21 December 2020 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Sonia Small
Prof Fanie Snyman, retired Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, is the first South African to publish a volume in the respected Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series, which deals with the Bible books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah.

Against the backdrop of the Faculty of Theology and Religion’s 40th anniversary, Prof Fanie Snyman, retired Dean and research associate, has recently published a commentary in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series based in Cambridge, England, on the prophetic books Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah of the Old Testament. What makes his book special is that Prof Snyman is the first and for the foreseeable future the only South African Old Testament scholar to be commissioned to publish in this distinguished commentary series. This commentary series is widely read and consulted in the English-speaking scholarly communities of Africa, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, the USA, and many European countries.

In a virtual ‘sit-down’ with Prof Fanie, he explained how a research volume of this type is usually compiled: It starts with a verse-by-verse analysis of the Bible books, looking at the literary aspects of how the passage was written as well as considering its historical, social, and cultural background. This is done to obtain a better overall understanding of the text. Secondly, a volume of commentary is not merely regurgitating knowledge that has already been generated. Prof Fanie says that “it must deliver new, fresh perspectives on the current state of research on these books. What can I contribute to the understanding of these writings?” To accomplish this, he had to pore over stacks of research on these prophetic works to be as current as possible with modern research.

First contributor from Africa

Dr David Firth, the series editor, says: “Over the nearly sixty-year history of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, we have not previously had any contributors from Africa. That has now been put right with the release of Prof SD Snyman’s new volume on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. Prof Snyman has brought together his expertise on the prophetic literature of the Old Testament and theological awareness to present a fresh work on these often-neglected books. Through his careful attention to how these books functioned in their ancient setting and mastery of the secondary literature, he is also able to point to the enduring importance of each of these books for contemporary readers. As such, he has admirably fulfilled the brief for the series and produced a volume that will serve a new generation who come to these books.”

Prof Fanie affirms that the burning issues raised in each of these books regarding situations in ancient Israel often mimic comparable issues in our modern society. For example, he underscores how Nahum brings the misuse of political power to the fore, a current and topical point of contention. Prof Snyman says: “My aim was to create a vertical theological perspective of that historical situation against the backdrop of contemporary issues. I believe that these texts have a relevance for us and upon us today.”

Other international works

This book is the third one published internationally by Prof Snyman. In 2012, he published a book on the prophetic literature of the Old Testament together with a Dutch colleague in the USA. In 2015, he published a commentary on the book of Malachi in Europe. This book was awarded the UFS Book Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in 2017. 

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