Book Write-Up: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

Anthony R. Petterson.  Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.  Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2015.  This book is part of the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series, which is edited by David W. Baker and Gordon J. Wenham.  See here to buy the book.

Anthony R. Petterson’s commentary on the biblical books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi is a conservative Christian commentary.  Whereas more liberal scholars have maintained that Zechariah 1-8 and Zechariah 9-14 have different authorships, Petterson believes that they are by the same person (even if that person, Zechariah, was not the one who actually wrote them down), and Petterson tends to dismiss source criticism of the Book of Zechariah as rather speculative.  Whereas many liberal scholars have seen Haggai and Zechariah as works that predict an imminent apocalypse, a prediction that historically failed to materialize, Petterson maintains that this is not the case: that Haggai was not necessarily suggesting in Haggai 2:23 that his contemporary Zerubbabel would be the Messiah, and that a fulfillment in the future is consistent with certain prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah.  Some liberal scholars downplay or reject the notion that certain passages in Zechariah predict a Davidic Messiah: they say that the high priest Joshua in parts of the Book of Zechariah is crowned as king (which differs from expecting a Davidic king), and that the pierced one in Zechariah 12:10 is not necessarily the Davidic Messiah, notwithstanding what a number of Christians have claimed.  Petterson disagrees, as he looks closely at the passages themselves, while also setting them within the context of previous prophetic books, which, according to Petterson, Zechariah affirms and upholds.  For Petterson, the books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi not only talk about a Davidic Messiah, but they actually foreshadow, even predict, the work of Jesus Christ.  A number of liberal scholars would doubt that Satan in the Book of Zechariah is the archenemy of God that he would become, seeing Satan rather as a prosecuting attorney, or as part of the divine council; Petterson, by contrast, believes that seeing Satan as the archenemy of God in the Book of Zechariah makes sense, from a canonical perspective, and on the basis of what Satan in the Book of Zechariah does.

Did I find Petterson to be convincing?  His arguments definitely deserve consideration.  I do have questions about some of his scenarios, especially as he meshes the Books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi with Christianity.  Why would Haggai focus so much on rebuilding the physical temple because it is a significant aspect of God’s plan, if Jesus would be the new temple, anyway?  How would Jesus fit the literal picture in the Book of Zechariah of a man being wounded in eschatological battle, as enemies prepare to attack Jerusalem, when that is not exactly what happened to Jesus?  Taking these books literally, in my opinion, does not always mesh that well with Christianity.  Petterson sometimes reconciles these books with Christianity rather well—–as when he says that the rejection of Jesus is similar to the rejection of God and the prophet in the Book of Zechariah, a view that honors the Book of Zechariah’s literal meaning, while also deeming that relevant to Christianity.  Sometimes, Petterson’s attempt at reconciliation strikes me as a stretch, even if I find it intriguing: Petterson says that Matthew 24 may not be about the attack of Jerusalem, but rather the attack on Jesus, who embodies Jerusalem, and that this may solve the problem of Jesus wrongfully predicting the end of the world in Matthew 24:34.

Petterson does interact with scholarship and present the different views of what various verses mean, sifting through them and offering his own opinion.  Overall, he does this well.  There were items in the commentary that I found particularly interesting.  Petterson, for example, contrasts the Hebrew Bible’s approach to divorce with that of the Code of Hammurapi, and he also notes that the Book of Malachi is not the last book of the Hebrew Bible, in either the Septuagint or the Masoretic Text.  He still believes that it providentially came to be the last book of the Hebrew Bible, however, thus serving as a smooth transition between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  But he acknowledges facts that indicate that this was not always the case.

Not everything that Petterson argued convinced me, but I still give this commentary five stars because I found it to be meaty and informative.

Intervarsity Press sent me a complimentary review copy of this commentary, in exchange for an honest review.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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