Accordance Review, Exploring the OT & NT Library

Standard disclaimer

Every now and again I’ll be offered some preview materials to review for Accordance. I did receive the modules reviewed below for free in exchange for my honest thoughts.

Intro

This week Accordance is releasing both the Old and New Testament Libraries 1 from Westminster John Knox Press. Upon release the full package will be on sale for $699. That’s almost 60% off!

The package includes a commentary for the entire Old Testament and much of the New Testament 2, as well as a number of topical studies of particular scholarly interest. From a standpoint of the sheer amount of content, the OTL/NTL bundle is impressive.

Design

No amount of material is worth much if it isn’t presented well. After all, the way materials are designed is part of what makes it useful. As with the rest of their releases, Accordance designed these modules well. They are easy to read and navigate on my MacBook, iPad Pro, and iPhone 6S+, and remain so when I increase my font size to accommodate my aging eyes. I did find what seemed to be an OCR error in my preview package 3, but it’s clear the company put a great deal of care for how this material will be displayed on the various types of screens on which it will be viewed. This is no small feat in the era of re-flowable text!

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Layout

NTL Page Number example
The page number, [Luke, p. 148] looks as though it links elsewhere in the text. That’s actually where the break would appear in the printed text.
As stated Above, the OTL and NTL enjoy a good presentation on any device, but there it’s also clear Accordance was making sure these materials would be easy to use in an academic setting. This is seen in the inclusion of bracketed page numbers, which correspond to the equivalent page in the print edition, inside the text. These page numbers are inserted in the precise location where they’d appear in the print text, even if the break is mid-sentence. Their inclusion may be a throwback to a pre-digital age, but it makes the material more useful for academic writing, which is the point of a digital product 4.

Quirks

The conversion from print to digital is never easy, particularly when there is a desire to hold on to some elements of the print edition. These materials are no different, and some of the compromises have lead to a few points I find “quirky.”

First, bracketed page numbers will sometimes look as though they are hyperlinks to other sections of the text when, in reality, they are placed where a page break occurs in the printed version. This may be confusing, and if users find them intrusive they may turn off page number display in the settings.

There are also elements in the modules which feel anachronistic. The presence of an in-line table of contents, for example, doubles up on Accordance’s own contents feature. Also, footnotes appear in the flow the text, though mostly at the end of a chapter, and require more scrolling to move beyond. Neither of these is a deal breaker, and even the most popular ebook reader in the world includes a table of contents inside its books, but it does feel out of place.

Scrolling by footnotes.
The footnotes are included in the body of the text by design, but it does require some more scrolling.

Content

As stated above, the sheer amount of material in this bundle is amazing, but how useful is it?

Commentary Set

First, it must be said, the OTL and NTL are scholarly works. This is high-level material presented from a Moderate Reformed viewpoint. It’s meant for Academic work, and for pastors who have an academic bent.

The front-matter for the commentary volumes is amazing. For this review I read the introductions to Genesis, Numbers, and the Johannine Epistles. Reading these caused me to long with an ever deeper longing for Accordance to add a “page flip” advance feature into their iOS app. In the right environment I could have read them all day, and I do believe pastors who want to use these commentaries should sit down and read the front matter before delving into the commentary-proper. Not only is it excellent information, it helps contextualize the work. The quality of these opening essays is one reason why I’m so pleased Accordance has gone out of their way to make these materials a pleasure to view.

One thing to keep in mind is, given it’s moderate Reformed origin, these materials do focus on aspects of study some Christians will find less than agreeable.

The OTL’s commentaries on the Pentateuch lean heavy on Documentary Hypothesis in order to look at the thoughts and sources behind the received text. This is not something I find particularly troubling 5, but some might find it a bit of a shock. The use of Documentary Hypothesis also enjoys a wide range of application inside the separate volumes. The commentary on Genesis, for example, seems more worried about the sources than the story. The commentary on Numbers, however, makes it just one part of a larger discussion — important, but not worth fixating on. It’s something to keep in mind when considering a purchase.

In the New Testament, the commentary does not automatically accept traditional authorship assignments for a number of writings. The Johnnaine Epistles, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation all reject traditional authorship. Again, this is not something I find particularly troubling, as many of the traditional authorship claims are made outside the text itself, but people should be aware of this when approaching the materials.

Topical Studies

The included academic studies reflect some excellent works from the moderate Reformed tradition. While some of the included books are older, many are either new or updated editions. There are so many of these works I’m not able to comment on all of them, but each enjoys the same quality of design as the commentaries.

These are books which are meant to be read, however, and not skimmed and searched for points relevant to a specific passage. Again, the Accordance iOS app is in desperate need of “page-flip” functionality for these books to really shine. I hope it comes soon, I have reading to do!

I have listed the individual works included with the OTL and NTL below.

OTL

  • Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology (1995)
  • Walther Eichrodt, Theology Of The Old Testament (1961)
  • Rainer Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period (1994)
  • Peter R. Ackroyd, Exile And Restoration (1968)
  • John J. Collins, Jewish Wisdom In The Hellenistic Age (1997)
  • J. Alberto Soggin, Introduction To The Old Testament (1987)

NTL

  • Paul S. Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament (1960)
  • J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, 3rd. ed (2003)
  • Victor Paul Furnish, Theological and Ethics in Paul (2009)
  • John Howard Schütz, Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority (2007)

Conclusion

If you’re in search of a commentary which is unapologetic in its academic bent, the OTL/NTL bundle is worth the purchase price. Its moderate Reformed slant and included topical studies reflect some of the highlights of Protestant scholarship.

Update

If you’d like to read another review of this pacakge, which goes into greater detail, check out Abraham K-J’s review.


  1. OTL and NTL, respectively. 
  2. Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and James have yet to be released and are not included in the current price. 
  3. In the commentary on Genesis 37:3-4. 
  4. Location URL’s are nice, but require a professor to have both Accordance and the cited module in order to be verified. Page numbers provide a more universal citation method. 
  5. Nor do I find Documentary Hypothesis particularly helpful for pastoral work. 

One Comment

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  1. Even I had the money, it’s too scholarly for me.

    Sent from my iPad

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