Review: Romans (EGGNT)

A14EIkxHCDL.jpgJohn D. Harvey is dean and professor of New Testament at Columbia Biblical Seminary of Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. Harvey received his PhD from Wycliffe College and is the author of several peer reviewed articles and books, such as Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul’s Letters (Baker, 1998), Anointed with the Spirit and Power: The Holy Spirit’s Empowering Presence (P&R, 2008), and Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook (Kregel, 2012). Most recently, Harvey has contributed to the growing and increasingly useful Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

This volume on Romans, much like the existing EGGNT volumes, is structured to optimize the reader’s understanding of the Greek text and facilitate a deeper recognition of the grammatical nuances therein. Harvey begins with a very brief introduction, only about 2 pages of content not including the outline. This was a bit disappointing. It’s sizably smaller than the other volumes and contains less introductory material than some of the worst Study Bibles on the market today. That said, and it goes without saying, but those interested in a fuller treatment of the various introductory issues will need to look elsewhere.

The organization of the volume is arranged around a phrase-by-phrase analysis of the Greek text. Harvey provides extensive discussion about grammar, syntax, word usage, textual variants, and anything else exegetically significant to the text. The content does require a working knowledge of New Testament Greek, but Harvey is clear and careful when articulating technical concepts. A useful feature of this volume is discovered in the Greek sentence diagraming that is offered at the opening of each major section. This is helpful for quickly visualizing how the text comes together to establish Paul’s main point. Like the other volumes in the series, each major unit of text concludes with a “For Further Study” section that takes various themes unearthed in the section and provides the reader with a bibliography for additional investigation. Lastly, Harvey offers recommended preaching outlines that allow the reader to work from the text to the sermon.

There is so much to be praised about this volume. First, and probably foremost, Harvey appears well-acquainted with Romans and his sensitivity to the broader academic conversation regarding textual issues and grammatical debate is noticeable. This is to be expected after spending five years working on this volume (p. xix). Second, I found Harvey to be extremely thoughtful in his explanation of difficult concepts. Harvey tends to steer away from theological speculation and remains focused on the task of the volume. He knows his primary audience and knows that a variegated knowledge of the Greek language is found therein. This is beneficial for the pastors or students who are less frequently working out of the Greek text but have some formal training or exposure. Lastly, the scope of this volume’s content is impressive given its small size (only 429 pages). Harvey has packed a lot of relevant and useful information into a small package. If you pair this volume with any of the recommended commentaries (especially Moo), you will be well-equipped to preach or teach through Romans with excellence.

Romans: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament by John D. Harvey is a welcomed and worthy addition to an already tremendous series. Harvey’s contribution fits extremely well aside the quality and caliber that the EGGNT series has already produced, and I think that any serious student of the Bible would be ill-equipped without it. If you have been looking for a resource that will guide you through the depths of the Greek text of Paul’s letter to the Romans, then look no further, because this will continually be your first stop on that journey.

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