Professor’s Joshua commentary shines among daughter’s treasures

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Probably only one teenage girl in the world keeps the latest addition to the New American Commentary series on a prominent shelf amid the treasured possessions in her bedroom. While heavy-duty biblical exegesis, with detailed historical and theological annotations, is not typical reading material for a 13-year-old, this book is special to Christina Howard because her daddy dedicated the book to her.

A pretty blond-haired, blue-eyed girl, Christina did not know that her father, distinguished Old Testament and Hebrew scholar David M. Howard Jr., intended to dedicate his meticulous work on the Book of Joshua to her as she brought him freshly baked brownies and snitched candy from the variety of bags he had around his desk in his attic office.

The “To Christina” on page five of the massive 464-page volume -- which easily could have been well over 500 hundred pages if the type size were not so small -- stands out with its beautiful simplicity amid the sea of biblical erudition that follows it.

The writing process was somewhat of a family affair. His other daughter, Melody -- who already knows that her father’s next book will be dedicated to her -- often hiked cookies and milk up two flights of stairs to give Dad a treat and a brief time-out during his 12-14-hour days of scholarly labor. She also would take her books to the attic office and lie down on her sleeping bag to read, “just to be near her dad,” Howard’s wife, Jan, said.

“Jan gave lots of encouragement,” Howard emphasized, and the whole family enjoyed excursions and adventures in and around New Orleans during the summer on the one day each week that Howard religiously devoted to his wife and daughters, as well as enjoying Sundays together at church and at home.

Howard’s book, which consumed about 15 months of his life from the summer of 1997 to the early fall of 1998, debuted in time for the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual Winter Bible Study, which focused this year on Joshua. The NAC series is produced by Broadman & Holman Publishers of LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tenn.

The first copy of the book arrived at the Howards’ home on New Year’s Eve. When Christina came home that afternoon, her mother was the first to show her the book.

“I was really surprised,” Christina said. “I said, ‘Oh, wow!’ when I saw that my dad had dedicated the book to me.” She said she thanked him that night at dinnertime, a very important part of daily life in their family, Jan Howard said.

Howard is back to full-time teaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. He is taking a few months off from writing now “to catch my breath,” he said, before immersing himself in his next writing assignment, the commentary on 1 Kings for the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series.

In the meantime, he is enjoying springtime in New Orleans and opportunities to small-talk with seminary students and his professorial colleagues, as well as time in both quality and quantity with his family.

Howard’s first academic book, “An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books,” was dedicated to his parents. His second book, “The Structure of Psalms 93-100,” was dedicated to his wife. On page nine of his new book, Howard explained his feelings behind the dedication to his eldest daughter:

“This book is dedicated to Christina on the occasion of a significant milestone in her life: her thirteenth birthday. She has been a source of incredible joy to Jan and me, and it is her mother’s and my prayer that she will hold fast to the faith that has been entrusted to her, which is now blossoming in her life, and that she will display the faith of Rahab, who committed her life to the true God in no uncertain terms.”

Howard came to NOBTS in August 1997 after seven years on the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., where he taught Old Testament and Semitic languages. He previously taught eight years at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. A prolific author, his books are used in seminaries around the world.

He has been a consultant, translator and reviser for Tyndale House Publishers since 1989 and a book review editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society since 1994, when he also began serving on a national level in the Society of Biblical Literature.

Howard also is a valuable asset to the seminary's cross-disciplinary approach to missions in that he grew up as the child of missionary parents serving in Costa Rica and Colombia from 1953-67. His aunt is Elizabeth Elliot, widow of the late Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador's Auca Indians in 1956.

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