Book Review: Colossians and Philemon (EGGNT)

EGGNT_Col_Phile_revcvr2_InD5.inddMurray J. Harris is professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity
School and formerly served as warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University in England. Harris has a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, where he studied under F. F. Bruce, and is the author of numerous books, including, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus,
Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, and The Second Epistle to the Corinthians from the acclaimed New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series. Harris is also the mastermind behind the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series. The first edition of the inaugural volume of the EGGNT, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon, was published by W.B. Eerdmans in 1991. No subsequent volumes were then published. Now
revived under the direction of B&H Academic, Colossians and Philemon has received the needed updates to set the series afloat.

Colossians and Philemon opens with a brief introduction on Paul’s letter to the Colossians and includes discussion surrounding authorship (Harris argues for Pauline authorship rather than the “deuteron-Pauline” theory), date, occasion, and purpose. A similar introduction is provided for Philemon, again Harris affirms Pauline authorship and devoting a good deal of space to the issues at stake behind the purpose of the letter. Both introductions close with an outline of the letter and a “Recommended Commentaries” section. As the reader enters into the discussion of the letters themselves they are met by block diagrammed Greek text (with occasional English parallels), followed by a phrase-by-phrase interaction with the text itself. Harris shines brightly in this section as a master exegete with seasoned insight. He carefully guides the reader through the text hand-in-hand explaining various grammatical issues, exegetical interpretations, and textual critical analyses. Each unit of text concludes with a “For Further Study” section that includes a topically organized bibliography, as well as a section dedicated to “Homiletical Suggestions” for preaching and teaching. Both sections are helpful and welcomed, but the lack of an annotated bibliography may disappoint some reader. Nevertheless, it is an appropriate conclusion to a unit of text and really functions to catapults the reader to other areas of investigation.

Harris has provided the pastor, teacher, and student with a necessary tool for the task of exegesis and
interpretation. He has brought together some of the best and most widely used resources relating to the letters of Colossians and Philemon and thoroughly surveyed the depths of the Greek text behind both. There are a number of highpoints within this resource that I found indispensable and I am sure others will as well. First, following the commentary of each book, Harris has provided an original translation and an expanded paraphrase of both Colossians and Philemon. I personally found this helpful after just digesting scores upon scores of grammatical and exegetical information. It helped to take the training wheels off the two-wheeler. It is a little disappointing that this tradition didn’t get carried over to the subsequent volumes in the series. On that note, another highlight that didn’t get carried over to the subsequent volumes is the Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms. This was a pleasant surprise and I think it would be a welcomed addition across all volumes for the novice reader. Lastly, while the reader is welcome to disagree, I found Harris’ treatment of the Colossian 1:15-20 to be among the best in the book. The analysis of the text was superb and the “For Further Study” is rich in interpretive rabbit trails. But this could also be said of the entire volume.

In 1985, when the vision of the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series first came to the mind of Murray J. Harris, I wonder if he was able to foresee the level of benefit this series would bring to the serious student of Scripture. Having read all the available volumes, it would seem faintly possible. This is an excellent inaugural volume on two very significant Pauline epistles. Sure it may not a commentary in the traditional sense, but it will certainly better position the reader to enter into the conversations therein. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or well-informed laymen, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon is a resource that should not be overlooked. The Church is truly indebted to Murray J. Harris for his contribution to the inception of such a series, and to B&H Academic for making sure that his vision came to fruition and made available to all. The labor of these two parties and all involved has become our reward.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.  

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