Review: Ephesians (NTL)

13746539Stephen E. Fowl is Professor and Chair of Theology in the Department of Theology at Loyola University, Maryland. Fowl received his MA from Wheaton Graduate School and PhD from the University of Sheffield, where he completed his dissertation on the Christ-Hymn material in the Pauline corpus. Fowl is the author of numerous books and articles, including a commentary on Philippians in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series. Most recently, Fowl joined the ranks of the top contributors in the New Testament Library series with his excellent volume on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians: A Commentary is confidently positioned as one of the most useful volumes to arise out of the New Testament Library (NTL) series in recent years. The commentary begins with a quick introduction that tackles all of the expected introductory matters with precision. Fowl is fairly conservative in his approach, but he hesitates to take a firm position on Pauline authorship. Fowl explains, “I find the arguments so finely balanced that my decision about this could vary from day to day” (p. 28). One of the more interesting angles Fowl takes to discuss the authorship of the letter is the use of the Old Testament and its relationship to the undisputed letters of Paul. Fowl concludes the introduction with a section on the recipients and occasion of the letter, and again, he remains largely agnostic after evaluating the evidence.

The commentary proper is judiciously presented. Two features deserve mention here. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Fowl provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I’ve continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Fowl does not disappoint. Fowl’s textual notes are lengthy and well positioned to provide the keen reader with the information needed to establish the sometimes difficult text. Second, the exegetical handling of the text is brief and pointed, and Fowl quickly moves towards theological exposition. This shift in focus will be predictable for those familiar with Fowl’s work within the theological interpretation of Scripture movement.

There is no shortage in sight when it comes to choosing a commentary on the book of Ephesians. Still, with the market as saturated as it is, Ephesians: A Commentary by Stephen E. Fowl is an option well worth exploring. Fowl is both clear and to-the-point in his exegesis of the text, and his presentation is one of the more balanced critical approaches to the letter. While I don’t see this volume superseding Hoehner (2002), Lincoln (1990), or Thielman (2010) in its usefulness, I foresee its use being well-positioned for the busy pastor looking for theological application that is rooted exegetically within the text. If you are in the market for a well-written commentary that will get you into the text and theological insights quickly, Fowl’s work will outfit you well. It comes highly recommended!

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