra-Nehemiah (now Praying the Tradition: The Origin and Use of Tradition in Nehemiah 9 [BZAW 277; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999]), and my conclusion was that the prayer in Neh 9 most likely arose originally in the period represented by Zech 1-8. In my post-doctoral phase I remained focused on the early Persian period, but shifted over to prophetic literature, investigating Haggai and Zechariah. This is now my second commentary on Zechariah, the earlier being my NIVAC on Haggai, Zechariah (Zondervan, 2003). During the writing of both of these commentaries I tested my material extensively in churches as well as the academic guild, writing articles in various volumes and journals and presenting papers at conferences.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
This commentary provides extensive notes on the translation of Zechariah and its interpretation. Its focus is on the original context of this text, showing how this prophet spoke into the midst of a particular community in the history of redemption. It would benefit pastors, professors, students and those in the church who want to pursue the original meaning of the text as a foundation for application into contemporary contexts. The details that are often glossed over in more expositional commentaries will be found here.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Zechariah?
I hope the fresh translations have explained and even resolved some of the challenges in the interpretation of Zechariah. I provide extensive explanations of the meaning of the words and phrases within their context in Zechariah. There is a general introduction to Zechariah as a whole, and then smaller introductions to the main sections of the book covering issues specific to those sections (1:1-6, 1:7–6:15, 7:1-8:23, chs. 9–14). At the beginning of each pericope I provide a translation (with notes) and an overview of the structure and theme of the passage before going into detail on each verse. I also focus considerable attention on the intertextual character of Zechariah, as it cites and alludes to other biblical materials. This commentary will help people see how the message of Zechariah spoke into the midst of a community emerging from exile, which is often missed in contemporary preaching as preachers jump from the text to our modern context without reflection on how the prophets spoke to their own world. Modern and postmodern readers today who are interested in Zechariah as an authoritative text will find this message to an exilic/post-exilic audience as helpful in the present post-Christian world in the west.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Zechariah 9-14 is clearly memorable because it was such a difficult section of the book with so much disagreement over its meaning and historical context. Paul Redditt’s work on Zechariah really helped me crack the literary code of this section of Zechariah. His work helped me to see the overall flow and integrity of these chapters and the presence of a progression in the message as Zechariah and the movement associated with him increasingly became disenchanted with the restoration that had spawned his prophetic career.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
The opening prophetic words of Zechariah captured my imagination immediately, probably because of my deep interest in repentance and penitential prayer over the past 25 years. I liked them so much I used them as the title of my recent monograph: “Return to Me”: A Biblical Theology of Repentance (NSBT; Leicester: Apollos, 2015). Before Zechariah ever gets to repentance as change of behavior in Zech 1:4, he calls out to the people: “Return to me,” declaration of Yahweh of hosts, “that I may return to you.” While not ignoring the importance of changed behavior, Zechariah places the priority on relationship between God and people. This same message becomes so foundational for the Christian message, declared by John the Baptist, then Jesus, and finally the early church.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Zechariah?
I have appreciated the recent commentaries by Al Wolters (Leuven, 2014) and Anthony Petterson (Apollos, 2015), which were not available when I wrote my own commentary. Petterson is superb on classic commentary and Biblical Theology, while Wolters provides great coverage of the reception history of Zechariah throughout Jewish and Church history, and offers creative solutions for some of the challenging texts in Zechariah. Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer has been producing superb academic work on Zechariah, as seen in her two recent volumes: Zechariah and His Visions (2015) and Zechariah’s Vision Report and Its Earliest Interpreters (2016, both with Bloomsbury T. & T. Clark). I found helpful three works that cover larger portions of the Minor Prophets/Book of the Twelve: Michael Floyd (Forms of Old Testament Literature, 2000), Marvin Sweeney (Berit Olam, 2000) and recently James Nogalski (Smith & Helwys, 2011). The classic commentaries are still helpful: Carol and Eric Meyers (Anchor Bible, 1987, 1993) and David Petersen (Old Testament Library, 1984, 1995). If people are interested in most of my essays that I wrote over the past two decades on Zechariah as foundation for my commentary work, they can obtain it free online at https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/books_anemonographs.aspx. And if they are interested in more extensive connections for biblical theology and application they should consult my earlier NIVAC commentary (Zondervan, 2003).
7. What’s next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
There is always plenty to do. Besides my annual work on The Committee on Bible Translation (NIV), I am working on an Isaiah commentary in the Story of God series for which I am an Associate Editor (Zondervan) and co-editing a forthcoming series of commentaries on the prophets with Gordon McConville (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Prophetic Books, Baker Academic). Psalms is increasingly a focus for me, returning to the prayer emphasis that captured my imagination back at the beginning of my career: there is plenty there to keep me busy for another lifetime! You can follow my work at https://mcmasterdivinity.ca/faculty/core/mark-j-boda.
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